Mediation in the UK: Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to our expertly curated FAQ guide on mediation in the UK, written by our team of specialist solicitors. This guide is designed to offer clarity and support to those considering mediation as a way to resolve disputes, ensuring you are well-informed every step of the way.
Whether you’re facing issues related to divorce, separation, or child arrangements, our experts are here to guide you through the complexities of mediation.
What type of issues can be mediated?
In short, any issue can be mediated where there is a desire to reach an agreement and avoid litigation. Mediation can relate to finances (e.g. on divorce or separation or following cohabitation) and can also be used for issues relating to arrangements for children.
Who is the mediator?
Our mediators are also specialist family lawyers although their role, as a mediator, is not to give legal advice but to guide you through the mediation process and assist you in reaching an agreement. As lawyers, we have the benefit of understanding the issues involved and a wealth of experience.
The mediator is instructed by both parties to be impartial and to facilitate the discussion. Our role is to help you to reach an agreement rather than to advise. From our experience, mediation tends to work best where each party has taken independent legal advice prior to or during the mediation process but you are under no obligation to instruct solicitors unless you wish to.
Can I be forced to mediate?
No – mediation is a voluntary process and both parties have to agree to attend. The regulations relating to MIAMs (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings) mean that in most circumstances you will be obliged to attend a MIAMS separately before you issue a court application. This is something which we or your solicitors can assist with. If you attend a MIAMS on your own it will likely take approximately 45 minutes.
Ultimately, however, you cannot be compelled to mediate with your former partner. The purpose of a MIAMS is to give you information regarding the non-court processes such as mediation and to make an assessment as to whether or not your case would be appropriate for mediation if mediation was something you wanted to explore.
Will we have to be in the same room?
Not necessarily, but our experience shows that mediation works best where you establish a dialogue and are able to discuss the issues directly in a controlled and comfortable environment. We do everything we can to ensure that the venue is safe, comfortable and the environment non-judgmental.
In most cases, we meet with each of you separately before commencing a meeting together. In summary, the process can be tailored to your needs and what works best for you as a couple.
Can my solicitor be present?
Yes - solicitors can be present in mediation although this is not usual. Even if legal advisers are not present, most clients tell us that it is helpful to take legal advice before and between sessions rather than during the mediation itself. If this is something that is of interest we can discuss this with you and your solicitors.
Can other advisers be present, e.g. my financial advisor?
Yes - if you both agree. Sometimes this can be helpful if there is a particular issue to be discussed and explored. Depending on the issues involved a child expert, pension expert, independent financial advisor or accountant could be involved in one or more of the mediation sessions. It really is a question of what works for you and what is relevant.
How long does mediation take?
Each individual mediation session tends to take 1.5 to 2 hours, but we will be guided by you. Overall, much will depend on the complexity of the issues involved and how readily an agreement is reached. Some clients resolve matters in a single session whereas most can take a number of sessions to deal with the matters at hand.
What form does the "agreement" take and will it be legally binding?
Any agreement discussed is not binding upon you as it is subject to both of you having taken independent legal advice. If a proposed agreement is reached the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding which sets out the proposed terms of the agreement and provides a clear understanding and record of what has been agreed between you.
Should you wish, this can be passed to your solicitor, who can then draft any relevant Court Order or agreement, based on that documentation. If an agreement is made into a Court Order and approved by a Judge, it will at that point become legally binding.
What happens if we're unable to reach an agreement?
In our experience, the vast majority of people are able to reach an agreement. However, if you are unable to reach an agreement in mediation, you are still able to negotiate directly or via your solicitors and ultimately, you can make an application to the courts or via a privately chosen arbitrator.
How much does mediation cost?
Various hourly rates apply to our mediators. We can help you choose the right mediator to suit your personal circumstances. As a couple you can agree to divide the costs between you or they can be paid by one or either party. Depending on your circumstances if you are mediating in relation to children issues then you are likely to qualify for a Family Mediation Voucher. We also offer legal aid to those who are eligible.
What is the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme?
The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme is a scheme sent up by the Ministry of Justice in which a voucher up to £500 can be applied for to assist in your mediation costs. This only applies if you are discussing issues in relation to children. If this applies in your case then the mediator will discuss this with you and you will be required to complete the relevant forms so an application can be made.
How can I obtain legal aid in mediation
If you believe you may be entitled to Legal aid then the mediator will assess this at the MIAMS meeting and will require you to be provide documentary evidences of your financial circumstances. Currently if you are in receipt of universal credit you would be eligible subject to your capital and property assets.
Can I skip mediation and go straight to court?
Mediation is not compulsory but in most cases you will need to attend a MIAMS meeting so that the mediator can assess whether mediation is suitable in your case. In some exceptional circumstances you can apply to court without attending a MIAMS. These include:
- Your partner is trying to dispose of assets before the mediation process can begin
- You are a victim of their abuse and do not consider it safe to engage in mediation
- You are in fear of your child being abducted by your partner
What happens if the other party does not attend mediation?
Both parties will be offer a MIAMS meeting but if one party does not want to attend then the mediator will assess mediation not to be suitable.
GoodLaw LLP: Experts in Mediation
If you have any questions or need further clarification about the mediation process, our team of experienced mediators is here to help. Whether you're navigating the complexities of divorce, separation, or any other dispute, we're committed to guiding you through to a resolution.
Contact us today for personalised assistance and support with your mediation needs.