Mediation: Frequently Asked Questions
Your questions answered about Mediation.
What type of issues can be mediated?
In short, any issue can be mediated where there is a desire to reach 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 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 some circumstances you may be obliged to attend a MIAM meeting (either on your own or with your former partner) before you issue a court application. This is something which we or your solicitors can assist with. If you attend a MIAM on your own it will likely take approximately 45 minutes. If you attend together it may take a little longer. Ultimately, however, you cannot be compelled to mediate with your former partner. The purpose of a MIAM 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 it 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 independent legal advice. If a proposed agreement is reached the mediator will prepare documentation 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 will it 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.