Coronavirus Update on Mediation Services

Family Mediation – with a trained, professional Mediator – is available through video conference.  This service works to the high safety and confidentiality standards of the Family Mediation Council, and of course it is safe to use during the current restrictions.  The safety of service users is always the first consideration of Mediators and is covered by a video conference with each party separately in advance of any joint video meeting.  Mediation using a secure video conference can be arranged quickly, parties will not have to meet, and the Mediator will control the session so that both parties can be properly heard. 

During Mediation, an independent trained Mediator helps you and your ex-partner work out an agreement about: 

  • Arrangements for children after a break up 
  • Child Maintenance payments and finances
  • New or revised arrangements during the current restrictions on movement  
  • Temporary arrangements that can be looked at again when circumstances change 

Many people find that Mediation is quicker, less stressful and less expensive than going to court, and in most cases the court will expect you to consider Mediation seriously before going to court.  A Mediator helps you and your ex-partner, without being on anyone’s ‘side’. 

Mediation is free for people who qualify for Legal aid.  You can see if you qualify here. You can also search for Mediators that offer online services on the Family Mediation Council website.

A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is usually required before you can go to court, where it is safe to take place.  The safety of both parties will be carefully considered before any meeting.  Where at least one party is eligible, Legal Aid will cover the costs of both parties to attend the MIAM. 

Many Mediators normally offer a service for children to be heard and included in Mediation.  Some Mediation Services are offering Child Inclusive Mediation by video link.  You can talk this through with your Mediator who will advise you whether it is possible. 

Considering mediation?

