The breakdown of a relationship is difficult and stressful enough as it is without the parties having to cope with possible court proceedings to sort out the financial and other arrangements going forward. Following the withdrawal of Legal Aid for most cases, the family courts are struggling to cope with unrepresented parties and delays are occurring for families needing to resolve such issues. This can add to the tensions between the former partners. If there are children, the parties are going to have to continue to deal with each other and it is much better for the family if the parents can maintain some sort of relationship which allows them to do this going forward. It can also help children to see their parents working together to resolve issues.
One of the more amicable means of resolving issues without court proceedings is through family mediation. This is a voluntary process. It is also confidential (with the exception of the financial information supplied by you both) so that parties are encouraged to put forward proposals without worrying that they cannot change their position if mediation fails and court proceedings prove necessary.
At Wheelers, our mediators are experienced family lawyers also and can provide information about how courts deal with issues concerning children, pensions, child maintenance and the factors which the courts take into account when dealing with financial issues on divorce and separation. They have been trained to be impartial and will assist you in finding a solution which works for you both practically and financially, in an even-handed manner.
One of the benefits of resolving matters through mediation is that you make arrangements with which you are both comfortable and which have not been imposed upon you. The mediation process can be relatively quick and inexpensive compared to legal proceedings. It usually takes 4 - 6 sessions, at the end of which (if financial matters have been discussed) you will be provided with an Open Financial Statement setting out your financial circumstances and the written proposals known as the Memorandum of Understanding. The arrangements can then either be turned into a draft consent order, which the court will be asked to approve, or incorporated into a legally binding separation agreement.
Since April 2014, it has been necessary for anyone wishing to issue a court application in relation to family matters (apart from certain people who are exempted) to meet with a mediator at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to consider whether the dispute may be capable of being resolved by a method other than court proceedings. Karin Cox-Putker in our Fleet office is an accredited mediator who is also able to conduct Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings. She is also able to undertake mediation including child consultation.