Family Mediation Solicitors
Separation can take a heavy toll on you and your family, both financially and emotionally. It’s easy for arguments over finances or arrangements for the children to escalate into heated conflicts and before long, one can find themselves in the middle of contested court proceedings.
However, if you and your former partner are willing to sit down and talk openly about finding a workable solution to your issues, family mediation can be a cost-effective way of reaching an amicable agreement.
Mediation offers a number of benefits for dealing with divorce and separation, including being less costly, faster and less stressful than court proceedings as a result of being less confrontational. It can also prove to be a more harmonious way of resolving matters relating to your children.
At Barcan+Kirby, our family mediators, who are also experienced family solicitors, are dedicated to making a difference. Throughout the process, we’ll provide tactical assistance and support to ensure a positive outcome is secured for your family.
What is family mediation?
Sometimes referred to as ‘divorce mediation’ or ‘family law mediation’, family mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that helps separating couples resolve disagreements in a calm, collaborative environment outside of court.
With the support of an impartial family mediator, you’ll meet in a neutral space to discuss and resolve any issues which have arisen as a result of your separation. The family mediator will steer you and your former partner away from disputes and will encourage each party to express their opinions calmly.
Family mediation can be used for making a financial settlement and agreeing arrangements for any children you have, as well as dealing with any other practical issues you need to resolve both on a short and long-term basis so you can both move forward in a positive way.
Book an appointment with our family mediation solicitors in Bristol
The family mediation process explained
Initial consultation with our family mediation team
The first step in mediation is for you and your spouse to meet with one of our accredited mediators for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
At this meeting, we will discuss in more detail how mediation works and whether the process is likely to be a good fit for you. You will have the chance to explain your situation and the issues you need help with. Our mediator will then give an indication of how many mediation sessions you are likely to need and the costs involved.
You can then make an informed decision about whether you want to move ahead with mediation for your divorce or separation, or whether you feel another option, such as collaborative law or court proceedings, are more appropriate.
Attending family mediation
Mediation takes place over a number of meetings. You will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate before your first mediation session. This typically includes a confidentiality agreement meaning that nothing either party discusses during mediation can be used in any subsequent court proceedings if you cannot reach an agreement through mediation.
At each mediation meeting, each person will have the opportunity to speak, allowing them to explain their point of view and any specific concerns over the issues that need to be resolved. You will each have the chance to respond and work towards finding agreement over solutions to the issues raised.
The mediator will remain impartial and it is not their role to tell you how to solve any points of contention. Instead, they will help to keep the process productive and collaborative, while defusing any potential for conflict.
The mediator will also record any proposed solutions to specific issues that you agree during each session. Each party will receive a copy of this at the end of the session and you will be able to seek independent legal advice on these proposals between sessions.
Reaching an agreement through mediation
When you have agreed solutions to all of the issues you needed to sort out as part of your divorce or separation, the mediation process will come to an end. The mediator will record the details of your agreements in a ‘memorandum of understanding’. This is not a legally binding agreement and you can revisit it later if you wish to make any changes.
You should always have the memorandum of understanding reviewed by an independent family law expert to make sure it is fair to you and your loved ones.
Applying for a Consent Order to formalise your agreement
If you wish to make the financial agreement you have reached through mediation legally binding, you can do so by applying to a family court for a Consent Order. There will be some fees involved for doing this, but it can provide reassurance because you will know that both sides will have to honour the agreements you have made, avoiding the potential for future uncertainty or conflict.
Family mediation FAQs
Mediation could take one session or a few, depending on both parties’ ability to cooperate. Each session will typically last around an hour and a half.
The initial session will be used to consider whether your issues are suitable for a mediated approach. If you have concerns after a mediation session that your interests are at risk, speak to our family mediators.
Cost is often an important consideration for our clients, especially during divorce or separation. During your initial MIAM, our family mediators will be able to give you a clear estimate of the likely costs involved.
Our fees are open and transparent, so you’ll know exactly how much your family mediation will cost from the start.
While the benefits of family mediation are numerous, the success of your mediation sessions will depend on whether both parties can work through their issues together.
If your dispute has escalated beyond cooperation, there may still be a chance of resolving matters out of court. A Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) will determine whether or not the approach is right for you. It is worth noting that you and your ex-partner will often attend independent MIAM appointments.
Following your MIAM, if you decide not to go ahead with mediation and wish to apply to with the family court to resolve your dispute, our family mediator will provide you with the relevant signed page of the application form that you will need.
In some circumstances, you may be able to skip having a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting and go straight to dealing with the financial aspect or child arrangements of your separation through the courts. This is usually only an option in exceptional cases, however, such as where you have been the victim of domestic abuse.
If you have tried mediation and could not reach an agreement, you can still choose to have relevant matters dealt with by a family court. Anything said in mediation cannot normally be used in court proceedings as you will generally have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before starting the mediation process.
A popular alternative to mediation is collaborative law. This can also allow you to reach a voluntary agreement over finances and children during divorce without the need for court proceedings.
Like mediation, collaborative law is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is focused on getting you and your spouse to agree the practical details of your separation voluntarily, avoiding the need for court proceedings.
Collaborative law is often a better choice where there are more complex issues you feel you and your spouse will not be able to effectively resolve yourself. This is because instead of sitting down with a neutral mediator, the process involves a series of four-way meetings between you, your spouse and your respective lawyers. This means you have expert legal advice on hand at all times to help you unpick any more complicated issues.
Find out more about collaborative law.
Why choose Barcan+Kirby’s family mediators?
If you are facing difficult discussions with your former partner about children, finances or property, getting specialist assistance from an early stage is essential. If family mediation is a possibility, our specialist team will be at hand every step of the way to help you reach an agreement.
During your first appointment, we’ll take the time to listen and understand your aims and concerns about the process. We’ll also explain your options in a clear, jargon-free way.
Book an initial consultation on using family mediation for your divorce
Mediation services are provided by our independent family mediation solicitors and sessions can be held at any of our Bristol offices.