Getting the most out of Family Mediation

All too often family mediation is presented as a quicker and cheaper alternative to the court process. Whilst this can be true, the emphasis is misplaced. Family mediation should not be viewed as an easy option. Couples will only conclude mediation successfully, with a set of joint proposals, if they are both prepared to commit themselves to the process and work hard at finding solutions. It is like most things in life – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Mediation is a process, and financial mediation in particular, has a structure. Couples are often anxious to resolve their issues quickly and often try to circumvent the structure – this is usually a big mistake, as the structure provides the strong foundations needed for the mediation to conclude successfully. For example, if you have not agreed what assets there are and the value of those assets, how can you sensibly discuss how the assets should be divided between you?

There is a lot of paperwork to go through at the beginning of the mediation process. In the early stages, mediation mirrors the court process in that the first step is disclosure and the parties are required to complete a Form E (the court prescribed form) and provide relevant documents. It can take several hours to prepare a Form E, but it is worth investing your time in this as it will make the next mediation session more productive and may reduce the number of sessions you need.

Make sure that you keep all of the mediation documents in an ordered fashion – in a lever arch file with section dividers is best. Always bring your set of documents to the mediation sessions so that you can refer to them during the sessions and make notes on them if necessary.

Don’t worry if it takes you some time to understand the family finances – it is common for one party to have taken the lead on the family finances and be on top of them while the other party has been less involved and needs time to catch up. The mediation sessions move at the pace of the slowest person in the room and that is usually the mediator as they don’t know anything about your circumstances.

It is important to play an active role in the discussions in mediation – you should feel comfortable to do this as all of the discussions in mediation are “without prejudice” which means that they cannot be referred to in any subsequent court proceedings. This should give you confidence to make suggestions without fear that you will be held to them, should you change your mind.

It is just as important to listen carefully to what your former partner is saying as it is to get your own point across – you may not agree with your former partner but it helps the mediation if you are able to understand and empathise with their worries and fears for the future.

Do your homework – if the mediator suggests that you need to research something, such as your mortgage capacity, or take advice from your solicitor before the next session, make sure you do it or it is likely that the next session will not be productive.

For help on all family law matters, please contact Joanna at jtoloczko@meaby.co.uk or on 020 7703 5034