Family Mediation Week

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Launched by the Family Mediation Council, Family Mediation Week takes place between 18 and 22 January and is aimed to raise awareness of mediation and how it can benefit separating couples.  The Family Mediation Council were concerned that many separating couples did not know that mediation was an option for them and therefore Family Mediation Week was launched to address this.

Mediation is a voluntary process but there is a requirement (save in certain specific circumstances) for parties to consider mediation before they make an application to take their case to court.  The requirement is for parties to attend the initial meeting (known as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) with a mediator.  Although there is this requirement, mediation certainly has a number of benefits and should be seen as a valuable option for separating couples to consider rather than purely a procedural hoop to jump through.

The aim of family mediation is to help separating couples to sit down together and resolve issues in an amicable and constructive way.  No one knows a family’s situation better than the family themselves and what works for one family could prove to be an utter disaster for another.   It can come as no surprise that the solutions that families come up with together, often with the help of a mediator, usually prove to be the arrangements that are most appropriate for that family and the arrangements that are most likely to endure without further dispute.

For some, mediation can seem an alien and perhaps daunting process but it is hoped that raising awareness of the process and what it involves will lead to more people considering mediation as an appropriate option for them.  At the first session of mediation, the parties will attend separately and the impartial and specially trained mediator will discuss the issues that are to be resolved and what the following sessions of mediation will involve.  After the first session, the parties will meet together with the mediator to explore the options available to them and consider whether there is any way that an agreement can be reached.  The parties will be helped to reach well-informed decisions between themselves with guidance but without any pressure from the mediator.  Where agreements need to be endorsed in a court order, the terms that have been agreed at mediation can be sent to the parties’ solicitors to be incorporated into a consent order to be placed before the court.

The aim of mediation is not only to resolve the issues between the parties at the time of that mediation but also to reduce the conflict between the parties and arm them with the tools to co-operate and resolve any future issues that may arise.  Not only will successful mediation be a benefit in the immediate term, it is also likely to result in better communication between the separated parties in the future, which must be a benefit for the whole family.

It is undeniable that mediation allows parties to retain control of their own family situations.  If an agreement can be reached at mediation, it is certainly a less stressful, less combative and less costly process than an application through the court.  Successful mediation also sees disputes settled in a much shorter time than court proceedings with mediated separation taking on average 110 days whilst the average non-mediated separation will take 450 days to conclude.

The benefits of family mediation certainly should not be ignored and thought should be given to whether it is appropriate when couples decide to separate.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss mediation or any other family matter in more detail, please feel free to contact Sarah or Jackie on 01903 22999 or by email at info@bennett-griffin.co.uk

Disclaimer – Please note that this update is not intended to be exhaustive or be a substitute for legal advice. The application of the law in this area will often depend upon the specific facts and you are advised to seek specific advice on any given scenario.