If you are recently divorced or have separated from your spouse or partner, you may be unsure how to reach agreements on areas of your life such as your children or finances. Family Mediation could be the answer to help you reach a resolution without the need to go to court.
Your spouse, however, may not wish to attend mediation; they may feel it will mean they will need to compromise or that they will only get their views heard if they are in front of a judge. It is also understandable that they may feel nervous or apprehensive at the idea of talking to a stranger about the difficulties you are having.
While Family Mediation is an entirely voluntary process and neither party can be forced to attend if they do not wish to, the process does have proven success in assisting former couples come to agreements which allow them to move forward. Despite the mediation sessions being voluntary, in most cases, it is compulsory that mediation is at least considered as an option before applying to go to court. This is done through a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
What is a MIAM?
A MIAM is held with each party individually for the mediator to ascertain the details of your situation and hear each of your points of view separately. The mediator will assess whether mediation is suitable for you, whether any exemptions may apply and will explain to you how the process works and how it could help, hopefully alleviating any doubts or anxieties that this is not the right option. If there are still doubts on either side, this could restrict the success of mediation as it may not provide the right environment for discussions to take place. If your former partner still refuses to take part, then alternatives are sought, such as solicitor negotiations or making an application to court.
There are various exemptions where mediation is not suitable, including:
- Ongoing domestic violence investigations
- Child protection investigations or concerns
- Previous attendance at a MIAM or existing MIAM exemption
- Either you or your former partner are subject to a disability restricting your attendance unless adjustments are made
- Insufficient contact details for your former partner
- One of you is not habitually resident in England or Wales
- One of you is in prison or another institution, or you are subject to bail conditions
- There are no available mediators within a 15 mile radius and within 15 working days.
What can be discussed in Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a way for you and your former partner to discuss arrangements for your finances or children following a separation or divorce. This could include the following decision:
- Child maintenance payments
- Arrangements for the family home and other assets
- Plans for any family business, now and in the future
- Where children will live and how they will share their time between parents
- How children will stay in touch with their other relatives.
What are the benefits of Family Mediation?
There are several reasons why Family Mediation may prove to be a beneficial option for you and your former partner when making decisions for the future:
- Attending Family Mediation ensures that you are able to voice your views and hold discussions in a neutral environment with an independent third party to give you the time to have your wishes heard. This leads to not only a more co-operative setting for your discussions now, but can also remove the potential for hostility in the future.
- By going to court, you are placing the decision in the judge’s hands and taking it out of your own. Family Mediation instead gives you the control over the arrangements that are made and mediation will only conclude when both you and your former spouse are satisfied with the outcome.
- It tends to lead to a quicker result that attending court and can also be at less cost. Going through the court could take up to a year for any resolution to your disagreements, while mediation normally only lasts a few months, depending on your situation.
It is only natural to feel uncertain and sometimes be anxious about participating in Family Mediation; however the majority of people are normally relieved that they chose mediation instead of proceeding to court.
This article has been written by Samantha Miles, Partner and Resolution Trained Family Mediator in the Family department of Warner Goodman LLP
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to nor should it be regarded as providing legal advice. This is a general overview of the topic. The legal position will vary based on your personal circumstances. Where advice is required, please contact Warner Goodman LLP directly.