Mediation - How does it work?
We asked National Family Mediation your questions about all the practicalities of mediation… Find out all the answers here…
Q: What does a mediator actually do?
Mediators are professionals with a wealth of skills and experience in family mediation and conflict resolution.
Mediators do not tell you what to do in the mediation process, nor do they give advice. They are impartial facilitators who assist you and the other parent to make decisions and help you reach your own agreements concerning all aspects of your separation or divorce e.g. children, finances, property etc.
Q: Do I have to get referred to mediation?
No, you can contact the mediation service yourself if you prefer. It is not necessary to be referred to mediation through another agency (like CAB, your GP, social services etc.) a court or a solicitor. Many more Mediation clients are now accessing mediation through the self-referral route.
Q: Do I need to take anything with me to mediation?
Usually the mediation service that you are engaged with will send you correspondence which details the date, time and venue of your appointment, what documents you will need to bring with you and what you can expect from the upcoming sessions. For the introductory meeting, you will usually have to bring documentation which we will use to assess whether you will be eligible for legal aid or not. This means that the mediator will assess to see whether you can receive your introductory meeting and your mediation for free (paid for by government via legal aid). If mediation goes ahead, the mediator will contact you prior to every session with the documentation drafted up from the previous sessions (excluding the introductory session), the list of documentation to bring to the next session, as well as a note of your discussions and any agreements made.
Q: What happens during mediation?
The process of mediation is divided up into 3 stages:
- Introductory meeting – This is the opportunity for you to meet with a mediator, hear more about the mediation process, and have the opportunity to discuss your situation to find out whether mediation would be an option for you. A separate meeting is usually organised for you and the other parent, however, on some occasions a joint meeting is organised, where each client will be seen separately for a time. It is at this meeting that each of you has the opportunity to decide whether you would like to go ahead with mediation. The mediator will also have the opportunity to assess whether mediation is appropriate in your situation.
- Mediation – The mediation process is there to help you reach your own agreements concerning all aspects of your separation or divorce e.g. children, finances, property etc. Freely negotiated agreements can help restore communication, understanding and trust. Mediation that covers issues relating to child arrangements usually takes about 2-3 sessions. Mediation that covers only finance and property issues, usually takes 3-4 sessions and all issues mediation, which covers finance, property and children usually takes between 4-5 sessions, depending on the complexity of the case. Each session is usually 1.5 hours long. The mediator will assist you to set the agenda at the beginning of each meeting which will assist to focus the negotiations. When dealing with finances, the first couple of sessions will be focused on the financial disclosure which will give you an indication of how much is in the pot in order to develop options of how this will be divided after separation. The mediator might also advise you to seek legal or other financial advice alongside the mediation process.
- Conclusion – The mediator will draft an outcomes summary or memorandum of understanding at the end of the mediation which will detail all of the agreements made. This can be taken to a solicitor who will use it to draft a consent order (a court order which ensures that the agreement is legally binding). This is not compulsory, but you can together consider whether this might be a useful step to take.
Q: Do we have to attend more than once? How many sessions are involved?
Mediation starts off with an introductory meeting which will allow you to discuss your situation with the mediator and have the opportunity to hear about mediation and make an informed decision about whether mediation is appropriate for you. This usually lasts about 45 mins – 1 hour.
The number of sessions you and the other parent will attend will be dependent on the complexity of your case.
- child arrangements mediation usually takes about 2-3 sessions.
- finance and property issues mediation usually takes 3-4 sessions
- all issues mediation, which covers finance, property and children usually takes between 4-5 sessions.
Each session usually lasts 1.5 hours.
Q: My friend attended a MIAM. What is it and what happens?
A MIAM is a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’, otherwise known as an introductory meeting to mediation. This is the first phase of mediation. The MIAM provides you with the opportunity to meet with a mediator, hear more about the mediation process, and have the opportunity to discuss your situation to find out whether mediation would be an option for you. A separate meeting is usually organised for you and the other parent, however, on some occasions a joint MIAM is organised, where each client will be seen separately for a time, but the meeting is conducted with both of you in the room. It is at this meeting that each of you has the opportunity to decide whether you would like to go ahead with mediation. The mediator will also have the opportunity to assess whether mediation is appropriate in your situation.
Prior to a MIAM, the mediation service will most likely send you correspondence outlining the details including date, time and venue of your meeting, information about the mediation process, and will set out a list of documentation you should bring with you to your first meeting. This is usually documentation we will use to assess whether you will be eligible for legal aid or not. This means that the mediator will assess to see whether you can receive your introductory meeting and your mediation for free (paid for by government).
After you and the other parent have attended a MIAM, you will be contacted about progressing with mediation. If you choose to go ahead with mediation, the mediation service will book you into your first joint appointment usually called a planning meeting.
Q: What happens if my ex doesn't want to take part?
Mediation is a voluntary process which means that people can make an informed decision about whether they want to partake in mediation or not. It is advisable that both parents attend an introductory meeting which informs them about the mediation process, what they can expect, and it provides them with the opportunity to discuss their situation with the mediator, receive important information about the separation process and have the opportunity to ask any questions.
It is also currently compulsory for the applicant to court to attend an introductory meeting (called a MIAM) under the pre-application protocol. Sometimes a court might order one or both parents to attend a MIAM at the first hearing or during the court process to give them the opportunity to resolve their dispute outside of court.
Q: My partner's solicitor has picked a mediator - am I allowed to pick someone else or do I have no choice?
You always have a choice about where you would like the mediation to take place. It might be that your partner attends an introductory meeting at the mediation service that your partner's solicitor has picked; however, you can decide to have your introductory meeting at whichever mediation service you like. However, if mediation is appropriate and does go forward, you will have to agree with your partner about where you would both feel comfortable attending the mediation sessions. As all mediators are impartial, it shouldn’t matter who has made the referral because you should be treated equally.
National Family Mediation
Please note that this Q&A provided by DAD.info in partnership with National Family Mediation contains general information about sorting out your separation. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. You acknowledge that, because of the limited nature of such communication, any legal assistance you may receive using any such facility is likely to be incomplete. Any legal assistance or information you may receive using any such facility does not constitute legal advice and accordingly should not be relied upon
National Family Mediation is the largest provider of family mediation in the UK. We deliver family mediation and support services across 500 locations. Our professionally trained mediators, experts in conflict resolution and family law, assist families affected by breakdown and specifically, couples affected by divorce / separation to make joint decisions about their finance, property and long-term solutions for their children.
We recognise that you want to focus on your children but this may be a challenge with all the other responsibilities that come with separation. Mediation encourages parents affected by separation to collaborate (where appropriate), as it highlights the benefits to children when parents work together, which include;
- Children do best when parents work together, they’ll be healthier, happier and do better in school with two parents supporting them throughout their childhood
- Your children want to know they matter to both of you, so it's better when you both collaborate to make things better for them
Family mediation is also cost-effective, quicker, provides for longer-term resolution and has better evidence-based outcomes than the often costly (emotionally and financially) stressful court route.
Updated: September 2017