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The government now expects anyone who wishes to start proceedings regarding family matters to first have a meeting with a qualified mediator.

This regulation has been introduced because it is generally believed that it is better for couples to reach their own agreement rather than go to court, which tends to exacerbate the conflict and will almost always be more expensive than mediation.

What kind of problems do mediators normally deal with?

• Divorce
• Financial Settlements
• Co-parenting children
• Unmarried couples who are separating
• Communication between parents
• Gay couples, whether or not in civil partnerships

This initial meeting is called a MIAM ( Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting). Subject to certain particular exceptions, married couples or civil partners contemplating court proceedings following the breakdown of the relationship must participate in a MIAM with a qualified mediator before court proceedings can be commenced.

Family Law mediation is not relationship-guidance or counselling. The aim of mediation is to find solutions and make arrangements for the future. This will apply in particular to financial and property matters and to the care of children.
Mediation can be useful when the relationship has broken down, or many years later, when arrangements which parents have made for a child become outdated as the child gets older. It often helps parents to learn to communicate about the welfare and arrangements of their children again, which continues to be important even after separation and even when the children are grown up.

The Mediator
When relationships breakdown it is often difficult for couples to talk to each other. This is where an independent third party can help.
The mediator is entirely independent.

The Mediation Process
The mediator may first talk to both of you separately, either face-to-face or on the telephone to see whether mediation would be suitable for you. After that the process is dealt with in meetings between the two of you and the mediator. These can be weekly or every other week and, usually, no more than 5 meetings will be required to formulate a set of mutually acceptable proposals for overall resolution of all issues.
A mediator cannot advise either party and tell you what you should do. Instead the mediator will facilitate the process, while you will come to a proposal for an overall solution – you are in charge of the outcome and the mediator will guide you through the process. Occasionally, parties may wish to participate in a co-mediation in which 2 mediators (usually one of either sex) will assist the parties to arrive at mutually acceptable proposals.

What agreement will I end up with?
Once you have come to an understanding, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding and send a copy to each of you. This is not yet binding and you can then discuss the outcome of the mediation with a solicitor before confirming your agreement formally. Once you do, both your lawyers will convert the understanding into a formally binding agreement. With financial issues after divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, this would be a consent order that can be submitted to the court for approval, if such approval is required. However, this should be relatively straightforward and involve only a modest cost. If you decided not to stick with the understanding after all, neither of you could use what was said in mediation or summarised by the mediator in later court proceedings, except the financial disclosure.
Mediation often works best if both former partners have supportive advice and guidance from their own solicitors, especially if the negotiations involve complex financial issues. Sometimes, individuals may want help from a counsellor and we can supply you with the details for suitable qualified persons who may be able to assist.
You may feel that you wish to try the approach to family dispute resolution called collaborative law. This process involves couples working with collaborative lawyers whose focus is on reaching an early resolution of the issues. Our mediators are happy to work with collaborative lawyers to assist you to reach a final settlement.