Is mediation better than using solicitors?

Often, yes it is.  And that’s not just me as an ex-lawyer/now mediator saying that!  The world has changed; there is an expectation set out in law that you will consider NCDR (non-court dispute resolution) first and court should be the last resort. Mediation is one NCDR option, liked by clients because :

Mediation is quicker; the family court is subject to delays and cancellations.
Mediation is less expensive; you share the costs of one mediator rather than paying for a separate solicitor each, an agreement reached in mediation tends to take less time to get to, and the voucher scheme is available for parents.
Mediation is flexible; we work at a pace that suits you and your family circumstances.
Mediation is more interactive; work is done in sessions together not letters passing to and fro.  This helps communication in the future.
Mediation really works; if people are willing to be honest in their communications and solution-focused in their approach, mediation usually helps you reach an agreed solution.  

Can I still use mediation if my partner doesn’t want to?

One of the core principles of mediation is that it is voluntary.  You may have heard it said that you have to go to mediation before you can go to court.  That is partly true; unless specific exemptions apply, you need to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) meeting to explore mediation or other NCDR options.

If your partner/ex-partner refuses to attend a MIAM or mediation, they can’t be forced to do so. However, this unwillingness/non-attendance happens infrequently.  Most people want to at least attend the introductory MIAM session to find out more and, once they have, they are convinced enough of its benefits to give mediation a try.  So even if your ex initially says they won’t mediate, it is usually still worth you starting this process and learning more about your choices in the MIAM meeting. Additionally, since April 2024, the exemptions to attending a MIAM are much more limited. Also, the family court requires each person involved in proceedings to file a Statement of position on NCDR explaining why they are in court, not in NCDR.

Is mediation safe if my partner is abusive?

Mediation may only take place if it’s safe for everyone involved.  That means mental wellbeing and freedom from verbal abuse as well as protection from physical violence.  The mediator asks everyone who attends a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) about whether there has been any previous abuse in the relationship.  Only if the mediator is satisfied that any abuse is not ongoing and is not putting one person in fear of the other can mediation progress to joint mediation work.

We have ways of managing the impact of being in mediation with someone where there is fear or a history of previous abuse. This includes shuttle mediation or Hybrid mediation, which means that mediation can take place in separate spaces, including breakout rooms in an online mediation.  Your mediator will discuss options and practical arrangements with you fully during your initial MIAM appointment. 

How long does mediation take?

The sessions are approximately as follows:
MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) is around 45-75 minutes with each person (sometimes a little more/less). 
Mediation work after MIAM is in joint sessions; usually scheduled for 2 hours when we are working in the same room (physical or online) or 2.5 hours when we are working separately on a shuttle mediation basis.

The number of joint mediation sessions needed and the frequency these take place is something we will discuss with you.  Sometimes mediation starts with a shorter session to work out what the agenda is, what the priorities are, what info is needed etc. – and then a longer session(s) once that is in place and we are discussing options for settlement. Some clients schedule for every 3 or 4 weeks on a regular basis, whereas others might have 2 -3 months between sessions, while waiting for financial information or trialling arrangements for their children.

Does mediation really work? Would I not be better just going to court?

Well, you will certainly get a decision (judgment) if you go to court.  Only trouble is, you won’t know how much you will be able to influence that and so whether it will be close to the sort of outcome you would want.  And you don’t know how long it will take to get there and how many thousands of pounds each of you will spend in doing so.

Remember the 80s-90s British Telecom  advertising slogan “It’s Good to Talk”? It certainly is and, if there is willingness to attend and openness to consider options, we can mediate in pretty much any situation. You might think you’re totally stuck and each person is very entrenched in their position but the solutions are there and within both of your control. And mediation can work in tandem with other processes; judges have a duty consider adjourning proceedings to allow for non-court dispute resolution. So you might find yourself in mediation anyway!

Statistics for successful mediation are good.  Family Mediation Council Survey (Autumn 2019) showed that family mediation is successful in over 70% of cases. These success rates are consistent with our own statistics; year on year between 75-80% of our mediations (where both parties engaged) come to a successful, mediated outcome. Or, put another way, for every 4 families who attended mediation, 3 arrived at a mediated agreement. 

There are many reasons why court should be avoided and many reasons why mediation is the way forward.  Check out our testimonials to hear what others say, having worked in mediation with us.