Family mediation can help any family in the process of divorcing or separating.
For people who are divorcing or separating discussions can include:
- How assets will be divided
- What happens to the family home
- Where and how often the children will spend time with each parent
- Their future schooling and social activities, so that you as parents can put in place a full parenting plan now you have separated
- Support payments to be made
- And how children will keep in touch with their extended family and grandparents.
With the help of a mediator, the agenda can be anything you both agree to discuss and mediate.
It is common that you will have different issues that you consider to be the priority, but the mediator will make sure that everyone has the opportunity to discuss their concerns, and that a fair and proper amount of time is given to each person’s priorities.
In this way you will be able to work through all the issues that are affecting your life now you have separated and find common and agreed solutions to the problems.
It may seem like an impossible task to reach any agreement with your ex, but in mediation we have a very high level of success and mediators are familiar and trained to help you address each issue in turn.
Family mediators help you to focus on the future, so discussions will involve looking for practical actions to be taken to help you achieve settlement.
We understand it is an emotional time for all concerned, but by helping you focus on the future and working towards agreed outcomes we will see you through what seems like an impossible task.
The mediator won’t dwell on past issues. And they won’t try to allocate blame or guilt or pass judgement.
For grandparents, mediation can help restore contact to grandchildren and improve relationships with your ex in laws so that the children can continue to benefit from those cherished relationships.
There are no set rules when it comes to decisions about homes and ownership.
You can make whatever arrangement you like with your partner, but it’s wise to bear in mind the legal position and what a court might decide. And the situation varies depending on whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting
There are very few circumstances where your partner can make you leave your home and both partners have the right to remain in the family home, but courts will give priority to making sure children have a secure home.
If you have day-to-day care of the children, the courts can, for example, order the transfer of a joint lease to your sole name if you rent, or, if you’re a homeowner, state that you can stay in your present home until the kids reach the age of 18
Although your home will probably be the biggest financial concern, decisions about housing will be made in the context of the whole divorce settlement. So, for example, child maintenance payments may include mortgage payments.
Will I need to go to court to stay in my house?
In some circumstances you may need to go to court to protect your rights if you fear losing your home now that you have separated and if you can’t reach an agreement with your ex about housing.
There is no set way of dividing your assets now that you have separated and your housing is likely to be one of the largest assets so it is important that you look at the whole picture before deciding on a single decision about housing. The best way to look at your situation in its entirety is to go to mediation. The mediator will help you draw together all the information you both need to make an informed decision about what to do with your possessions, assets and liabilities and how to divide them. Family mediators will be able to help you reach agreement that will ensure that any agreement you reach is equitable and fair; satisfy the legal requirements for divorce or separation; provide for your individual needs now you are separated; and above all ensure that the children’s needs can be met.
It can be daunting and feel counter intuitive to think sitting in a room with your ex sorting out your once shared life will be possible, but mediation works. The mediators are highly trained and skilled at helping you navigate through the decisions you will need to make even if you are no longer on the best of terms
The benefits of mediation are that you will be able to discuss everything that is of concern to you from the smallest detail such as who gets the silver teaspoons to the biggest things like the house, pension, boat, bike, car etc. It means you will be able to tailor your agreements and decisions to meet your unique needs and those of your family whereas going to court often results in decisions being made that don’t really suit anyone’s needs.
Remember also that legal aid is still available for family mediation. You will have to find a mediator who has a legal aid contact and be means tested for eligibility. If you are eligible then mediation is free of charge.
In the unlikely event mediation does not help you come to an agreement, you may need to go to court. The court might order that:
- Ownership stays the same, but one of you is given the right to stay in the property until a fixed point (for example, when your youngest child reaches 18)
- Ownership of the home is transferred to one of you, with perhaps a lesser share of other possessions
- The home is transferred to one of you but with a charge secured on the property, so that the other party receives a set percentage when the home is sold
- The home is sold and the proceeds split between you, in whatever proportions seem fair, for you both to start afresh
- Ownership is transferred to your child.
Selling the family home is often seen as the easiest option if you’re splitting up.
But there can be problems: for example, you might have trouble finding a buyer, or be caught in negative equity (when the value of your home is less than the amount you owe on the mortgage). This could make it impossible to sell and split the proceeds.
You might also struggle to get a mortgage on a new property, especially if you have only a small deposit or if your income is low.
You may need to consider other options, such as one of you staying in the property while the other rents, or living together in the family home in the short-term.
