Our Panel of Expert Family Mediators Give You Their Top Mediation Tips
Family Mediation can help you resolve your issues on parenting, property and finance when you are going through a divorce or separation
But many people do not know what to expect from separation or divorce mediation and there is still confusion on what Family Mediation in the UK actually entails.
Here we provide our 8 tips on mediation for divorce or separation. These have been compiled from over 10 years’ experience of running the UK’s top-rated family mediation service.
We hope you find them helpful:
TIP ONE – Prepare for your MIAM Appointment
You do not need to gather all your financial disclosure, bank statements and assets for your initial mediation appointment, but take some time beforehand to consider what you want to tell the mediator about your situation and what you would like to achieve from the process. The mediator will usually need to know the issues that you want resolved, the hopes you have for an outcome and be aware of any concerns you may have about the process.
It is worth jotting notes down in advance to make sure you cover everything during your MIAM.
TIP TWO – Just Do It! Whether Online Mediation or Face-to-Face
If you want to resolve a situation that you have been unable to agree between yourselves, then just book in a MIAM and start the process. Many people find it hard to reach agreement between themselves and an ex-partner. But nationally 70% of people reach agreement through mediation whilst a staggering 90% of Mediate UK clients are able to finalise an agreement. So why not give it a chance?
By attending a MIAM you are opening up the option of going to court if the other party doesn’t want to mediate and you will be told a wealth of useful information, pertinent to your situation.
Even if the other party has indicated they do not wish to do mediation, they may re-consider when they receive a letter from a family mediator.
And you can at least show the court you have tried to resolve matters amicably.
TIP THREE – Be Realistic about the Number of Mediation Meetings
Most mediation sessions last 90-minutes and the average number of sessions to resolve a dispute is three for parenting or financial matters. Use the mediation to move matters forward and use that time to work out what is going to happen in the future – not looking back over what has happened in the past. When you start mediation draw an imaginary line in the sand and use it to work out how you are all going to move on with your lives
Sometimes it is helpful to have a longer break between sessions, to reflect on matters, to investigate mortgage options or just to let matters calm somewhat. You may want to discuss matters with the wider family, a counsellor or charity.
It is unrealistic to think that a situation that might have taken years to deteriorate can be sorted out in one quick mediation session. Mediate UK follow a process that we know works in 90% of cases and we review matters after 3-4 sessions to make sure you are making the progress we would like you to make and see if we can do anything differently. We don’t want you to just keep mediating if you are not moving forwards – so trust in the process and you are more likely to see a result.
TIP FOUR – The Mediator Won’t Judge You
Don’t be concerned about gaining favour with the mediator – they are trained to be neutral at all times. They won’t be making a decision on matters of law like a judge would. Instead approach the family mediation sessions as a problem-solving exercise. These problems may be:
- How are we going to raise our children whilst living separately?
- How can we run two households whereas before we only ran one?
- How can we divide our assets fairly so we can both move on?
These are all problems that usually need to be solved when you are undertaking separation or divorce mediation, so focus on the solutions to these issues instead.
The mediator will help you identify the options you have to move forward and then narrow down on which option would work best for you case. They will not tell you what to do but can share legal knowledge and call on their own experience as a family mediator. They will not judge you, they are purely focused on helping you both reach an agreement so you can move on.
TIP FIVE – Don’t try to Mediate via Email
Use the family mediation session to discuss the issues you cannot agree on. Don’t try and reach agreement via long email trails, or even worse, via text message. Use your time out of the mediation process to collate your financial disclosure, work out your future budgets, reflect on your parentingarrangements and seek legal advice if required.
Of course, some couples can reach agreement outside of the mediation process – and this is encouraged. But you are unlikely to reach an agreement by sending long emails with your demands or wishes. Discuss them between you, or with a family mediator, but keep the email trails down to a minimum.
Try to focus on what decisions you can make to ease the situation, rather than on the decisions you want the other person to make.
TIP SIX – Focus on the Big Picture
When you are struggling to reach an agreement in mediation, don’t look at every topic of discussion as a point you absolutely must win in order to get a good outcome. The best outcomes and ones that are proven to last longer, are ones where you both feel you have come away with something. Conceding on a few points, being gracious, trying to understand the other person’s point of view and giving ground, can all contribute to getting a far better outcome overall, than if you try to beat the other person down on every point.
A great example was when a couple could not agree on the spousal maintenance. Our mediator moved the subject onto parenting and one party gave ground and agreed that for Christmas that year, the children could spend the whole week with their ex-partner. Giving this ground – just one week and one Christmas out of their whole lives, enabled them to reach an agreement on the amount of spousal maintenance that should be paid. More importantly it kept them out of court and kept their ongoing relationship amicable.
Goodwill can go a very long way in mediation and remember, it is without prejudice, so you can give ground and then recall it if you feel it is not working towards the overall agreement.
TIP SEVEN – Use the Right Legal Professionals at the Right Time
You may well have had some discussions between you about the parenting and financial aspects of your separation or divorce. Once you establish you are unable to reach an agreement between you, stop those discussions and instead agree to use a professional, accredited family mediator. Do your research and look for mediator reviews where possible. Is the mediator’s website regularly updated? Do they have a social media presence that is added to on a consistent basis? Are the family mediators on the Family Mediation Council’s database? If not then you may want to look elsewhere, as they won’t be regulated.
Legal advice can be really helpful and every mediator should advise you get at least some family law advice on your specific situation at some point in the mediation process. This advice will be more accurate and beneficial if you have completed a full financial disclosure each. Otherwise, it will be based on the law in general – not specific to your case and might not reflect an accurate overview of your case.
If you cannot agree, consider a barrister review to give you an independent opinion on what a court would order on your case were it to go to a final hearing.
TIP EIGHT – Move on and Stick to the Mediation Agreement
Once you reach an agreement on parenting, you need to build up the goodwill by sticking to the parenting plan or financial arrangements agreed. Once you have both shown each other that you will be true to the agreement reached, it is far easier to change it if it is not working for you or the child(ren) or adapt it as the child(ren) grow and family circumstances change. If you feel it will be in children’s best interest to have your parenting arrangements made into a legally binding agreement you can apply to the courts for a child arrangements order by consent.
For your financial agreement who should carefully consider having the agreement made into a legally binding contract through a financial consent order.
A consent order will ensure your financial arrangements are not only legally binding and irrevocable, but they can provide a clean-break order – meaning neither of you can make a claim against the other in future years.
Ali is the Managing Director of Divorce Ltd, a mediator, divorce negotiator and has previously been through a divorce himself. He has helped in over 3000 divorce or separations since 2010.