Family mediation and your solicitor – how they work together

Expert advice

Family mediators are there purely to provide information and facilitate discussion, not to give legal advice to either party. The purpose of mediation is for the parties to reach their agreements and whilst the family mediator may provide valuable information, you will need to obtain any further legal advice from your solicitor. The decisions you reach through the family mediation process will only gain legal formality once appropriate agreement have been drafted and signed or court orders obtained. It may be the case that external professional experts are required such as financial advisors, accountants, surveyors.

When will legal advice be needed?

It is advisable to have legal advice at your disposal throughout the mediation process because you never know when you may wish to clarify certain points with your solicitor. Prior to the drafting of any paperwork which will be legally binding it is certainly sensible to seek legal advice.

How your solicitor can help

• Advise you on the documents needed for disclosure and analyse the documents disclosed by the other side

• Advise you on what you ask for from the negotiations, ensuring that your demands are in the best interests of you and your children in the long run

• Discuss any alternative options with you

• Discourage you from adopting any unreasonable stances during proceedings

• Guide you throughout the entire process until a final decision is made

Formalising agreements

The outcome summary or Memorandum of Understanding that your mediator will draw up at the end of the process is not legally binding. As a result it is essential that when using mediation for property or finance issues, a draft order or legally binding document is drawn up. Otherwise it could be possible for one party to attempt to gain extra finance from the other side in the future.

Call our Family Mediators today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433                

OR e-mail our team at advice@familymediationcollaborativelaw.co.uk

Family Mediation Assessment Meetings

Court proceedings can be very stressful, especially for children. The Court is aware of this and also of the fact that it is parents and not the Court itself that understand what is best for their children. It is for this reason that Courts now encourage parents to attempt to resolve their issues over child residency and contact as well as finances through family mediation. This option can be more cost effective, quicker and most importantly, more amicable.

The introduction of the ‘pre-action protocol’ means that parties applying to the court for court order over their financial or children matters during separation must attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting [ often referred to MIAM]. This appointment enables separating couples to determine whether or not they could use this alternative method of dispute resolution rather than court proceedings.

The purpose of the meeting will be to determine whether or not there is too much animosity between the parties to be able to pursue mediation. Family mediation is not suitable in all cases and if it appears unviable, the family mediator will be forced to concede that the case will need to go to court. At the meeting it will be decided whether or not you are eligible to receive legal aid and the costs of following the mediation route will be made clear to you.

Those who do not or cannot attend the meeting will be forced to fill out an FM1 form which must then be given to the Court. Only a fully qualified solicitors or family mediators will be able to complete such a form.

Family mediation – it really is cheaper and quicker – and that’s official

Anybody who has browsed this website, or who has read any of my earlier blog entries, will know that we are big fans of both the family mediation and collaborative law approaches to solving disputes arising out of relationship breakdown. Apart from all the other benefits such as reducing conflict, giving parties control, reassuring children that their parents are working together in the interests and generally making the whole process more dignified, we have always been utterly convinced that family mediation is much quicker and often much cheaper.

So it was nice to come across some official statistics that back me up. According to the National Audit Office “Value for Money Report”, family mediation services really do resolve family disputes more quickly and cheaply. Now, I should point out at this stage, that this report is hardly bang up to date – it’s over five years old and also did relate to family mediation using public funding [as we must now call legal aid] – but I’m pretty sure that the principles are sound.

According to the National Audit Office, the average family law dispute case dealt with by family mediators are sorted out in an average of just 110 days – which is quite remarkable when you compare that to the average length of non-mediated cases – an amazing 435 days! What’s more, the National Audit Office reports the average cost per client of resolving family law disputes using mediation was just £535 compared to £2,823 for disputes dealt with by the courts – again using public funding.

So there you have it – official proof that in addition to all its other benefits family mediation really is cheaper and quicker.

Family mediation set to receive funding injection

The government is set to invest £10m in family mediation; a move which it hopes will remove pressure on the courts and take some of the stress and acrimony out of divorce proceedings.

It has long been held that the government should throw support behind methods of dispute resolution which are cheaper, faster and less complicated than court proceedings. Family mediation has steadily grown in popularity in recent years and is now deemed to help save the expense and animosity that often characterises divorce.

Under family mediation, couples are encouraged to reach agreements between themselves without the need for solicitors to argue their case in court. It is usually the division of finances and arrangement of child residency and contact provisions that are decided using the process. Couples discuss their issues over a series of meetings with a fully accredited family mediator present. This mediator is able to direct discussions and encourage agreement before a final decision on the matters is taken by a judge. Whilst both sides should instruct a solicitor to inform them of their rights, solicitors will not be directly involved in the process.

Traditional court proceedings can be extremely stressful and it is often children who suffer the most and the new government plans may help to take some of the trauma out of divorce and separation. The government has already made it a legal requirement for couples to attend a family mediation meeting before being able to get any court orders relating to child custody or financial matters.

The problem with the new proposal is the figure itself. Whilst the government is absolutely right to look to give family mediation services more backing, £10m is not really enough of a commitment. Considering that this method could be crucial to many couples across the country, it is disappointing that the government has assigned such a small sum to its expansion.

Call our specialist Family Mediators/Lawyers today

SALISBURY [01722] 422300

AMESBURY [01980] 622992

ANDOVER [01264] 364433                

OR e-mail advice@familymediationcollaborativelaw.co.uk