What is Family Mediation?
Family Mediation is a process that couples can enter into when attempting to solve disputes about a separation or divorce. It stands outside of the court proceedings and is the main difference is that mediation is carried out by one mediator who works for both parties. This impartiality means that the parties work toward as resolution that is agreed by both of them and not imposed on them by the other party.

What Does Family Mediation Cover?
Family mediation is used to solve family problems that normally centre around matters to do with children, property and finances. There is no limit to what can be discussed in family mediation it is down to the parties involved. So if there are issues over who gets the dog or the book collection then this can all be discussed. Although separating couples tend to be the focus of family mediation you can also use the process to deal with disputes between parents and children, elderly and ill relatives, and access of extended families to children and issues that might arise about living arrangements and homelessness post separation. There are no boundaries in terms of areas covered the mediator will discuss with both parties what issues they wish to resolve and these will then be discussed and placed into the process if both parties agree.

Is Family Mediation Legal Binding?
The simple answer is no. The conclusions drawn at the end of family mediation are not legal binding, they are simply an agreement that both parties believe is the best way forward. They can be used a basis of a legal agreement but this would involve get a solicitor to turn them into a binding court order and then to have the order agreed by a judge. The aim of family mediation is to avoid going to court to solve problems and those involved hope that both parties adhere to the agreement without the need for legal redress.

Are Family Mediators Solicitors?
Family mediators are trained to be mediators and not lawyers. They will have an in depth knowledge of the law regarding divorce, separation and children but are not there to provide legal advice. As the mediator is impartial they can clarify points of law but not advise you on what to accept and reject. It is important that you seek legal before during and after the mediation service to make sure that you are fully aware of decisions you are taking.

Is Family Mediation Confidential?
Anything discussed in family mediation with a few exceptions is confidential. Only if a child was thought to be a risk or criminal activity was discussed is the confidentially agreement void. If mediation fails and the case ends up in court details of the discussions in the family mediation process cannot be used unless both parties agree to it. This doesn’t apply to financial information which can be passed on to solicitors and used in the court.

How long does family mediation last?
The length of time involved in the process varies depending on the nature of the problems and how complex they are to resolve. Each session is between one hour and one and a half hours. The whole process is normally concluded between one and six meetings with the family mediator.

What happens at the end of the process?
If the parties reach an agreement over the issues involved then a written summary is produced outlining the basis of the solutions. As already mentioned this document is not legally binding by a framework by which to move forward.
Family mediation aims to remove the cost, stress and confrontation from a separation or divorce. It uses a mediator to improve communication between the parties and reduce conflict. If runs in conjunction with good legal advice and should be considered if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of a divorce.

Tony Heywood