Family Law - Mediation Update

The breakdown of a relationship is never easy and most couples going through a divorce or separation would rather avoid the added pressure of court proceedings to resolve issues surrounding their children and finances.  Under the new proposals announced by the Government as part of the Family Justice Review, from 6th April 2011 all parties in family disputes concerning money matters or issues relating to contact (access) arrangements will be required to attend a mediation awareness session before asking the courts to become involved.  The exceptions which are being made, are in respect of cases involving domestic violence or child protection issues. 


What is mediation?


Mediation is an alternative to decision-making by the courts and involves an independent third person helping parties who are in dispute to reach a resolution. The mediator does not make decisions or force the parties to enter into a settlement but encourages and helps them to reach a settlement that is decided by and acceptable to the parties themselves.  Your lawyer is usually not present with you in mediation.  An agreement reached through mediation is usually written down and signed by both parties and the mediator so that the parties can then take their own separate legal advice on the agreement reached. The agreement is not legally binding and enforceable unless recorded in a court order. 


Mediation will not be suitable for every couple, however, in the right cases it is an effective process which allows parties to agree an outcome that works for them.


What are the benefits of mediation?


Families often find by working together to reach consensus agreed terms are more likely to work in the longer term than asking a Judge to make the key decisions that will affect their lives.  The process can help to reduce tension and hostility between disputing parties and improves communication, which is particularly important where there are children involved as parents will need to co-operate over their care and upbringing.  Successful mediation may be more costs effective and is generally quicker than traditional court proceedings, although the number of meetings required will depend upon the couple's circumstances and the level of co-operation between them. 


We at Hughes Paddison promote a non-confrontational and sensitive approach to family problems and encourage practical solutions that consider the needs of the whole family.  We have three Family Mediators who can help couples to achieve a workable solution and to resolve their difficulties without going to court. 


What is Collaborative Law?


Directors Mark Paddison, Jane Brothwood and David Sterrett are also qualified Collaborative Family Lawyers who are able to offer the new tried and successful option for divorcing and separating couples or civil partners to resolve disputes respectfully and equitably without going to court.  The collaborative approach differs from mediation.  In the collaborative law process, each person appoints their own lawyer to be by their side throughout the entire process and negotiations are conducted in face to face meetings rather than by letter or telephone.  As with mediation, the number of meetings required will depend upon the couple's circumstances and the level of co-operation between them. 


If you require more information about the mediation changes or working collaboratively to settle family differences please contact us on 01242 574244.