Family mediation may not be a term you’ve heard of before, so let’s start by looking at a definition:
Family mediation is a process in which those involved in family breakdown, whether or not they are a couple or other family members, appoint an impartial third person to assist them to communicate better with one another and reach their own agreed and informed decisions concerning some, or all, of the issues relating to separation, divorce, children, finance or property by negotiation. – Family Mediation Council
The process of family mediation is often used in cases of separation and divorce where the parties involved will meet with a trained mediator who holds an open discussion. The objective is to reach an agreement that both parties are happy with.
If you or someone you know is thinking of separating or getting divorced, here are our 15 things you should know about family mediation.
#1 – It prevents many cases going to court
Going to court to solve a dispute arising from a divorce or separation can be a stressful process for all involved. Family mediation is one of a number of options you can try when it comes to finding agreement on important issues.
#2 – It can be used to resolve different areas of conflict
Using the services of a family mediator can help you deal with a number of areas including:
- Disputes over property
- Ongoing maintenance payments
- Debt problems
- Division of assets
- Disputes involving children – residence/contact
#3 – Family mediation is voluntary
You’re under no legal obligation to attend family mediation. Attendance is voluntary and it’s up to you and the other party to agree on someone to take on this role that you’re both happy with.
#4 – It leaves you in control
If you’re not open to looking at options such as family mediation to help resolve disagreements or disputes, you could end up going to court. One of the issues with letting a judge decide on the details of your divorce/separation is the loss of control. Any court ruling is legally binding and not open to negotiation.
#5 – Mediation can keep your costs down
While mediation isn’t free, many disputes can be sorted out and agreement reached after only a few sessions. This is in stark contrast to having to go to court and pay all the associated legal costs that come with that option.
According to figures from the National Audit Office, the cost per mediation client in 2012 was on average, £675. This compared very favourably with an average client cost of £2,823 for cases that ended up in court.
#6 – It offers a quicker resolution
The average time for resolving disputes arising from divorce and separation is around four times shorter using mediation than compared to going to court.
#7 – Family mediation provides a better long-term outlook
Because mediation encourages both parties to reach an agreement between them while they’re in the same room, it creates a better platform for future communication.
In many divorce cases, the couple involved don’t want to speak to each other directly at all and end up fighting often expensive court battles which lead to even more hostility in the future. This can of course affect any children involved and make things more stressful than they need to be.
#8 – You’re more likely to be satisfied with the outcome
As we mentioned in point #4, mediation gives you more control over your situation. Because you have a direct say in discussions on a personal level, you’re much more likely to be satisfied with the outcome rather than someone else deciding what should happen in important areas of your life.
#9 – It is completely confidential
Family mediation is 100% confidential and both parties have to sign to this effect at the start of the process.
#10 – What you say in mediation can’t be brought up in court
As a result of point #9, whatever may be agreed on at mediation can’t then be later brought up in court if things don’t go according to plan.
Think of family mediation as a private conversation to try to reach an agreement. Anything you agree isn’t legally binding at that stage.
#11 – Family mediators are impartial
The role of a family mediator is a completely impartial one. They are not there to take sides, judge or guide you down a certain path.
#12 – Not all family mediators have a legal background
While it is common for family mediators to be legal professionals, it’s not the case for all. Many mediators come from other backgrounds such as healthcare and counselling for example.
It’s important to remember that it’s not the job of a mediator to offer legal advice, but to help you reach agreement on a range of issues with your partner or spouse.
#13 – Mediation is not about apportioning blame
Many divorce cases end up being about one party blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Before you go into the mediation process, you should be clear about what to expect and how to conduct yourself.
Family mediation is about finding solutions that everyone is happy with moving forward. It’s not about looking back at what’s gone on before and going over old ground.
#14 – It can provide flexibility
Family mediation can be particularly beneficial where children are involved in the break-up of a relationship. Rather than imposing a hard and fast ruling on what should happen, mediation offers the opportunity to resolve disputes such as agreeing where your children are going to live or reaching a decision about contact arrangements.
For example, as your children grow older, you may wish to go back to mediation to make new arrangements that suit everyone better.
#15 – Family mediation doesn’t suit everyone
Family mediation isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to problems arising out of divorce and separation. There are circumstances in which both parties won’t want to be in the same room, for example where domestic abuse has taken place.
Because of the highly-charged emotions associated with the decline of a marriage or relationship, mediation doesn’t always suit the personalities involved, especially where issues such as adultery may still be raw and difficult to overcome.
For many couples, mediation is a cost-effective, timely and less stressful way to agree on issues related to divorce and separation. It is a popular way to try to work things out and is seen as a preferred alternative to going to court.
Here’s a quick recap of the 15 things you should know about family mediation:
- It’s an alternative to going to court
- Mediation can be used to resolve a range of issues
- It’s a voluntary process
- Mediation puts you in control of your life
- It’s typically less expensive than going to court
- Family mediation can deliver a quicker resolution than having your case ending up in court
- It can smooth the way for better communication in the future between you and your ex
- Because you’re involved in the decision making process, you’re likelier to be satisfied with the outcome
- Family mediation is totally confidential
- Whatever is said or agreed in the mediation process can’t be used against you if your case later goes to court
- Family mediators are completely impartial
- Mediators can come from a range of professional backgrounds
- It’s not a process of apportioning blame for why your relationship broke down
- Mediation provides a flexible alternative where agreements can be reviewed and changed as circumstances dictate
- It’s not a process that’s guaranteed to work for everyone
Fiona Rasmusen is accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Family Mediator. If you’d like to learn more about mediation, please contact her using the details below.