You may have been contacted by a mediator - or your spouse, partner or ex-partner may have asked you to try mediation. It’s important you both understand what mediation is and how it could help your situation. Below are some of the basics to help you understand what mediation is, and how it works.
If you are separating or divorcing, family mediation helps you sort out issues – without involving big legal fees or going through a long drawn-out court battle. Professional family mediators help you work out what happens after you split up.
They won’t try to get you and your ex-partner back together. They can also help when you’ve been separated a while and need to sort something out. A mediator will listen to you and your ex-partner explain your concerns and views to each other and will help you both to reach an agreement.
Mediation works by helping people find practical solutions that feel fair. Some people who can’t afford mediation can get it for free through the ‘Legal Aid’ scheme.
(If you are eligible for legal aid, you may be able to get the cost of mediation funded. You can check eligibility here. (Note: to access the calculator you will need to select the ‘yes’ option when it asks if mediation has started otherwise it will redirect you to a mediator search engine). Alternatively you can contact National Family Mediation who will also be able to assess you)
Family Mediators are trained to work with people whose relationships have broken down. They come from professional backgrounds, such as law and healthcare. Mediators find solutions that both of you can agree on. A mediator will ask questions to understand your situation. Unlike going to court, you stay in control. No-one can make you do anything against your wishes. Discussions are confidential.
Children have the right to a relationship with both parents (as long as it is safe) and their needs are most important. Katie is trained to include children in discussions but only if you, your ex-partner and the child agree.
The first step is to attend a meeting with the mediator so you can find out more about mediation and if it’s right for you. This is generally called a ‘Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) or ‘first meeting’. You can go with your ex-partner, or you can see the mediator separately if you prefer. The mediator is also trained to help you find other help and support services if you need them.
Mediation is often most effective when it takes place at an early stage, before the issues become big problems. It’s best to contact a mediator as soon as you and your ex-partner have come to terms with the separation and need help sorting out arrangements.
If you’ve been invited to a MIAM, you’re expected to go - unless you’re exempt. If you don’t attend, the mediator can sign a document allowing the other party to apply for a court order about your child arrangements.
You don’t need to see a solicitor first but if you do they should tell you about mediation. Even if you’ve been separated for a while or if your case has already gone to court, mediation can help to resolve any issues you may still have. The Law says that you must consider whether mediation can help you before you can take a case to court. This means you need to go to a MIAM unless special circumstances apply, like if your situation involves domestic violence or abuse.
See also this short film ‘What is family mediation’ from the Family Mediation Council: www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/family-mediation/
After the MIAM, if you all agree to try mediation, you will need to attend mediation sessions (usually 1-2 hours each). The length and number of sessions will depend on your situation. When an agreement is reached, the mediator will write it down in a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ so that everyone is clear about what has been decided. Agreements made in mediation can be made legally binding by a court if both you and your ex-partner agree.
This is sometimes useful if arrangements are meant to run over a period of time, such as child maintenance payments, or if you want something a little more formal to help you both stick to your agreement. Some people going through mediation find it helpful to have legal support to advise them. Legal Aid may be available to help pay for this (...see 'Will I have to pay for mediation?' section for more details.
If the situation changes and the arrangements aren’t working, you can go back to the mediator. If needed, you can agree to change the Memorandum of Understanding.
Family mediation works for most people. At the MIAM the mediator will talk to you about whether mediation will work for you both and tell you about other options that could still avoid you having to go to court, for example collaborative law or solicitor negotiation.
The law says that you must consider whether mediation can help you before you can take a case to court. A judge can halt your case until this has happened. You will need to show the court that:
Special circumstances include cases involving domestic violence or child abuse, which may not be right for mediation – the mediator can advise you on this at the MIAM or first meeting. Alternatively, if you have evidence of domestic violence or child abuse you may not need to go to a MIAM and may be able to get Legal Aid to pay for a solicitor to help you bring your case to court.
If you’re on a low income and able to get Legal Aid then the information meeting (the MIAM) and mediation sessions will be free. You may also get financial help to pay for legal advice in connection with mediation if you feel you need it.
If one of you qualifies for Legal Aid but the other doesn’t, you will still both be able to have an information meeting and the first session of mediation for free. Even if neither of you can claim Legal Aid, you may still save money by trying mediation first, rather than going straight to a lawyer
Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) provides opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard directly during the process of mediation, to help them feel respected and listened to and, at their request, to assist parents or carers to receive, understand and take account of the child's messages regarding decisions and arrangements for the child to be made by their parents.
Jolly Mediation offers Child Inclusive Mediation with a fully-qualified CIM accredited mediator and will be discussed at your MIAM.
We are able to facilitate MIAMs, joint and shuttle mediation virtually by WhatsApp video and FaceTime (MIAMs) or Zoom (joint/shuttle mediation).