Family mediation – listening to your children
When parents separate, the top priority in sorting things out should be the needs of the children. However, researchers have noted that children are often left with no one to talk to. In one study, less than half the children could name someone they had been able to confide in about their worries. Divorce or separation is an emotional upheaval for everyone involved; both parents will need to be able to talk to, and children need someone to listen to them [1]. In another study, a quarter of children said no one talked to them about the separation at all. Of those who had been able to talk to someone, only 5% were given a full explanation and a chance to ask questions [2]. Children need reassurance about their immediate concerns around the separation, but they also want to have their say about anything that affects them. They are often more competent to take part in family decision-making than adults realise. Family mediation can help children understand and be involved in the changes happening in their family in two ways: 1. Child focused mediation Child focused mediation concentrates on the child’s needs after separation. It usually covers parenting time arrangements, and can include any other issues affecting the child’s health, education and general welfare. A family mediator works with both parents in a safe, supportive and neutral environment to help with communication and decision-making concerning the children. Early on in a separation, this can include helping parents prepare for the difficult task of explaining the separation to the children. This is especially useful if the parents are finding the process painful or are struggling to find an explanation that leaves out fault and blame. 2. Child inclusive mediation This is similar to child focused mediation, but includes a listening meeting, in which children and young people are invited to talk with a specially trained mediator. This is followed by a feedback meeting for the parents. Parents are assured that: Their children will not be asked to make choices or decisions. Their parental authority will be respected. Children are seen only with the agreement of both parents. The process and purpose of a listening meeting will be fully explained before involving children. Children who have had an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them after separation describe feeling relieved and much less anxious. The ‘listening meeting’ can help them to: Make sense of the changes in their lives. Understand that they are going through a process that many people share. Express their feelings. Develop a way of coping with conflict. Find ways of talking to their parents.  Children decide what information they want their parents to receive at the feedback meeting. This can provide reassurance for parents that they are on the right track, and it can help important information come to light that might otherwise have been missed. One of the most common pieces of feedback from children is a request for their mum and dad to stop arguing and get on better! There are some situations where child inclusive mediation is not appropriate. A mediator can talk this through with the parents and provide information about other options for establishing the children’s feelings and wishes.   References [1] Lussier, G, Deater-Deckard,K., Dunn, J. And Davies, L. (2002) ‘Support across two generations: Children’s closeness to grandparents following parental divorce and remarriage’. Journal of Family Psychology, 16,363-76. [2] Cockett and Tripp (1994). The Exeter Family Study: Family Breakdown and its impact on Children. University of Exeter Press.  
Article | Mediation, children
Family mediation
What is mediation? Mediation is a place for separated and separating parents to talk about their children, property and finances. It is a form of dispute resolution that offers parents a safe place to have an open and honest discussion. Mediation is confidential – everything you say is private and will not be used in any court proceedings. Trained family mediators are non-judgemental and impartial. They do not tell you what to do, and you remain in control of the decision making. A mediator’s role is to support you in finding solutions that work for everyone.   Does family mediation work? Mediation works best when parents want to find a way forward and sort things out. People who use mediation sessions to resolve their disagreements usually come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than those who use solicitors and go to court. Family mediation can also reduce ongoing conflict. You are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you can start court proceedings. This session can help you decide whether mediation is right for you. Using mediation does not stop you from going to court later if you still feel you need to. How much does mediation cost and how many meetings will I need? Prices vary but if you are on a low income you may qualify for legal aid. The number of meetings you will need depends on the complexity of issues that need to be resolved. Issues about arrangements for your children can take one or two meetings but if you need to discuss property and financial issues as well, you may need three to five meetings. Will the mediator give me legal advice? Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you legal advice. You can always take legal advice from another source before finalising an agreement you've reached in mediation. I don’t trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it’s not legal. Wouldn’t it be better to go straight to court? Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. However, experience shows that agreements made voluntarily are more likely than court orders to reflect children’s and parents’ needs, and are therefore more likely to last. It also helps to improve understanding, restore communication and build trust. If necessary, agreements made in mediation can be used as the basis of a court order. In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a memorandum of understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a consent order. What if I feel pressured to agree to something I’ll regret later? Although the mediator will provide encouragement, you will not be pressured into agreeing anything and it is up to you to make the final decision. If you are discussing property and financial issues, you are advised to obtain legal advice on your proposals before finalising them. Who else will be in the meeting? Usually, only the mediator and the parents are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have a supporter or a legal advisor present at a meeting but both parents would need to agree to this. Can the children be included? Some mediation services offer children the opportunity to be included in the process. Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them. There’s no point – we’ll never agree It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible, especially if your previous attempts have failed. However, mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. Mediation may work where other methods have failed. What if my partner is better at negotiating than I am? How will I get my point across? Mediators are trained to make sure both parents’ views are heard and understood. They do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other. I don’t think my ex will come Mediation is voluntary, so people can’t be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your ex explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet them alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using the service. For further information and advice about family mediation, visit Family Mediation Council (FMC).
Article | Mediation
How to prepare for family mediation
Mediation is a process in which parents work together with a professional mediator to develop a mutually acceptable parenting plan. The parenting plan can be quite structured, specifying the day-to-day arrangements for the children, as well as plans for the school holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. You and your child’s other parent decide what to include. Parental conflict over arrangements can have a damaging effect on children. By working together in a safe and managed way with a mediator, parents can avoid these battles and come to agreement that suits the children’s needs. How to prepare for the mediation process Approach mediation with an open mind and be willing to listen. Parents who are open and listen to their ex-partner are more able to reach a settlement. Do your homework before mediation and come prepared with several options. Write down a few ideas and proposals so you can refer to them in the mediation session. What children need is often different from what parents need. Make sure you understand your children's needs, so you can stay focused on them and not on each other. Family mediation is not the place to focus on the other parent. The process is likely to break down if you and your ex-partner get into an argument about who said what. This is not a place to rehash old conflicts but rather to solve parenting problems after divorce or separation.  Be open to different ideas, and willing to compromise so you can reach a peaceful solution on behalf of your children.  Things that might help you while you are mediating Focusing on your children's needs rather than your own. Acknowledging that children have different needs depending their age, temperament, and development. Acknowledging the other parent's strengths. Accepting that children need time with both parents. What to take with you to the mediation meeting A proposal for where the children will live and a time-sharing plan. A calendar of school holidays, work schedules, and a schedule for your child's activities. A flexible attitude. A positive attitude that you will be able to sort things out between yourselves. If you want some help with making arrangements, try our free Parenting Plan. You can do it all online, including reviewing each other's suggestions so you don't need to meet up with your ex-partner when you want to make changes. If you'd like further insight into how mediation might work for you, this video from Creating Paths to Family Justice offers helpful information on how different types of mediation can work:
Article | Mediation