“I know my marriage is over but I can’t face a long legal battle. Once courts are involved I know it can turn nasty and expensive.“
Does this strike a chord?
You may have heard of mediation and wonder what it is.
It is an alternative way of approaching and resolving the issues that arise on a breakdown of a relationship. It isn’t a way of getting a relationship back on its feet but it can support couples going through separation and divorce through discussion and agreement.
The role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussion as an independent and impartial third party. The mediator will ensure that the discussions are fair and balanced and that the participants feel safe. Mediation is confidential and can help couples make informed decisions and find solutions which will work for them. Rather than getting bogged down in recriminations and past history the mediator can help a couple focus on meeting their future needs and the needs of any children.
It should be emphasised that mediation is a voluntary process. The mediator does not give legal advice but can help you reach agreements on both child care and financial issues. Mediation can also work well where the parties have their own solicitors available to give advice, which may be before, or between, meetings.
“So we go to mediation. It sounds worth giving it a go at least. When should we start and then what happens?“
Discussions at mediation do not become binding on the parties without legal advice. The mediator can provide a record of the issues discussed and any proposals (called a Memorandum of Understanding) for you to obtain independent legal advice and for your solicitors to draft documentation if you wish to enter into a binding agreement. Anything that you say in mediation is private and will not be used in court proceedings (unless you both agree).
You can contact a mediator directly before seeking legal advice. Alternatively your solicitor may recommend mediation or advise you to find out more about it before starting court proceedings. Anyone embarking on court proceedings will also find that the court will now be encouraging parties to obtain information and attend an assessment meeting to find out more about mediation.
Outcomes that you have created together for your own family and circumstances are more likely to be successful than those imposed on you by the court process. By assisting and supporting couples to communicate with one another the potential for future disputes within the family may also be lessened.