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Mediation is a process whereby a trained mediator will try to help a couple reach agreement on a family dispute. The dispute might be about arrangements for children, or it might be about finances, or it might even be about both.
Mediation is purely voluntary – it can only take place if both parties agree.
Note that whilst many mediators are family lawyers, they cannot advise the parties. They will, however, seek to ensure that any agreement that the parties reach in mediation is broadly reasonable.
The mediator will also try to ensure that neither party tries to force the other to agree to terms that they are not happy with.
The mediator will charge a fee, which is usually shared between the parties. The amount of the fee will depend upon the number of appointments the parties have with the mediator. Legal aid is available for mediation.
Mediation usually involves the parties attending a series of face-to-face meetings with the mediator (you can attend jointly or separately).
The mediation process will end when the parties reach full agreement on all matters, when one or both of the parties pull out of the process, or when the mediator decides that there is no prospect any further progress towards a full agreement.
At the end of the mediation process, the mediator will prepare a written memorandum, setting out what was agreed between the parties and what was not.
You may wish to get legal advice from a Solicitor throughout the mediation process, it’s wise to have a case open with your solicitor whilst mediation is ongoing, that way you can get legal advice throughout the mediation process. Additionally, whether mediation is successful or unsuccessful you’ll want your Solicitor to advise on the next steps when you’ve completed the mediation process.
Seek legal advice.
If the mediation is successful then what happens next depends upon the type of dispute.
If it is in relation to finances, then the agreement will have to be incorporated into a consent court order. For more information about consent orders, see this page.
If the dispute is in relation to arrangements for children then it may not be necessary to obtain a court order, although this might happen if there are existing court proceedings.
If the mediation is unsuccessful then the parties will need to go to court to resolve the outstanding disputes between them.
Anyone wishing to make an application in, or to initiate, family proceedings, normally has to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, referred to usually by the abbreviation ‘MIAM’, before making the application (the other party is also expected to attend). The MIAM is conducted by a mediator.
The purpose of the MIAM is to provide the parties with information about how mediation works and to assess whether the case is suitable for mediation, rather than having to go through court.
If the case is suitable (including that both parties agree), then the case will be referred to mediation, before any further court proceedings.
If the mediator considers that the case is not suitable for mediation then the applicant can proceed with their application to the court.
There may be a fee for a MIAM, but legal aid is available, subject to financial eligibility.
There are exceptions to the requirement for a MIAM, for example in urgent cases, or where there has been domestic abuse. Seek advice from a Solicitor about exemptions.