The Importance of Legal Advice from a Family Lawyer Alongside Mediation
We talk to all our clients about the different ways they can go about resolving their issues, and mediation can be a really good choice for lots of people. An experienced, skilled mediator can help you save time and money and help you keep some control over your situation. It’s important to remember, though, that there are limits to what a mediator can do for you. We can help by giving you advice and support throughout, to make sure you get the best out of the process.
What is mediation?
A mediator is an impartial third party, who is neutral and has the purpose of assisting both parties in reaching a solution for the family issues that arise during separation. These can include helping to reach agreements for child arrangements, financial issues, property considerations, pensions and capital.
Family mediation is completely voluntary and confidential and can be an extremely effective manner of reaching amicable agreements during the divorce process. It is considered an alternative form of dispute resolution.
During mediation, information that has been gathered, will then be verified. This information will concern each person’s financial position and the foundations for the proceeding conversations. Your mediator will then create an agenda which will consult all of the issues which have been highlighted and work on coming up with a fair outcome to each issue.
One of the reasons that mediation is seeing such a rise in popularity is being able to deal with any children issues simultaneously with financial settlements. Whereas, if you pursue the court avenue you would have to make two separate applications.
Is mediation right for you?
There are with mediation, like many routes of divorce, potential problems you may face. These problems and their severity, or the suitability of mediation your situation are dependent on varying factors.
If you or your ex is it not willing to fully and frankly disclose information and supporting documentation, then mediation probably isn’t the right road for you. The mediation will be unable to proceed if there isn’t the appropriate financial information available. Your mediator will, however, do everything in their power to make sure that full disclosure has been made – in the event of full disclosure not being made, the other party may issue court proceedings in order to get the disclosure enforced by the court.
Even when both parties fully disclose all of the information that is required – mediation sessions can be very intense, sometimes upsetting and you may find them challenging. The issues being resolved are very important to both parties and the stakes are high. That being said, your mediator will make sure the sessions never take it too far or get out of hand. There will be appropriate periods which will act as breaks to allow parties necessary time to recover from sessions. Even though mediation sessions can be tense, the pressure is normally identified as much lesser than that experienced during a contested court case, or with the thought of having to give evidence or being cross examined while the decision about your finances and children are being made by someone else.
One key consideration you must take into account is that mediation is not suitable for everyone. For example, where there are domestic abuse issues it may not provide people with the protection they need. If there is a case where there are safeguarding issues your mediator would not approve your case. Due to mediation being voluntary it’s not possible to compel someone to attend the sessions. If you have any questions or concerns regarding to matters surrounding these sensitive issues your solicitor and mediator can talk to you about whether it’s appropriate for your situation.
What can you expect from mediation?
There are a few different types of mediation – the most common type of mediation is where both parties sit with one mediator. You will be in a comfortable room and are free to try to have a relaxed discussion to discuss your matters.
Sometimes people opt for co-mediation. The main difference with this type of mediation is that there will be two mediators present. This is beneficial when the circumstances are particularly complex. This type of mediation is more expensive usually due to the requirement for two mediators.
A third type of mediation is shuttle mediation. Shuttle mediation is usually only used when one of the parties is particularly anxious either for their safety or worried about being coerced and shunned by the other party. During shuttle mediation, each party will sit in separate rooms and the mediator will work by going between the rooms to facilitate discussions.
How will a family lawyer assist with your mediation?
At the start of your case
Our solicitors will tell you what to expect from mediation and how it could help you. We will help you prepare for your mediation sessions, so you will be more confident going into the discussions and make the best use of your precious time. For example, we can talk you through financial disclosure so you can get your paperwork ready, and know what you’re entitled to see from your ex.
Mediators are impartial and neutral since they deal with all parties to a dispute, although they cannot provide legal advice a solicitor will be able to provide legal advice to one person in their best interests. All good mediators will remind you that they cannot give you any legal advice, only information. They will suggest you see a solicitor to get independent legal advice to make sure you can make informed decisions about your case as you go along.
As your case progresses
You can use mediation to discuss anything you want. Sometimes it can be a good way to negotiate about the practicalities of your case, such as agreeing who will start off the divorce process or how you will handle interactions with an estate agent.
Whenever your discussions cover legal, rather than purely practical, matters your mediator will want to be sure that you have had legal advice about your situation. Talking to a solicitor before a mediation session is great for helping you think about what information you need to ask for, or what solutions you want to explore.
Many people find it helpful to speak to a solicitor after a mediation session to talk through the proposals they have been talking or thinking about, before making any final decisions.
We can also help you work through the details and iron out any kinks at an early stage. For example, we have seen clients who leave mediation with an agreement to share a pension ‘equally’, without agreeing a mechanism to do so. A solicitor can advise you as to pension on divorce experts and the options available. Without good legal advice, people can unwittingly leave the mediation process having only resolved part of their case.
After you reach an agreement
Once you have reached an agreement, your mediator will prepare a written summary of what you have discussed and agreed. This is called a Memorandum of Understanding. This alone does not give you a binding outcome to your matter. Your solicitor can draft this agreement into a consent order which will be final and enforceable once approved by the court
Associated costs of mediation and a family lawyer
Mediation is certainly the more favourable route, if it’s suitable for you, when it comes to cost and time involved. Even when you additionally use a solicitor throughout the process to provide assistance and support, it will still be significantly cheaper than the contested court process. It’s hard to put an exact timeframe on what you can expect with mediation as it is dependent on the way in which the negotiations unfold and develop. This is also underpinned by the complexity of your situation, however, it’s not uncommon for us to see matters which involve finance and children resolved in 2-4 sessions over a two to three-month period. When compared to a fully contested court process which can easily last 12-18 months, mediation is the more attractive option.
When looking at a statistical analysis of and research into the use of mediation to resolve children and financial problems in separation the results are positive. The majority of participants report that they are happy with the outcomes, the cost and the time frames as well as the process. Seeking advice from a family lawyer alongside your mediation provides you with the correct support and assistance in every stage of the process.
If you would like to arrange an initial consultation with a member of our specialist family law team, please do not hesitate to contact us on T: 0117 3751780 or E: firstname.lastname@example.org.