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All couples will be required to attend a Mediation Information and Awareness Session before going to Court. Domestic violence may be an exception as any abuse may mean that mediation is not the right route but do discuss this with a professional.
How can mediation help in divorce?
When you are unable to sort things out between yourselves, then it is worth considering mediation. Mediation is a means of talking to your partner in the presence of an independent professional, a mediator. It should not be confused with counselling or marriage guidance which deal with your emotions and your relationships. If you go to mediation, it assumes that your relationship has broken down and that you both wish to attempt to sort out any disputes you may have regarding your children, your home, finances or legal practicalities. Mediation looks at ways of resolving disputes as a result of your relationship break-up. Mediation is seen as a way of avoiding the court process. It can avoid much stress, time and money.
Are there winners and losers?
At the end of mediation, you should feel that you are neither a winner nor a loser, but that you have come to a sensible arrangement that you can both live with. In other words, it helps to sort out a workable compromise.
What is the advantage?
Mediation can help to reduce tension, anger and misunderstandings and improve communication between you and your partner. And communication is, after all, vital when trying to reach a settlement. This is especially important if you have children as you will probably have to co-operate over their care and upbringing for some years to come.
Can children use mediation too?
Some mediators, including National Family Mediation, also offer services for children. Most children, usually from the age of six, benefit by being able to discuss their feelings with someone outside their family. After discussing their feelings, usually including fears of abandonment, anger and sadness, children can then get back to being children.
Would mediation suit me?
You can use mediation whether or not you are married and whether or not you have children. It can be used at any stage in your negotiations if you both feel that it could help. A mediator is trained to create and maintain a sense of balance in your discussions but if domestic violence is an issue, you should consult a solicitor for advice. You both have to come to the negotiating table on equal terms and be willing to share information with each other. If you want to use mediation but don't want your partner to know your address or phone number, you should tell the mediator at once. You can also request a separate waiting area before meeting with your mediator.
Would I still need a solicitor?
In most cases, yes. Mediators can give you general information about the law but they cannot give you personal advice. It is best to see a solicitor before and during the mediation process so that he can tell you what your rights are and where you stand on financial issues. It could be a thankless task if you reach agreement without independent legal advice as this could be challenged in court at a later date. You may be losing patience with all these procedures and may wish to bring them to a conclusion but always rely on your own personal lawyer. You will also need a solicitor to draw up any agreement at the end of this process. This could then be made into a court order.
Please note that many of our recommended family law firms in our Directory also offer mediation services. To read the article How to make the divorce process less painful, please scroll down to the end of the page.
What can I expect at the first mediation meeting?
Meetings take place in a private and safe place. Usually there is only the mediator (sometimes two) and you together with your partner. The setting is informal and first names are normally used. The mediator would explain the process to you and answer any questions. You would then be asked about the issues you may wish to discuss. A list may be drawn up and you may both be asked to supply information for the nest meeting. A mediator is unable to make decisions for you but can facilitate an atmosphere where you can both explore different solutions. He will not take sides and will try to ensure that you are both heard on equal terms.
How many sessions can I expect and how much will it cost?
This of course depends on the nature of the problems but, generally, two to four sessions, each lasting about an hour and a half. There is no standard fee. Don't be put off asking. If one mediator is unable to help, he may suggest another. You may also be eligible for CLS (Community Legal Service) funding if you are on a low wage, on benefits and don't have much capital or savings. This used to be called Legal aid. If you are already receiving this funding for legal advice, then you may be required to try mediation.
Would everything discussed be treated as confidential?
Nothing is passed on to a third person unless you both agree. What you say in mediation cannot be used in court if mediation breaks down but this does not apply to the facts provided regarding income and property for example. But if the mediator thinks that a child or adult is at risk of harm or has been harmed, then he will stop the proceedings and take suitable action, usually involving the police or social services.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using mediation?
Many couples are happy to resolve problems about finances and children via mediation. Instead of each of you relying on solicitors or the court to sort things out, mediation attempts to cut though the anger and hurt, helping you to resolve the issues yourselves but with solicitors guiding you. One advantage therefore is the likely reduction in legal costs and time as mediation could bring about agreement in weeks or months rather than years although you will both still need some time with your own solicitors.
An agreement made between yourselves is more likely to be kept rather than one forced upon you, especially where children are concerned. It focuses on the future rather than the past, allowing you both to reach a compromise which is considered just and fair. This agreement can then be drawn up by your solicitors and made into a formal court order. Even if agreement cannot be reached on all subjects, you will have at least gathered in the information that solicitors will need and therefore have saved on costs and time.
