26 January 2017

Mediation: the first step for resolving divorce


Suzanne Kingston
Partner | UK

Separating can be very stressful, with opposing points of view on lots of issues making it difficult to reach agreement with your partner on the essential aspects of your divorce. But there is an alternative way to make these decisions without having to fight them out step-by-step in court: mediation.

I have helped many couples use mediation during their divorce, and think that Family Mediation Week (http://thefma.co.uk/about-the-fma/family-mediation-week/), which runs this week, is a good opportunity to share my thoughts on why you’d choose mediation.

  • You are on relatively good terms with your partner/spouse and would like to reach a settlement with the help of an independent neutral facilitator – the mediator.
  • You want to try and minimise conflict and ‘own’ the process dealing with issues outside the court arena.
  • You are both happy with the concepts of transparency and accountability and it is helpful if you have an ability to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Mediation plays such an important role that it is now a requirement before an application can be made to the court to deal with financial or children matters. To help you decide if mediation is for you, here are some things to consider.

  • Can you envisage being in the same room as your partner/spouse or would you prefer the mediator to effectively undertake ‘shuttle’ mediation, where the mediator moves between the two rooms?
  • Choose your mediator carefully – ask for recommendations from your lawyer/friends/family. In a typical family mediation the legal representatives are not in the room during the mediation but advise throughout the process. However, if you feel that you would like your lawyer to be present, it is worth discussing that with the mediator and checking that they are comfortable with that idea.
  • Mediation is a voluntary process so if you feel that it is not working, you do not have to stick with it, and other options are available, such as arbitration or Collaborative law (see our blog here on alternatives – https://www.withersworldwide.com/blog/can-you-afford-the-court-and-what-are-the-alternatives/).
  • The discussions in mediation are confidential and cannot be referred to in subsequent court proceedings if the mediation breaks down. Remember, however, that any financial information provided is open and can be referenced later on.
  • You do not have to do your whole case in mediation – some people choose to have children issues dealt with in mediation whereas others deal with finances. Or you can do both.

I hope these tips are helpful. Do follow the wider conversation on Twitter at #familymediationweek.

Suzanne Kingston Partner | London

Category: Blog

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