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Mediation Advice
Family mediation normally consists of a series of meetings with a specially trained, impartial third person (or persons) who endeavour(s) to assist separating or divorcing couples, to communicate directly with one another and to reach their own agreed and informed decisions following the breakdown of their relationship. Couples can go into mediation at any time; before they have separated, during negotiations, or even at an advanced stage of litigation. The principal aim is to agree a way forward in respect of some or all of the issues arising from their separation, including divorce, children, finance and property.

In cases involving children, once proceedings are underway, the Courts normally insist that mediation is attempted by CAFCASS (Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service) who usually appoint one of their officers to each case.

In cases involving financial arrangements, full disclosure of income and assets by both parties is a pre-requisite. Most mediators will insist upon the completion of a pro-forma and production of certain documents before the mediation process can get underway. The information required is not normally as detailed as if the case was proceeding through the Court. If there is a suggestion that either party is not being candid in his or her disclosure, then normally the mediator will not continue with the process and litigation will be the only way forward. An agreement concluded at mediation is unlikely to be binding if it transpires that there had been non-disclosure of relevant information by either party.

When couples are mediating, it does not mean that they are excluded from taking independent legal advice. Many mediators recommend that a mediating couple should continue to consult their solicitor during the mediation process. This is particularly appropriate if it is intended that a financial agreement arising from mediation is to form the basis of a final settlement following divorce proceedings. The Court will normally only ratify such an agreement if it has confirmation that each party has had or at least had the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice upon the proposed settlement.

A mediator cannot normally be chosen from the firm of solicitors representing either party. As a small, independent practice we do not offer mediation services, but we are happy to recommend a number of practitioners who do undertake Family Mediation and we are happy to give our clients advice throughout the process, to discuss the proposals (if any) which are on the table and to recommend whether or not they should be accepted.

Quite frequently, one or other party to the breakdown of a relationship feels unable to proceed with Mediation. Sometimes this happens even after the process has started. An alternative procedure which may achieve a solution without recourse to Litigation is negotiation through Solicitors, perhaps involving one or more 'round the table meetings' with both parties and their legal advisers. Once again in order for such discussions concerning financial and property matters to take place, full and frank disclosure of each party's means is required.