Mediation is costly in terms of emotional stress. Having to meet your soon to be ex can be quite traumatic but there is a lot to be gained. If one of you has always held the purse strings or made all the decisions, you could be at a disadvantage but the mediator will try to keep things on level ground. The main disadvantage occurs when solicitors are not used before and during the mediation process as couples who expend so much time and energy in mediation are sometimes reluctant to try to change the agreement when advised to do so by their respective solicitors.
Your solicitor is the only one who can apply your personal circumstances to the law and decide what is equitable and fair. He is able to see the future pitfalls of any agreement and will want to protect your interests. Yet again, it is a question of gathering information, discussion and expert advice but it is up to you to decide in the end.
How do I find a mediator?
We are pleased to feature a few independent mediation services as well as the national ones listed further below and would welcome news from others.
You should first of all decide whether you need a family mediator or a lawyer mediator
Family ones tend to deal with issues regarding children and lawyer mediators are experienced family lawyers who have undertaken training in mediation and are more suitable where problems include finances. You can ask whether comprehensive all issues mediation is available. If you are not sure, ask your solicitor for advice and you can always ask for a first appointment with a mediator before committing yourself. Some mediators offer a free half hour introduction session.
Divorce and Family Mediation
Family Lawyer Mediator (finances and children)
Alexandra combines excellent legal knowledge with great empathy to help clients find creative solutions to best meet the unique needs of their family. She helps them to communicate and reality-test solutions that work and are fair to them both. She is able to provide expert family law information neutrally to both clients and works well with lawyers as necessary.
Alexandra has considerable experience and expertise in relationship dynamics and methods of communication that assist the parties to really listen to each other, move forwards and resolve issues for mutual gain.
Recognition and Testimonials
Alexandra’s expertise has been independently recognized in the national law directories following their in-depth market interviews with clients, lawyers and the judiciary to provide an authoritative appraisal of legal talent.
She is described as follows.
Chambers and Partners
"brilliant in every way, Alexandra provides sound consideration in a crisis"
“a big-hitter” - "a really clever lawyer who is quick off the mark and has a gentle but insistent style" - and a sample of numerous messages from clients,
"Alex, you have been absolutely fantastic ... you provided essential guidance to help me see the wood through the trees and been genuinely concerned to keep my costs down and always been conscious of this."
For more details please contact:
Nadia Beckett, mediator, of Beckett Solicitors, Croydon, Surrey, Rainham in Medway, Kent and Sittingbourne
Nadia Beckett is a trained Resolution mediator who qualified in 1997. Nadia offers mediation services on all issues relating to your family. She can help you to agree arrangements for the care of your children together with contact and financial arrangements. She can also help you to agree on financial settlements on the breakdown of your marriage. Nadia can guide you and your former partner or spouse through the legal process as well as helping you to negotiate your own arrangements. As a lawyer mediator she is in the unique position of being able to bring her knowledge and extensive experience as a family and matrimonial solicitor to the mediation process. Nadia has an excellent record in successful mediation offering clients a positive outcome at a price they can afford.
Beckett Solicitors have offices in Croydon, Surrey and in Rainham, Medway, Kent. We have recently opened a new office in Sittingbourne Kent. We offer a friendly and personal service. We want you to feel comfortable talking to us and confident that we care about your case and understand the issues involved.
Beckett Solicitors, specialist family law and solicitor mediation services in Croydon and in Medway and Swale in Kent. Contact us for a free meeting to discuss mediation at our Croydon or Kent offices. Phone 01634 263774 for details or
Paul Robinson Mediation: Billericay and Westcliff on Sea
Sybilla Agasee is an experienced family solicitor and head of Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP Family Department having qualified as a solicitor in May 2000. She is a Resolution Accredited Specialist and a collaboratively trained lawyer as well as a Family Mediation Council approved Mediator and a member of the Family Mediation Association.
Sybilla’s approach to Mediation is simple. She will:
Paul Robinson offer Mediation for Family, Civil and Commercial matters and have offices available for Mediation in both Billericay and Westcliff-on-Sea. Our offices are easily accessed, with first-rate transport links and within only 30 minutes of London to Billericay, Westcliff-on-Sea and Southend stations.
512/514 London Road
Westcliff on Sea
Lyons Davidson Family Mediation
Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Trowbridge, Salisbury, Chepstow, Coleford and Stroud.
What is Lyons Davidson mediation and how can you help?
