Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process which helps you to resolve issues yourself. Mediation can be used as a means of resolving children disputes and disputes over finances, as an alternative to (or as part of) court proceedings. It can also be used where there is no dispute, for example to facilitate the negotiation of a pre-nuptial agreement, pre-conception agreement or surrogacy agreement.
Where mediation is successful, it can often be less financially and emotionally costly than court proceedings, and it can leave people feeling that they have retained control.
An independent and trained mediator will host and facilitate a discussion between you about the issues on which you disagree (or, in the case of negotiating an agreement, to help you clarify your wishes and wha tyou are agreeing), with a view to finding common ground. The mediator will typically discuss the options with you before deciding on the best way of conducting the mediation, and this might include:
Round-table mediation - where you are all involved together with the mediator, who guides your discussion
Shuttle mediation - where each of you is in a separate room and the mediator goes back and forth between you to discuss issues.
The mediator is a facilitator who will adopt a neutral position and encourage good communication, but will not advise you on your own position, which means that you will often need legal advice as well. If a resolution is reached then the mediator will summarise this in writing. The summary can form the basis of a legally binding agreement or consent order, on which you would normally seek legal advice.
Before making an application to the family court, you must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to help you consider whether mediation is a better way forward. A trained mediator will give information about mediation and help you assess whether it will work for you. This is designed to encourage people to resolve issues without resorting to court proceedings. The mediator will need to confirm that a MIAM has been attended before a court application can be issued.
Mediation can also be used during the course of court proceedings. A judge may make an interim order and encourage you to mediate rather than progressing the case to a final order. You may also agree to pause court proceedings while you try to resolve matters through mediation, in relation to any or all of the issues in dispute.
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