What is family mediation?
Family mediation helps separating couples resolve disagreements in a calm environment outside of court. As well as being less costly, family mediation can also save your family the time and stress involved with court proceedings.
Family mediation partner, Jim Gridley, talks us through what the mediation process involves and why separating couples should consider it.
Why should couples consider family mediation?
There are many occasions where I’m having to deal with clients who haven’t spoken to each other for years, or are unable to talk to each other, so my role as a mediator, is to help them to resolve matters and reassure these couples that they can have focused discussions and to bring these to a satisfactory conclusion.
I also can’t stress enough how important it is for parents to be able to continue to communicate with each other after their marriage is over for the sake of the children, and I’ll often say to those clients that they will want to be able to both attend their children’s weddings, for example, without there being a negative atmosphere.
How long does the mediation process take?
I can normally set up a joint meeting within a matter of weeks. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes we will only need one or two meetings so it can be a very cost-effective way of dealing with matters. Generally speaking, the whole process can be completed within 1-2 months.
Is family mediation just for couples with children?
No, mediation covers finances as well as children. People come to me when they’re finding it really difficult to just talk to each other about splitting financial assets and perhaps can’t even consider the idea of sitting in the same room together.
In terms of finances, first of all I spend some time going through financial information that they have brought to the mediation meeting and I’ll share that with both of them.
It is important that both of them have a clear understanding of the family’s finances, and there is a degree of accountability for that information. It’s not enough just for one person to state what they own and what the value is; it’s important that there’s a degree of proof as well.
Aside from finance or children aspects, very often we will have discussions about what the best way of resolving the divorce is, as well.
What is your role as a family mediation solicitor?
Part of my role is to be able to reassure couples that I am going to be independent and neutral, and that I’m going to allow them both the opportunity to put their views across. I make it clear that there may be times where I have to challenge one of those view points, to enable myself to understand it fully.
Certainly, one of my other jobs is to identity the elephants in the room; there are many couples who have avoided certain topics and that has led to this breakdown in the relationship. Sometimes we have to deal with those elephants in the room and hopefully I can be the one to help bring them out.
Is family mediation there to help couples decide who gets what in a separation?
I will look at the various options couples have in terms of assets, time spent with children etc. It’s sometimes the case where couples have already decided that certain options aren’t appropriate. However, I will still probably go through those just to make sure that nothing has been overlooked. Sometimes I will have clients who come to my meeting and say they’ve reached agreement, and very soon after I will see that there are certain things that have been overlooked, which I will go over to ensure that the agreement is binding in a court.
How we can help
Family mediation services are provided by our independent family solicitors and sessions can be held at any of our Bristol offices.