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Tracy Cross

Tracy Cross

Mediator, Partner & Head of Family

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This week (20th to 24th January 2020) is ‘National Family Mediation Week’!  

Many people don’t know much about Family Mediation, and probably hope they don’t ever need to, but it is becoming more talked about and, in our experience, is something that we are seeing more of every day.  There are a few myths around mediation though and, if it is relevant to you, it’s worth knowing some of the realities of it.

If separation, divorce or issues over children are impacting on you or someone you know, it may seem incredibly hard to work out how you will begin to deal with these things.  This can be a really frightening time for a lot of people, even if the relationship breakdown isn’t your own, but someone close to you.

In recent years, Mediation has received much more attention from the Government and the press alike.  But why is that?

Mediation is one option available to people to help them resolve issues arising from separation and divorce, such as finances and children’s arrangements.  It is often said that people ‘have to’ mediate before you go to court, but this isn’t strictly true.  The reality is that you should have had a ‘Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) and, as long as you’ve done that, a mediator can endorse a court form for you if a court application is necessary.  A court application should ideally always be a last resort.

Other than that, the process of mediation is entirely voluntary and confidential.  It is often chosen by people who want to stay away from expensive and lengthy court proceedings, which can also often become very acrimonious.  Acrimony doesn’t help families move forward after a relationship break down.  A relationship breakdown will impact on the couple themselves, and any children involved, as well as wider family and sometimes close friends.  If the couple involved can remain more amicable and work together constructively to sort out how they will separate and move on, this can make the transition better for all concerned, particularly children.

Mediation isn’t for everyone though and that’s why there is an initial assessment meeting.  It can be very flexible and provide a safe forum for face to face discussion, which wouldn’t otherwise happen, or which might otherwise cause upset.

Perhaps the most important factor for many people that choose mediation is the cost.  This is the main reason that the Government has become interested in it.  It is considerably quicker and cheaper than couples working with opposing lawyers in a traditional adversarial manner and perhaps going to court.  Sometimes, things have to be this way but, more often than not, there is a choice.  The process of asking people to see a mediator before being able to apply to Court is so that they are aware that they have a choice.

These days, mediators can sometimes see the children of parents that are in mediation.  This means the children can feel that they have been heard and that their parents know what they really think.  Latest statistics seem to suggest that around 73% of mediations are successful in resolving some or all of the issues involved.  That can represent a huge costs saving for those involved as well as a more constructive process for them and their family.