Before you make a decision:
- Budget carefully before committing to a housing arrangement. No matter how tempting it may be to stay in your family home, make sure you can afford to continue living there
- Check out mortgage options, what’s available and what you can afford. Some building society and banks offer Fresh Start mortgages for people starting anew
- Find out if you’re eligible for state benefits to help with your housing costs
- Accept that your lifestyle will change, at least for now, and be prepared to compromise.
If you are married
Some married couples separate but never divorce, being happy to simply stay apart. All you need to do to be legally separated is live apart.
Officially, you can even be separated but still live under the same roof, if you arrange your household so that you no longer sleep or eat together and you do not do domestic chores, such as washing or ironing, for each other.
If you separate for two years or more and both agree to the separation, this can be the basis for any future divorce.
If you decide not to get divorced, your marital assets and debts will remain joint in the eyes of the law. This may not be a problem for many couples, but it’s a good idea to think what impact it might have on future life changes, for instance if you want to move in with a new partner.
If you are not married
If you own or rent a property then any dispute about what happens to it will be dealt with through property and trust law rather than matrimonial law. Many people believe that living together creates some protection through ‘common law’ but this is not the case. If you have children there are laws to ensure that financial provision can be made for them (for instance somewhere to live and sufficient child support) but generally if you are not married there is no expectation that one person can claim any of the assets owned by the other.
Some of the questions that mediation can help you solve are: If the property is in a sole name, have you made equal contributions to the mortgage and upkeep of the property? Are you tenants in common or joint tenants?
What will happen to our joint accounts? What about maintenance for myself? Does the fact that you have children make a difference to the property?
Our expert mediators are able to help you tailor an agreement which fits your specific circumstances. Type your postcode to find your nearest family mediator
It can be a challenge if your ex doesn’t want to try mediation to reach a settlement when you’re separating. It’s difficult in the heat of a conflict to think about trying to negotiate together to get things sorted.
It can seem easier to try to trigger a legal battle that is ultimately going to be far more expensive, more stressful and take much, much longer. But mediation can only work when both people agree to attend.
If your ex–partner won’t initially agree to mediate you can try asking them to attend an appointment on their own to start with. This can help avoid the tensions of facing each other. Your ex can then find out how it all works and make an informed decision about if it is right for them because they’ll have more information.
Most people are naturally quite anxious before they start mediation, but the huge majority of those who do go ahead and try it are greatly relieved that they did. They are often also surprised at the way they were able to finally make agreements and decisions on things that had previously felt it would be impossible to sort.
Family mediation does not focus on the emotional upset that separation causes, although experience shows that resolving some of the key issues can help ease stress and anxiety surrounding a break-up.
Family mediation is not about trying to keep couples together but helping them move on to the next stages of their lives.
The Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) is designed to help you learn more about the challenges of post-separation parenting. The SPIP provides advice and guidance about how best to help yourself and help your children in your situation.
You can read more about the SPIP using this link
You can find your nearest SPIP provider on the Cafcass website
You may have heard about the MIAM. Before applying to court for a decision on finances or parenting, the law requires most people to attend a MIAM with an accredited mediator. This is short for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.
It is expected that most people experiencing divorce or separation will take responsibility for their post-separation life.
After all, the families are the experts in their own lives. So the family court expects to be the last resort after all other attempts to settle have failed.
The MIAM gives you an opportunity to find out what mediation is about. You can find out if it is suitable for you and your circumstances. In the MIAM you will look at the issues you have to consider to achieve divorce or separation. And you will be able to assess the situation before taking part in full mediation.
However, undertaking full family mediation is voluntary.
Our mediators will help you proceed with mediation in the most comfortable way for you and your circumstances. However, if it goes ahead both people do need to agree to attend. But in some cases it is possible to make an arrangement whereby both people use separate rooms during family mediation.
*The law makes a small number of exceptions to this rule, for example where domestic violence has occurred or in cases of bankruptcy.
Once you have decided to go ahead with family mediation, contact us.
Then we will quickly begin arranging an appointment for you with one of our expert family mediators.
Some family mediation cases are eligible for funding from Legal Aid.
Here are some examples of cases the Legal Aid Agency would consider eligible:
- You’re getting divorced and therefore need to sort out financial arrangements.
- Child arrangements have broken down, and so you are not seeing your children.
- Any dispute following family breakdown that may end up in court.
At your initial family mediation appointment (the MIAM) you can ask about legal aid for mediation.
They mediator will discuss what issues need resolving. Some family mediation cases are eligible for Legal Aid. But others are not. Examples of cases the Legal Aid Agency would consider eligible are:
- You are getting divorced and need to sort out money.
- Child arrangements have broken down and you are not seeing your children.
- Any dispute following family breakdown that may end up in court.