Mediation Sessions with Us
Our family mediators are committed to helping families to find their own solutions to problems, tailor-made to fit the family’s unique circumstances, which should help to avoid the conflict, the delays and some of the costs associated with litigation.
Philippa, Devorah and Venetia are all accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMCA) to conduct both children and financial family mediations and to meet with children as part of the mediation process (child-inclusive mediation). Harriet is working towards her accreditation, having trained with the FMA. Our service offers you a safe, supportive environment in which to explore the range of options available to you. Even if you are unable to agree on every detail, family mediation should make it easier for you to identify and focus on the interests of any children involved, and help you to communicate effectively with one another in the long term.
Once you have made contact with us, we will invite each of you separately to an information and assessment meeting. At this meeting the mediator will explain how mediation works and assess whether mediation is an appropriate way of dealing with your particular issues. You will then decide if you are interested in mediation and, if so, which mediators might work best for you. If everyone concerned wants to continue, we will ask you to sign an Agreement to Mediate.
We will often suggest that our first joint meeting with you is a planning meeting. This is an opportunity for everyone (both of you and both the mediators) to talk about how to make the best use of mediation in your particular circumstances. These meetings can last anything from about 20 minutes to about an hour and a half. They are usually joint sessions throughout, but can involve some work with you separately, if you both think that would be useful. They cost a bit less than the mediation sessions themselves. We believe they are very good value, as otherwise some of the same things will need to be discussed at the beginning of the first actual mediation session.
Once the mediation begins, every session usually involves both of you. Mediation sessions are designed to explore your family’s needs and options, focusing on the interests of the children. The way in which the sessions are organised will vary a little, depending not only on whether the mediation is limited to children issue or includes financial issues, but also on the level of conflict and emotion involved.
If the mediation is successful and, by working together, you manage to identify a solution that may work for both of you, we will prepare a Summary of Proposals or Parenting Plan, explaining what the two of you want to happen next. Neither the Summary of Proposals nor the Parenting Plan is a legally binding document, but each should explain in some detail what arrangements you both think could be made, and why. This document can then be taken to your respective solicitors, who will give legal advice as to whether the proposals are likely to be seen as fair and reasonable by the courts, and, if appropriate, draw up a legally binding agreement for you to sign.
Of course not everyone is able to reach an agreement on every issue, and some couples do not ask the mediators to draw up a Summary of Proposals, even if they have worked out some new arrangements together during the mediation. Either of you may decide to withdraw from the mediation at any time, as can the family mediators. Those who do not reach a final agreement often leave mediation commenting that the process has been useful in clarifying, or even better in reducing, the issues in dispute.
Mediation of children issues
During a mediation relating specifically to issues concerning the children there are three clear stages. The first involves identifying the issues, finding out which are urgent and which less urgent, and working out a provisional agenda for the discussions. During this stage each of you will be given an opportunity to explain your concerns and how you are feeling. The second stage involves exploring a wide range of options, focusing throughout on the needs of the children. The third stage of the process involves finding solutions that both of you feel may be workable, and, if possible, identifying a preferred solution. Sometimes these three stages coincide neatly with mediation sessions, with each session dedicated to a particular stage, but it often happens that one of the stages spills over into the next session, or that a stage needs revisiting later in the process, or that an urgent issue means that you have to move between stages without completing them. We recommend that if you have any concerns at any time about possible solutions discussed in mediation, you consult with your lawyer.
Mediation of financial issues
A mediation concerning financial issues has the same three stages, with an additional stage in which the mediators help you to provide each other with all the financial information that is needed, including your income and expenditure, any property you own, your savings, investments and pensions, and any loans or debts. If either of you fails to provide all the relevant information, any agreement you eventually reach is unlikely to be binding, so it is very important that you are open and honest at this stage. The mediators will record all the information provided in a special document, usually called the ‘Open Statement of Financial Information’; this is an ‘open’ document, which may be used outside the mediation, including by the courts. This is usually a more cost-effective way of providing, or, to use a legal term, ‘disclosing’ financial information than using solicitors to gather and record the information, but if the information is very complex, or you want someone to do a very rigorous check on the information, you may choose to ask your solicitors to prepare this information, and then use mediation for the actual negotiations.
Once the financial information is available, the mediators will move on to the second stage, during which they will help you to identify a range of possible solutions, and then help you to evaluate the practical implications of each. This is likely to take more than one mediation session. Solicitors are not normally involved in the mediation itself, but it is a good idea to review the position with them if you have any concerns at any stage.
A negotiated settlement about what should happen in relation to the children does not necessarily have to involve lawyers or the courts, but we always recommend that a settlement concerning financial issues is reviewed separately by your lawyers, and recorded in a legally binding agreement.
Our service offers co-mediation, which means that two friendly and practical mediators will work with each couple, offering both people the same neutral guidance and help.
Part of the mediators’ role is to provide a structure for the couple’s discussions and negotiations with one another, and to make sure that both people have a fair opportunity to say what they want to say, in an environment that promotes openness and mutual respect.
Our mediators do not offer legal advice, but are able to provide general information about the basic legal principles, in language that is easily understood, and may also suggest useful reliable sources of further information if that seems appropriate.
'The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.'