About Family Mediation
- Family Mediation helps you resolve conflict and reach agreement on all issues surrounding separation, divorce or dissolution of civil partnership.
- It is a voluntary and confidential process which helps you reach joint decisions without the use of courts.
- It offers you a safe, neutral place where you and your ex-partner can meet with an impartial mediator to work out plans for the future.
- Mediators do not tell you what to do but help you look at different options for sorting things out, so that you reach your own agreements about all aspects of your separation, divorce or dissolution, including arrangements for children, finances and property.
Due to recent changes in government thinking, family mediation is becoming the preferred method to resolve and prevent family disputes, especially where children are involved. Agreements that have been freely negotiated can help restore communication, understanding and trust.
Mediation is open to anybody affected by family breakdown including separation, divorce and dissolution of civil partnership. It is mostly used by parents or couples who are experiencing difficulties agreeing arrangements, regardless of age, race, nationality, sexuality, orientation, mobility, faith and other such factors. For those whose first language is other than English, interpreter services can be provided. Mediation is also available to other family members, such as grandparents, who may be having difficulties over contact arrangements or step-parents who would like to support their new partner.
Stages of the Mediation Process
Contact is made with National Family Mediation. You may be referred to a Member Service local to you to take your case forward.
Once you have made contact with the Member Service and briefly spoken to a member of the team, you will be invited to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This will enable you to discuss your case with a family mediator, find out about mediation and other options available to you and conduct a legal aid assessment to find out whether you can receive your MIAM and mediation for free. The Legal Aid Agency will pay fees for those eligible for Legal Aid. As all National Family Mediation Member Services are not-for-profit organisations, anyone not eligible for Legal Aid will pay fees on a sliding scale according to their income.
The mediator will ask if you would like the other person in the dispute to be contacted. If so, the Member Service will contact the other person and invite them along to a MIAM. Sometimes couples decide to attend a MIAM together.
Once you and your ex-partner have both attended a MIAM (whether together or separately) and both of you and the mediator agree it is safe to progress with mediation, a first mediation session will be booked. This is often called a planning meeting.
At the first mediation session, an agreement to mediate including a confidentiality agreement will be signed. The principles of mediation will be reiterated and ground rules established. An agenda for negotiation will be produced by you and your ex-partner. The mediator will establish what each of you would like to accomplish and establish any common ground between you. Depending on whether your starting point is financial or about the children, the structure of the mediation might differ.
If the mediation is an all issues mediation or a finance and property mediation, the second is usually dedicated to financial disclosure. This means that you will be asked to bring financial information to the session, for example, about all your assets and liabilities, which will help you both to figure out what is in the pot and what requires dividing. Because it is not always possible to get all the financial information required by the second session, financial disclosure may take an additional session before developing options and negotiation can commence. You will be asked to make 2 copies of all of the documentation you bring in – the originals for yourself, 1 set of copies for the other party and 1 set of copies for the mediator.
If your mediation is solely to do with arrangements for the children e.g. where they will live, who they will see and when, child maintenance payments etc. this will be discussed, options developed and arrangements negotiated. If children are involved, the solution will always be to do what is best for the children and it may be that you will ask the mediator to consult with your child or children.
After every session, a Mediator will draft documentation which includes all of the key points discusses during the mediation, as well as any agreements made on arrangements following discussions. You will receive this before the next mediation session. In a financial mediation, this will include a schedule of all of your assets and liabilities and income and expenditure which will provide you with an informed position from which to negotiate an outcome.
A Child Arrangements Mediation usually takes about 1-2 sessions of 1.5 hours each (excluding the MIAM). A Mediator will ensure you receive an Outcome Statement which summarises the discussions you had in mediation, the key points of the negotiation and any agreements you have made as a result.
A Finance and Property Mediation usually takes 3-4 sessions of 1.5 hours each (excluding the MIAM). A Mediator will ensure you receive all copies of all of the relevant financial documentation, a schedule of assets and liabilities, a schedule of income and expenditure (as above) and a Memorandum of Understanding which details your personal information, brief case outline, finalised schedules, key points of negotiation and any agreements made.
An All Issues Mediation (includes Finance, Property and Children) usually takes up to 5 sessions (excluding the MIAM). A Mediator will ensure you receive all copies of all of the relevant financial documentation, a schedule of assets and liabilities, a schedule of income and expenditure (as above) and a Memorandum of Understanding which details your personal information, brief case outline, finalised schedules, key points of negotiation on all of the issues (children, finance and property) and any agreements made.
During the mediation, it might be appropriate to access advice alongside the process. This can be in the form of legal, financial or other advice (debt, welfare benefits etc.) and a mediator will discuss when this might be appropriate. If your mediation is being paid for by legal aid, you might be able to access a free legal advice session through ‘legal help for mediation’ scheme.
Remember that mediation is a voluntary process, to suspending or stopping mediation for an appropriate reason can be an option. This can be discussed with the mediator.
Agreements in mediation are not legally binding, however, research does show that agreements made in mediation usually last longer and have better outcomes for all involved.
You will be able to take your Outcomes Statement or Memorandum of Understanding to a lawyer to have it drafted into a consent order which will make it legally binding in a court of law. If your mediation is being paid for by legal aid, you might be able to access a free legal advice session through ‘legal help for mediation’ scheme.
Frequently Asked Questions about Family Mediation
About National Family Mediation
National Family Mediation (NFM) is one of the founding members of the Family Mediation Council, the body which regulates standards of practice in family mediation. All NFM Mediators are professionals with a wealth of skills and experience in family mediation and conflict resolution. They deliver family mediation at the highest accredited standard. All are qualified to provide legally aided family mediation on behalf of the Legal Aid Agency (previously the Legal Services Commission).
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
National Family Mediation (NFM) services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.