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What is the role of mediation in family law matters?

View profile for Laura Cotton
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When a relationship breaks down, many issues can need resolving such as finances, divorce proceedings and often child arrangements. Sometimes it can be difficult to resolve these issues with your former partner and conversations may become heated.

Roughly one third of separated couples use the family court to resolve their disputes however judges are encouraging people to negotiate and conclude matters outside of court and use court only as a last resort.  Parties are required to attend mediation before they can apply to court for children or financial orders save in circumstances of domestic abuse.

A family judge in Bristol family court has recently told lawyers to stop bringing unnecessary applications to court that could be settled outside of court and made a warning that parties may be penalised for wasting court time.

Mediation is a process where a professionally trained mediator meets with both parties, and sometimes their children, and will offer a steer and guide to resolving matters by discussing the relevant issues. Mediation gives both parties the option to discuss what they are wish to achieve and be able to have an open and honest discussion, in the presence of in independent third party. The mediator will help both parties explore different options and assist in reaching an effective outcome that is in everyone’s interest.

As the mediator is an independent third party, they are unable to give specific legal advice to the parties, therefore it is advisable to have a solicitor instructed should advice be needed along the way. A solicitor could be on hand to advise an individual what they should expect to receive and provide any advice on any agreements or proposals made. 

If an agreement is made during mediation, the mediator will produce a memorandum of understanding and suggest that a solicitor draw up the legal paperwork . This could be in relation to children or finances. Many people prefer a level of flexibility, especially with child arrangements, however unless an order has been made by the court, any agreement is not enforceable, meaning that either party could change their mind at any point. This provides a level of uncertainty, so it is always advisable to obtain a court order, preferably an agreed consent order. Often when a consent order is filed at court, a court hearing is not needed and can be dealt with administratively.

If you are interested in the mediation process, contact a member of our Family Team who can refer you to a trusted mediator to begin the process .

At Johnson Astills, we offer a Fixed Fee Initial Consultation which enables you to speak with one of our experts about your situation and have your questions answered.