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In recent years there has been a lot of talk about family mediation. A lot has been written and more is known now about how mediation can help as an option to resolve disputes when people decide to separate and divorce. Mediation as an option to help with such issues, has evolved in recent years too.
Because people often struggle to co-parent following the breakdown of a relationship, direct consultation with children and child inclusive models of mediation have become more mainstream. The Court process is overwhelmed with cases. The recent issues with National lockdowns and restrictions have meant chaos in the Court system and lengthy waiting times for people trying to get help from the Court.
With that in mind, people often look to other options and professionals to find a way forward and mediation is one of those processes that can be very flexible to meet peoples’ needs.
Mediation is known for being cost effective and quite quick compared to other processes. The mediator works as a neutral person who manages the process of discussions and negotiations. Sometimes though, people feel too vulnerable to enter the mediation process with just one professional working with them. Sometimes, things are very raw and a legal advisor is a very necessary person to have on board in any discussions.
Up until now, solicitors and legal advisors were strangers to the mediation process. On rare occasions they may be involved although this really wasn’t very often. I’ve been actively mediating for years and have never had parties’ solicitors involved in the process.
The hybrid mediation model is now gaining popularity and some Mediators are undertaking specialist training to be able to manage mediation for parties which actively includes lawyers. This could be to the advantage of many who may have previously dismissed mediation, sometimes at the advice of their lawyers, because they feel unable to cope with the process or for other reasons.
So, what is hybrid mediation? The mediator in this scenario works with the parties still although the parties’ respective lawyers can also work within the process, to provide support and advice whilst the mediator manages discussions. Often, the parties can be in separate rooms with their solicitor whilst the mediator goes between them discussing important points to try to find a way forward by agreement. The lawyers advise the parties in private, and the mediator draws out what is important to each party, narrowing issues and assisting with compromises. This is all done in face to face (or remote online) meetings and cases can sometimes be completed in a day, rather than after months of expensive and often, very challenging, communications.
In terms of costs, it will be more expensive than the traditional mediation model because the solicitors’ costs will have to be factored in. However, the mediator continues to manage the process with the parties and very little correspondence is necessary. All parties, including the lawyers, work in a conciliatory and co-operative way with the common aim of trying to achieve outcome by agreement, saving much needed money, time and unnecessary anguish. Thankfully, lawyers do not have to be specially trained to help their clients in this model of mediation, just a willingness to help their clients find a solution that suits them and work with the mediator.