Many of you will be familiar with the Government’s proposals to make mediation compulsory for separating couples. Under the new rules, the spouse who initiates the case will first go to a professional mediator, who will be required to engage the other party in mediation and arrange a session – either together or individually. If the couple insists on litigating, they will be required to present evidence of their mediation session before their case is accepted by the court.
In support of the new measures, the Government cites National Audit Office figures that show the average length of time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days, compared with 435 days for court cases on similar issues. This often saves considerable legal costs for both parties.
Mediators are trained to help people resolve disputes. A mediator will meet with both parties together and will identify those issues the couple cannot agree and help them to try and reach an agreement.
Mediators are neutral and will not take sides. They are not advisors and will not give advice; they will usually recommend that both parties obtain independent legal advice alongside the mediation process.
Once the couple has agreed on proposals they find acceptable, the mediator will prepare a summary of the proposals, together with a summary of the financial information, which will be sent to the couple for discussion with their lawyers. After they have both received legal advice and if they are both still satisfied with the proposals, the lawyers will convert the summary into a legally binding document and carry out any necessary implementation.
“Not all mediators are legally trained and the advantage of instructing a legally trained mediator is that they are familiar with the law and can therefore advise on a range of options available to a couple and also the practicalities of any proposals they might suggest.“
“Mediation is a very effective way for couples to address the issues flowing from separation, particularly if they have children. If they are able to establish a reasonable rapport early on in their separation this will assist their children in coping with the separation“
Samantha trained as a mediator with Resolution, an organisation that promotes couples resolving matters in a constructive and non-confrontational way. She has been practicing family law for over six years and is an accredited family law specialist with both Resolution and The Law Society. Samantha is also a law lecturer with Guildford College.