This is a process in which the participants meet (initially, separately) with an impartial and specially trained family mediator (or co-mediators) to explain what needs to be settled, to explore the options available and consider ways of reaching agreement on any or all the questions they need to settle. Mediation can help family members to settle arrangements for children and/or financial and property matters at any stage of separation/divorce, as well as some other family matters. Participants are helped to reach well-informed decisions, without pressure from each other or from the mediator. When a full and final settlement is needed in divorce proceedings, the terms worked out in mediation can be used as the basis for a consent order.
Legal aid for mediation
Although legal aid is not available from solicitors for divorce and most family matters (with some exceptions, eg domestic violence), legal aid is still available for family mediation for those below the limits on income and capital. Legally aided mediation is completely free of charge and those on certain kinds of welfare benefit are ‘passported’ to free mediation. Even if you have to pay for one or more mediation meetings, collecting financial information and testing options in mediation is likely to cost much less than using two lawyers. NB Enquirers should ask whether the mediator carrying out the initial information meeting (MIAM) is accredited to carry out a legal aid assessment for mediation.
Young people and children
Children and young people have the right to be consulted on arrangements that will affect their lives, provided they are able to express their own views and wishes, but very few have the chance to have any say in practice. Some family mediators are specially trained to meet with children and young people, as well as with parents. Parents and/or young people and children needing to work out arrangements that take account of the child’s feelings and wishes (particularly in or after separation/divorce), should look for a service that can offer this special help.
The YouTube link below entitled ‘Family Mediation – A better way’, is a special Christmas video developed by Protocol IT with assistance from Lisa Parkinson to help explain the benefits of family mediation compared with going to court.