What is Mediation in divorce law?
What is Mediation?
In the event of a relationship breakdown it is often suggested that the parties should attempt Mediation. This is very different from Reconciliation counselling where the emphasis is on working upon the issues between the parties so that they may give their marriage another go.
Mediation focuses upon the issues between the parties and how an amicable arrangement can be reached upon separation or during the course of separation. It is concerned with issues such as:
- Who will issue the divorce?
- How will the costs of divorce be met?
- How the parties will occupy the house together during the course of the divorce process?
- How will the matrimonial assets be divided?
- What are the matrimonial assets?
- How will the arrangements for the children be managed?
How does Mediation work?
A Mediator is a trained individual whose role is not to take sides but to listen to both parties and ascertain their wishes and needs and then to help the parties work together to reach a realistic agreement which can be implemented.
The aim is to focus on the issues to be resolved and not the reasons as to why the marriage has broken down.
If an agreement is reached on any of the issues then the mediator will confirm the same in writing. This document is not legally binding. The document will also confirm any issues which have failed to be agreed.
The agreement can be shown to the solicitors who can then formalise the matters in the appropriate way. For example, if the settlement is relating to the finances then the parties will need to book an appointment with a solicitor to finalise the agreement into a Financial Court Order as the mediation agreement is not binding until this is achieved.
If an agreement is not reached, the parties can then revert to their solicitors with a better understanding as to what is sought by their partner.
By attending Mediation, the parties can quickly ascertain the issues and reduce their legal costs as often those very same issues will be tackled in correspondence between solicitors.
How long does Mediation take?
A mediation appointment can be booked quite quickly and the mediator will meet with each party separately. Thereafter the mediator will meet with the parties together. Subject to the number of issues the matters can usually be resolved in up to 1-4 joint meetings. The process ultimately depends on whether both parties can be cooperative in the process.
If the idea of Mediation appeals but you do not wish to come face to face with your partner in the meeting, some Mediators will facilitate this process from separate rooms.
What does Mediation cost?
The price varies depending on the organisation and how many sessions you require. Parties can obtain help with funding for the mediation sessions if they meet very specific criteria.
Costs can be quoted per hour, per session or on a fixed fee.
It is best to ring your local mediator and obtain information as to their pricing policy.
Why attend mediation?
The courts now have a strong emphasis on mediation as it is considered to be very quick and cost-effective. Therefore unless you fall into an exemption (i.e. domestic abuse) you must have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.
What preparation should I do before Mediation?
Before the session of mediation it is helpful to have a list of issues that you wish for the Mediator to address and to attend the meeting equipped with the right information to help reach an agreement.
In matters relating to finances, both parties will need to provide financial disclosure but it will be helpful to have the following:
- Values of your assets including matrimonial home, pension and shares;
- Details of your borrowing capacity;
- An idea of cost of housing whether it is to purchase or rent;
- List of estimated outgoings;
- Information on whether any benefits applicable to you.
In matters relating to children it would be helpful to consider how arrangements will be shared for the following:
- School holidays;
- Birthdays including your own;
- Mothers/Fathers Day;
- How the cost of activities relating to the child will be met
At any point during the process, you can speak to a solicitor to obtain clarity on any matter that may be causing you concern. It is important to remember that the Mediation agreement is not binding, therefore it can be varied once you have a consultation with the solicitor.
How can I find a Mediator?
There are various companies that offer Mediation and the best first step is to do a search on the internet as most companies enable you to do a postcode search to find the nearest centre to you. Alternatively, contact Citizens Advice Bureau and they can provide you with information.