There are several ways to resolve a family dispute: family mediation, solicitors’ negotiations, and as a last resort, applying to court.

A mediated settlement is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than legal proceedings.

Mediators are skilled at helping anxious couples during a painful process. The idea of mediation may seem daunting at first, but afterwards people often say it was more helpful to meet in mediation than in court.

A neutral mediator provides an informal, safe, calm, confidential environment for couples to share views, wishes and proposals without fear of intimidation.

Mediators do not advise couples about what to do. Mediators merely guide couples to find their own fair, tailor-made divorce settlements that take into account their individual needs, whilst considering the needs of their children.

Mediation is a humane way to deal with issues surrounding divorce. Divorcing parties often report that they leave with their dignity intact.

Mediated divorce agreements are more likely to be abided by than a court-imposed order. This improves the chances of long-term cooperation and peace.
Before mediation begins you and your ex-partner will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) separately.

At the MIAM, the mediator will provide you with information regarding mediation and assess whether the process will be right for you. This meeting can take up to an hour.

If we think that mediation is appropriate, we will plan mediation sessions which typically last for 90 minutes. Double sessions can be arranged with a 30-minute break in between.

Full and frank financial disclosure needs to be made between you and the mediator.
During mediation you will talk about matters relating to your separation. This may include:

• Living arrangements: Where are each of you going to live after separation/divorce and how will living costs be covered?

• Child arrangements: Where will the children live and go to school? How and when will each of you see the children? How will hand-overs take place? How will grandparents, other family and friends see the children? What will happen on special days like holidays, birthdays and Christmas?

• Assets and property: Information regarding income, benefits, tenancies, house valuations, mortgages, bank balances, pensions, business and asset valuations, tax, debts and living expenses are gathered and exchanged. How will assets be divided and how is this going to happen? The mediators may signpost to a couple of other professionals if specialist help is required.

If agreement is reached on all issues, the mediator will draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) stating the proposals for the settlement and an Open Financial Statement (OFS) detailing the finances on which those proposals are based. This can be taken to solicitors for independent legal advice and to draw up a Financial Remedy Order (Consent Order) to be sealed by the court.

Couples who were never married may want to use mediation to help with childcare arrangements and co-parenting terms. The mediator can draw up an Outcome Statement or a Parenting Plan once you have come to an agreement.

If living or contact arrangements become problematic after separation you can come back to mediation to negotiate a new agreement.
Yes, everything discussed in mediation is confidential between the mediator and two parties involved.

However, mediators will not be bound by confidentiality when they suspect that there is a risk of harm to a person or child, or when a criminal activity is disclosed, or if the mediator suspects that assets or wealth are the proceeds of crime.

During financial mediation parties may reach agreement on finances. This leads to an Open Financial Statement (OFS) being produced by the mediators for the parties to sign. The OFS can be shown to your legal advisers. It is not a confidential document and the information is provided on an open basis. If necessary, the court may be informed of an OFS during proceedings.

However, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which records the proposals agreed in mediation is a confidential and legally privileged document. It can be shown to your legal representatives but it cannot be relied upon in court.
The mediator will only work with people with whom they do not have any prior history, so there is no conflict of interest.

The mediator does not take sides, except where children are involved. In these cases, the needs of the child will be at the forefront of any discussions.
The past is not dwelled upon unless it has a bearing on the present or the future.

In mediation we do not try to apportion blame or shame anyone for a failed relationship. It is about finding a way forward.

Mediation is not therapy or marriage counselling. Mediation is focused on the present and the future.
Family mediation is normally carried out with only the separating or divorcing couple present.

Solicitors or financial advisers can take part in the process by mutual consent. When there are complex financial matters and legal arguments to consider, it can help if professionals come to the session with you. This needs to be discussed and agreed upon before the session.
If you find it impossible or difficult to be in the same room as your ex-partner, we can do shuttle mediation.
In shuttle mediation, the two of you sit in separate rooms and the mediator moves between the rooms with your points, proposals and suggestions.

In online shuttle mediation the couple don’t meet on the screen. One party waits in the online waiting room while the other speaks to the mediator. There is no direct dialogue or visual contact between the couple on the video call; all communication happens through the mediator.
Mediation is voluntary. However, it is encouraged by the family courts.

If your ex-partner refuses to take part in mediation, or if an exemption applies (for example in cases of domestic violence), then the mediator can sign off an application to the court confirming that mediation was not suitable.

If your partner is unwilling to mediate, you can then pursue the matter through the courts.
If you can’t come to an agreement in mediation the mediation sessions can be terminated.
We can then issue you with a C100 certificate that will allow you to apply to the Family Court.
If you cannot agree on all the matters, and mediation breaks down, any agreements already made are not legally binding.
Any proposals and agreements which have already been made during the mediation are informal and without legal status. However once both parties have reached agreement over their mediation proposals, they can be taken to their solicitors for formal drafting and submission to the court.
Couples who were never married can use mediation to sort out child contact arrangements and financial disputes if that becomes problematic during or after separation.

Unfortunately some couples continue to struggle to communicate after divorce. If an order was made but your children and/or financial situation changes, and you can’t speak to your ex, you can return to mediation.

Parenting plans can be reviewed or updated annually during mediation to take account of any change in either party’s circumstances.
When families are going through change it can be beneficial for children to have a voice in the separation process. Mediators can consult with children who are 10 years or older.

When there is parental conflict, children sometimes say different things to each parent to try to please them. This can leave parents at loggerheads if they both think they know what their children want. Parents may be experiencing difficulties of their own. Children sometimes say they have views but that no-one listens.

An independent mediator can obtain the children’s views and share it with parents. Child consultation does not take away the decision-making power from the parents; children are not asked to make choices. When the voice of the child is heard, parents often better understand their considerations when arrangements are discussed.

If both parents and the child or children agree, a mediator can have a consultation with the child or children. They are normally seen individually but they can be seen together if they prefer.

Parents are asked not to brief their children beforehand or to interrogate them subsequently.

Afterwards the mediator gives verbal feedback on the children’s opinions, feelings, fears and hopes. However the child consultation is confidential and the child or children determine what is reported back to parents. No written reports are produced after child consultations.

For further reading, please see:

A Child's Right To Matter