The Mediation Process
Once you have made the decision to start Mediation, you will be invited to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This will enable you to discuss your situation with a trained family mediator.
The Mediator will explain the process of mediation to you and discuss the options available to you. If the Mediator is able to offer Legal Aid and you think you may be eligible then the mediator will conduct a legal aid assessment. The Legal Aid Agency will pay your mediation fees if you are eligible.
If you mediator does not offer legal aid or if you are not entitled to legal aid then you will be expected to pay the fees.
Your mediator will ask you if you would like the other party in the dispute to be contacted. If you do then the mediator will usually write to the other person and invite them along to the MIAM.
Your First Mediation Session
Once you and your ex-partner have both attended the initial assessment meeting and both of you have agreed to proceed with the mediation process, a first mediation session will be booked. This is usually called a planning meeting.
At your first mediation session, you will be required to sign both an agreement to mediate and a confidentiality agreement. The principles of mediation will be explained and ground rules will be set. An agenda will be discussed and set so that all the issues can be discussed. The mediator will outline what each of you would like to accomplish during mediation and try and establish some common ground between you. Depending on whether your issue is financial or about the children, the structure of the mediation might differ slightly.
Your Second Mediation Session
If you are attending mediation due to a finance and property issue then the second session is usually dedicated to financial disclosure. If this is the case, then you will be asked to bring your financial information to the session. This information should include details of all your assets and liabilities, which will help both parties sort out the amount of assets that requires dividing. It is worth making every effort to have all this information available as additional mediation sessions may be required if you don’t have all the information required. You will probably be asked to make 2 additional copies of all of the documentation you have so that one copy can be given to the other party and a further copy to the mediator.
If your mediation is just to deal with arrangements for the children for example where the children will live, who they will see and when and child maintenance payments etc., then the second session will consist of discussing these issues. It is worth bearing in mind that any solution regarding the children must be in the children’s best interest. In some cases the mediator may ask what the children’s view and may suggest meeting with them.
Additional Mediation Sessions
At the end of each session, your Mediator will draft documentation which will include details all of the key points discussed and any agreements or arrangements made. You will receive a copy of this documentation before the next mediation session. If your mediation involves financial matters, your documentation will include a schedule of all of your assets and liabilities and income and expenditure.
How many Sessions will we need?
The number of sessions required to reach an agreement usually depends of what type of issues you are discussing and how quickly you can reach an agreement.
Mediation involving access to children usually only take about 1-2 sessions of 1.5 hours each (excluding the MIAM). Your Mediator will ensure you receive an Outcome Statement which outlines the discussions you had in mediation, the key points of the negotiation and any agreements you have made as a result.
Finance and Property Mediation usually takes a little longer but 3 - 4 sessions of 1.5 hours each (excluding the MIAM) is not uncommon. Your Mediator will make sure you receive copies of all of the relevant financial documentation, a schedule of assets and liabilities, a schedule of income and expenditure (as above) and a Memorandum of Understanding which details your personal information, brief case outline, finalised schedules, key points of negotiation and any agreements made.
If your mediation includes financial, property and children, which is often the case when a marriage breaks down then the mediation process can take a little longer. Again, your Mediator will ensure you receive all copies of all of the relevant financial documentation, a schedule of assets and liabilities, a schedule of income and expenditure (as above) and a Memorandum of Understanding which details your personal information, brief case outline, finalised schedules, key points of negotiation on all of the issues (children, finance and property) and any agreements made.
In some cases, it might be necessary to obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process. Your mediator will discuss if and when this might be appropriate. If your mediation is being paid for by legal aid, you might be able to access a free legal advice session through ‘legal help for mediation’ scheme.
Remembering that mediation is a voluntary process, suspending or stopping mediation for a valid reason is an option. This can be discussed with your mediator.
Agreements in mediation are not legally binding, however, you are free to take your agreement to a solicitor for them to draft a legally binding agreement based on what you have agreed. In most cases if both parties stick to what they have agreed then there should not be any further issues.
If either party breaks the agreement(s) you have reached and court proceedings follow the court can take into account the agreement you have previously made.
For further information regarding the mediation please contact one of the family mediators listed on the web site or telephone 0333 2070.