Divorce mediation is a quicker, less stressful and less expensive alternative to a divorce trial. A mediator is a neutral party that is there to help the divorcing couple with issues in their separation.
The mediator is not there as a relationship counsellor or to help resolve emotional issues. The mediator is also not there to give legal advice although they can give legal information. You should contact a solicitor for legal advice.
Mediation will help couples by suggesting practical steps for reaching an agreement on what to do with children such as:
or separating their financial assets. For example:
The mediator will not take sides during this process. They will endeavour to be fair and neutral at all times. When it comes to children the child’s welfare will be at the heart of any agreements reached.
Do I need Divorce Mediation?
Mediation is not required if you and your spouse are not contesting the divorce which is by far the quickest and cheapest way. However, if the divorce will be contested then mediation is much quicker and cheaper than going to court.
Often in situations such as these one partner may think that arguing in court is their best option or that the differences with their spouse are too great for mediation to work.
Couples should consider mediation before court. Mediators are trained, experienced professionals who are likely to offer practical solutions that you may have never thought of. The chances are that the mediator will have faced and helped solve the issues that you are having before in their career.
You do not necessarily have to be in the same room or communicate directly. Mediation can take place online or in separate rooms where you have pre-arranged separate arrival and leaving times. This is known as “shuttle mediation”.
It is strongly encouraged by the courts that mediation is attempted before going in front of a judge or magistrate. If you refuse mediation and want to go to court, you may have to explain why to the judge why you have not shown full consideration. Your case may even be sent back to mediation.
The mediator will keep the discussion on track, conversational and try to stop it descending into argument. Mediation can be a time where partners can air their views and hear the views of the other in a calm and safe environment.
There is no standard agreement when it comes to child access rights either. This means that access to children will be based on your schedule and what is in the best interests for the child’s welfare.
The only circumstances where mediation is not recommended is in cases of abuse, violence or safeguarding issues.
After researching and finding a mediator the first step on the process will be having a meeting called a MIAM. This needs to happen before mediation can take place.
What is a MIAM?
MIAM stands for Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.
The MIAM should last about an hour and you can discuss the situation and points of disagreement. You will attend these separately from your former partner.
You will be informed about your options and how the process will take place.The mediator will then decide whether your case is suitable for mediation.
Entering mediation is not a requirement for a divorce in the UK but if you were to go to court then you need to prove you’ve been to a mediation information and assessment meeting beforehand.
If one of your objectives during meditation is to agree to the separation of assets you will need to fill out a financial disclosure form when you go to mediation. This includes:
- Income and Expenditure
- Other Assets
You may have a desire to hide certain assets from your spouse at this point. If it transpires that you have been dishonest then this will invalidate the agreement and you will have to go to court. Under these circumstances you could end up losing a larger share of assets.
The Mediation Process
There is no specific timeframe for mediation as every situation will be different although on average couples usually come to an agreement after 2 or 3 sessions.
Once you and your spouse come to an agreement then your mediator will write a Memorandum Of Understanding and both parties will get a copy. This document shows what you have agreed to although it is not considered legally binding.
If your meditation covers separation of assets then it will be a good idea to approach a solicitor to draw up a consent order which can be based on your mediation agreement. This is legally binding and you can take your former spouse to court if they breach the agreement.
If the mediation process fails and the couple cannot reach an agreement then the mediator will sign the necessary court form and the case can then go in front of a judge or a magistrate.
A Consent Order is a legally binding document approved by a judge. It is a sensible safeguard to ensure that all of your financial ties are severed and neither you nor your ex-spouse can make a claim against the other’s finances (including any inheritances) in the future.
To order a Consent order please click below