Lyons Davidson Family Mediation isn't about marriage guidance or counselling. It certainly isn't about lawyers fighting over the children or money, incurring you legal costs. LD Family Mediation guides you towards a resolution. What LD Family Mediation does is to give you the expert, impartial help of someone who is trained to listen, understand and help you reach your own decisions together. Someone who will focus your attention on what's important. Someone who will help guide you through the practical concerns you'll have to face. And, give you down-to-earth, understandable information on reaching an agreement that you both can live with.
Both of you have to be ready and willing to take part in mediation. Both of you have to be open and honest. Both of you have to want it to work. Then, it most certainly will. The alternative, after much time and argument, could be a solution imposed on you by a judge, together with potentially large legal costs.
What does LD mediation provide?
Our family mediators can provide everything you need to get through your separation with the minimum of stress. We have proven expertise in Family Law, real experience of the problems and pitfalls that can occur and a genuine commitment to making the solution as simple and straightforward as possible. Public funding (legal aid) for family mediation is available if you are eligible.
Contact the LD Family Mediation team
Phone: 0117 904 5900 / 0800 038 5900
Mobile: 07796 308257
Fax: 0117 904 6006
Web: www.lddr.co.uk / www.lyonsdavidson.co.uk
Minicom: 0117 904 5892
How to make the divorce process less painful
We hear from Kim Beatson, Head of Family Law Team at Anthony Gold
I went to a wedding recently where the bride’s parents (each with their new partners) sat on opposite sides of the aisle. The wedding reception was a tense affair. Both the bride’s father and stepfather made speeches but the animosity between them was evident – all very sad as the bride’s parents had divorced some ten years earlier.
Each year around 275,000 couples marry and around 168,000 couples divorce. The divorce rate has stabilised over the last few years but the popularity of marriage as an institution is in gradual decline.
There is increasing public awareness of the huge pain that divorce can inflict on families both in emotional and financial terms. Divorce lawyers often take the blame for this but what are the alternatives to the conventional legal process?
Many couples are choosing the mediation option as a civilised means of resolving disputes that arise when a relationship ends, such as whether to divorce or separate and what arrangements should be made for the children, finance and accommodation. This has nothing to do with reconciliation. Instead, couples meet with a trained mediator who will help them to identify the areas of disagreement and to explore the areas for settlement. The mediator does not give the parties legal advice and, therefore, both parties are encouraged to take independent legal advice before any agreement is finalised. The parties’ solicitors can then draw up a binding agreement if a settlement is reached. The process is confidential.
Susannah and Alan came to see me in mediation earlier this year. Both agreed that the marriage was over but were still living together. Both were anxious to see as much of the children as possible. Alan had formed a new relationship and Susannah was upset about this and mindful of the effect this could have on the children. Both had strong views about whether the matrimonial home should be sold. In mediation it was possible to agree a pattern of contact so that Alan was spending frequent time with the children. Alan was able to agree that the children should not be brought into contact with his girlfriend until the separation took place. It was agreed that the house should be sold but Susannah received a greater proportion of the proceeds to reflect the fact that Alan had greater pension provision. Both took their agreement to their own lawyers after mediation, an agreed settlement was reached and the legal costs were reduced considerably.
In mediation a negotiated settlement can be achieved in a matter of weeks, saving thousands of pounds on each side. However, the mediator still requires full details of the parties’ financial circumstances.
Mediation is equally suitable for cohabiting couples or same sex couples. It is particularly helpful where couples disagree about the future welfare of their children.
Mediation has been around for years, but there is a new way of resolving family law matters that is known as collaborative practice. This involves the couple working with specially trained collaborative lawyers (one each). They each receive legal advice and guidance and, together with the lawyers, discuss and resolve issues through face-to-face meetings. The threat of Court action and horrendous legal costs are avoided because everyone signs an agreement that disqualifies the lawyers from representing the couple if the collaborative process breaks down.
The advantages of negotiating outside the Court process are that the couple set the agenda according to what matters most to them and their family. Working outside the Court process allows the couple to work at their own pace and to resolve matters as quickly as they wish. Once again, full and frank disclosure of financial circumstances is central to the process. Collaborative practice is an excellent option for people who want to avoid the uncertainties of the Court based system. It allows clients to benefit from legal advice without risking the threat of Court action during the negotiations. Both partners and their lawyers work together to find the best solutions.
If you are keen to achieve an amicable end to your marriage or relationship, then I urge you to consider mediation or collaborative practice. It is impossible to truly walk away from a relationship where children are involved. School meetings, graduations and weddings mean that couples may continue to meet as parents. Mediation and collaborative practice assist in creating an environment whereby it is possible to continue those activities with a spirit of respect and courtesy that can often be lost as a result of a legal battle.
'Second thoughts are best.'
Late 16th century proverb