Lawyers were traditionally the first port of call when looking at divorce and separation. Forward-thinking lawyers know that often (where there are no protection or safety concerns) they can step back and allow clients to sort out some of their future decisions themselves. When talking about the day-to-day arrangements for children, the law offers little to assist parents and an environment like mediation is more helpful.
“Decisions about children reached with the agreement of both parents often have a more secure and enduring quality than those after long drawn-out litigation” Mrs Justice Theis
“There is no case, however conflicted, that is not capable of being resolved by mediation” Lord Justice Thorpe
So, as a lawyer you might reasonably ask how do you know your clients will be okay in mediation? How do you know you are referring to a quality mediator? And, as a client you might wonder, would I not do better with a solicitor. Or do I need a lawyer if we decide to use mediation?
Mediators go through an extensive training programme to qualify and become accredited. That is ongoing with a requirement for continued training, development, and periodic reaccreditation. As well as courses and study, mediators have the support of a PPC (like a coach/mentor/supervisor) and regional groups within their member organisation. Mediators work to Professional Standards and Regulatory Framework set by the Family Mediation Council. Mediator groups are also very active on social media platforms and knowledge and best practice is widely and freely shared.
Secondly, mediators don’t try to eliminate the role of lawyers. Mediators are strict on screening out cases where there is any sort of risk to the participants. For suitable mediation cases, mediators also signpost to the need for legal advice. Mediators make it clear that they facilitate the parties reaching their own agreements but, especially on financial matters, each person should have had advice (legal and possibly financial) to make sure they are negotiating with understanding. Mediators will steer clients away from reaching an agreement which isn’t within what the law would class as fair.
And to make sure the process of reaching a financial settlement is honest and transparent, it always starts with disclosure (as it would through solicitors, collaborative law or going to court). In mediation, we cannot work out how to divide up the assets and the income if we don’t know what all of the assets and the income is. Mediation isn’t a place to hide away from that financial frankness.
So, there you go. End of Family Mediation Week. I hope you are encouraged by everything you have heard and feel ready to start your own mediation, refer a client or tell a friend who needs a way forward.