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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Mediation to solve problems when you split up

Family mediation is a way of solving disagreements without involving the courts if your relationship has gone wrong. Find out how mediation works, how it can help you and where to find mediation services.

How mediation can help you

In many cases, mediation is a better way of sorting out family disputes than going to court.

The court will expect you to have attended a ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ if you’re divorcing or ending a civil partnership and applying for a court order about:

  • money
  • property
  • possessions
  • arrangements about children

If you haven’t been to one of these meetings, the court may ask you to do so before it proceeds with your case.

How mediation works

The mediator helps you to reach an agreement without taking sides

In mediation, you and your family members explain your concerns and needs to each other. The mediator gives you a safe and neutral setting to talk and they won't take sides. Family mediators are trained to make sure that they hear both sides of the argument.

Usually all information you may give during the mediation process is private. There are some exceptions, such as if the welfare of a child is at risk. In these cases, information can be passed on to the authorities (like social services) to protect the child.

Who family mediators are

Family mediators come from a wide range of backgrounds, including law, healthcare and other professions working with families and children. They are trained to work with people whose relationships have broken down.

Family mediation and children

Using mediation where you can’t reach agreement over children is less disruptive to the children than going though the court process.

If you, the children and the mediator agree, children can speak to the mediator themselves. Some mediators are specially trained to talk to children.

Are agreements legally binding?

Any agreement made through family mediation is not legally binding. You can always take legal advice about an agreement you've reached in mediation before you make it final. If you want to make the agreement legally binding, you can use it to apply to the court for a ‘consent order’. The court will then consider whether to approve it.

Before you go to court - Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings

Before you start court proceedings over money, property or possessions or arrangements for children, you must usually have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

How Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings work

At a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, the mediator will try to work out if mediation can help you reach an agreement. They can also give you advice on any other services that may be able to help you. During the meeting, you’ll be able to find out more about mediation and ask any questions you may have.

You can attend the meeting alone or with your husband, wife or civil partner.

If you want to meet the mediator alone

If you want to meet the mediator alone, the mediator will ask you for your husband, wife or civil partner’s contact details before the meeting. The mediator will contact them to find out if they are willing to try mediation. If they don’t want to try mediation, you won’t have to attend the meeting. If they agree to meeting the mediator, you will be able to meet the mediator alone.

After the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting

After the meeting, if you and the mediator feel that mediation can help you reach an agreement, you can start mediation sessions.

If you are not going to start mediation sessions, the mediator will fill in a form FM1 and give it to you or your solicitor. You should include this form with with your application papers if you decide to go to court.

When you won't be expected to have a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting

The court won’t expect you to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting if:

  • the mediator shows on form FM1 that mediation isn’t suitable because one of you didn’t want to attend a Mediation and Assessment Meeting
  • a mediator doesn’t think the case is suitable for mediation and has said so within the past four months
  • either of you has made an allegation of domestic violence against the other within the past 12 months and police investigations or civil proceedings were started
  • your dispute is about money and either of you is bankrupt
  • you don’t know where your husband, wife or civil partner is
  • you want to apply for a court order but for specific reasons don’t intend to give your husband, wife or civil partner any notice
  • the court application is urgent because someone’s life or physical safety is at risk or a child is at risk of significant harm
  • the order is about a child who is already involved with social services because of concerns over their protection
  • you’ve contacted three mediators within 15 miles of your home and are unable to get an appointment with any of them within 15 working days

The cost of mediation

You may be able to get help to pay for the cost of mediation

You may be able to get help to pay for the cost of mediation. This depends on whether you are able to get legal aid. You can check if you qualify by calling Community Legal Advice or use the legal aid eligibility calculator by following the links below.

If you don’t qualify for free mediation, you will have to pay for each mediation session. Charges per session vary according to individual mediation services. As a guideline, legal aid pays:

  • £87 plus VAT per person for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting for one person
  • £130 plus VAT for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting where both partners are present

You should shop around and discuss charges with mediators before you choose which one to use.

Find family mediators near you

You can get details of family mediators near you from the Family Mediation Database by using the link below. When you're looking for a mediator, you should check that they're recognised by the Family Mediation Council.

You can also call Community Legal Advice. They can give you general advice if you’re eligible for legal aid, including whether you case may be suitable for mediation.

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