26 January 2018

UK family law: Myth busting mediation


Suzanne Kingston
Partner | UK

Having been a mediator for more than 20 years, I am an advocate of the process and fully support the Family Mediation Week initiative. Whilst in some cases it may be unavoidable to go to Court to resolve your dispute, I would suggest taking time to reflect on the following points and consider mediation as a potential option:

1. A neutral facilitator

In mediation, you meet with a mediator or 'neutral facilitator' who helps you deal with your dispute. This not only enables access to professional help and guidance, but also the opportunity to input and discuss how you would like to handle your matter.

2. Mediation is confidential

Any discussions had during mediation are 'without prejudice' and will not be used in Court proceedings. This means it is possible to have an open and frank discussion about potential settlement options in the context of mediation, without fear of future disclosure. Also, there is no fear of press reporting any of the issues discussed, which can be particularly important for couples with celebrity status.

3. Holding to the terms

If you have mediated your agreement, and therefore contributed towards the determination of the dispute, you and your partner are more likely to hold the terms of the agreement

4. Keeping communication open

Mediation often helps keep lines of communication open. In my experience, one of the most common aspirations voiced by couples is that they would like to remain friends and separate constructively. This is truly achievable through mediation.

5. Mediation can save you money

Mediation is much cheaper than litigation. In mediation, you are effectively paying for one mediator to assist with your case. Although it is important to consider having independent legal advice regarding the outcome in mediation before any Court Order is made, this is a much more cost effective process than taking your dispute to Court.

6. You can deal with multiple issues at once

A mediator can often deal with a number of issues in one meeting, e.g. financial issues and children matters. In Court, this is likely to be considered as two separate sets of proceedings, which will almost certainly be more expensive, time consuming and stressful.

7. There are numerous possibilities

There are a number of ways of mediating. The basic 'Family Model' works on the basis that you see the mediator for, say, 1.5 hours to 2 hours for 3-5 sessions. However, it is possible for the mediator to use more of a 'Commercial' mediation model. Or, perhaps in a bigger more complex case or if the clients would prefer to deal with things at one time, the mediation could be undertaken over a day or several days (depending on the complexity of the issues involved) with the lawyers present at various times. This is a relatively new way of dealing with mediation, called the 'Hybrid Model'. I am co-training a number of family mediations in this model on 7 and 8 February at Withers and this new way of working will become more widely available shortly.

When thinking about your dispute, you may consider Court to be the only answer. But, at the end of this year's Family mediation week, I hope by reading this blog and taking on board the points set out above you will understand the value of mediation and put this into the mix.

Suzanne Kingston Partner | London

Category: Blog