Mediation is a way of trying to resolve disputes without the need to go to court. It is a voluntary and confidential process enabling parties to explain their concerns and needs to each other in the presence of a qualified mediator. The aim of mediation is to provide ex-partners with a safe environment in which to help them try to reduce hostility and improve the chances of long-term co-operation between them.
The mediator’s job is to act as an impartial third party and manage the mediation process, helping the parties to avoid unproductive arguments and find positive solutions to their problems. The mediator will use his or her knowledge, experience and skill to help parties exchange information and ideas constructively. The mediator will listen to the different points of view which are expressed, and identify the various options which may be available, and make suggestions so that each party can come to a decision. A successful mediation results in a Memorandum of Understanding which records the agreement reached. Where appropriate, this can be used as the basis for an order for the court’s approval.
The mediator cannot impose a decision or settlement on you – that is not their role. The responsibility for all decisions remains with you. The mediator will not give advice about the best option for any one individual, nor can the mediator protect your individual interests, but they can give you legal information where this is needed to ensure you both reach informed decisions. If you are unable to reach agreement, you can still go to court.
Important Note: New legislation came into effect in April 2014 making it compulsory for any person seeking to start family court proceedings about finances on divorce or in children matters (note that exemptions do apply), must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, or ‘MIAM’ for short. The aim of this meeting is to see if mediation could be used to resolve your difficulties without the need to go straight to court. The MIAM is a meeting between you and a mediator to find out if there are alternative ways to find solutions to your problems. The meeting can be between the mediator and just you, or with your ex-partner present as well.
The mediator will be able to tell you if your case is suitable for mediation. If it is, he or she will advise you of the next steps. If the mediator comes to the conclusion that mediation is not suitable in your case (you are perfectly entitled to tell the mediator if you don’t want to do mediation) the mediator will supply you with a signed form certifying that that you have attended a MIAM. A court will then allow you to issue proceedings.