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Can Mediation Be Initiated if Legal Proceedings Are Already in Progress?

Integrating Family Mediation into Your Ongoing Legal Processes

mediation in parallel to court.

We share a lot of content about the process of divorce and separation and the challenges that can come with it.  We try to highlight the importance of considering all necessary options before heading to court.  But what if legal proceedings are already underway? The notion of turning to family mediation at that point might seem too late. In this blog, we will explore how integrating family mediation into your ongoing legal processes can be both practical and advantageous. We will look at how both processes can work hand in hand to resolve these related disputes more effectively.

Understanding Family Mediation and Legal Proceedings

Legal Proceedings

Legal proceedings for divorce and separation involve formal steps including filing petitions, serving documents, and attending court hearings. These proceedings are governed by legal frameworks and aim to resolve issues such as financial settlements and child arrangements. While this approach usually ensures a final resolution, it can be lengthy, costly and stressful for the families involved.

Family Mediation

Family mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method where a trained, neutral mediator helps divorcing or separating couples reach agreements on various issues. This process is informal, confidential, and encourages cooperative problem-solving. Family mediation focuses on the interests and needs of all family members, particularly children. It is compulsory to at least consider family mediation in most cases. Use our free calculator here to see if you have an exemption.

Initiating Family Mediation during Legal Proceedings

Contrary to common belief, family mediation can be initiated at any stage of divorce or separation proceedings. Let’s elaborate:

  • MIAM – Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting

Before applying to the court for most types of family disputes, attending a MIAM is usually required. This meeting assesses whether mediation is suitable for the case.

The MIAM serves to educate parties about mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods, explaining how these can be beneficial in resolving family disputes without going to court.

Family mediator in a sessionDuring the MIAM, a qualified family mediator discusses the issues at hand, the mediation process, and assesses the suitability of mediation for the specific case. It provides an opportunity for parties to ask questions and gain a clear understanding of how mediation could work for them. In most family law cases, attending a MIAM is a prerequisite before applying to the court. There are currently 15 exemptions that the court will accept for you not attending a MIAM.

If mediation is deemed suitable and both parties agree, the process can proceed. If not, the mediator will sign a form confirming attendance, allowing the court application to move forward.

  • Court-Encouraged Mediation

Family courts often encourage mediation to alleviate the court system’s burden and to promote amicable resolutions. Judges frequently suggest or recommend mediation during the early stages of court proceedings, recognising its potential to settle disputes amicably.

Encouraging mediation helps reduce the court’s caseload, leading to quicker resolutions and lower costs for both the court system and the parties involved.

By promoting mediation, courts aim to support a cooperative rather than adversarial approach, which can result in more satisfactory and lasting agreements.

  • Voluntary Agreement

Both parties need to voluntarily agree to participate in mediation, making the process collaborative and aimed at mutual benefit. Family mediation can be initiated at any stage of the legal proceedings, whether before filing a petition, during negotiations, or even after court proceedings have begun.

The voluntary nature of mediation empowers parties to take control of their dispute resolution process, tailoring solutions to their specific needs and circumstances. Choosing family mediation helps maintain and sometimes improve communication and relationships, which is especially beneficial when children and ongoing parental cooperation are involved.

  • Solicitor Recommendation

Family law solicitors often recommend mediation as a good option to achieve a quicker, more cost-effective resolution.

Solicitors recognise the advantages of mediation, such as reduced costs, faster resolution times, and less emotional strain on clients. They may advise clients to consider mediation early in the process to settle issues out of court, reserving litigation as a last resort.

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Benefits of Family Mediation in Ongoing Legal Proceedings

Family mediation offers significant advantages during ongoing legal proceedings. It provides a cooperative and cost-effective way to resolve disputes while prioritising the well-being of all involved. Let’s unpack that a bit further to demonstrate how:

Cost and Time Efficiency

Divorce and separation proceedings can be prolonged and expensive. Mediation offers a faster, more affordable alternative. By facilitating open communication and negotiation, family mediation can lead to a resolution in a fraction of the time and cost associated with a full court process.

Confidentiality

Family Mediation is confidential, unlike court proceedings which are typically public. This privacy allows parties to discuss matters more freely and reach agreements without the fear of public scrutiny.

Focus on Children

The process prioritises the best interests of children. Parents are encouraged to work together to create plans that are practical and supportive of the children’s ongoing relationship with both parents.

Cooperative agreements reached through mediation can lead to more stable and consistent child arrangements, providing children with a sense of security and continuity during a difficult time.

Preserving Relationships

Separation is hard enough without any added animosity. Mediation encourages cooperation and understanding, which is especially important when children are involved. It remains future-focused, aiming to find an amicable way forward during a difficult time.

Flexibility and Control

Family Mediation provides greater flexibility in crafting solutions tailored to the specific needs of the family. Unlike a court decision, which is imposed by a judge, mediation outcomes are mutually agreed upon, giving parties more control over the resolution.

Reduced Stress

The informal and collaborative environment of mediation is generally less stressful than the courtroom setting. Parties are encouraged to communicate openly, reducing the anxiety and tension often associated with legal battles.

How Mediation and Legal Proceedings Work Hand in Hand

Mediation and legal proceedings are not mutually exclusive; rather, they can complement each other.

Initial Evaluation – Early mediation can help clarify the issues and interests, potentially narrowing the scope of litigation if mediation does not fully resolve the dispute.

Interim Settlements – Even if family mediation does not result in a complete settlement, partial agreements on certain issues can streamline the remaining legal proceedings.

Informed Decision-Making – Insights gained during mediation can inform the parties’ legal strategies and lead to more informed decisions in court.

Final Resolution – Family Mediation can still be pursued after a trial to negotiate settlements on appeal or enforcement issues, offering a final opportunity for a mutually acceptable resolution.


Case Example

Dean and Angie, a divorcing couple are embroiled in a legal battle over child arrangements and financial disputes. Midway through the proceedings, both parties feel overwhelmed by mounting legal fees and the uncertainty of a court verdict.

So they agree to try family mediation, where a trained family mediator uses their knowledge, expertise, and understanding of these situations to help them consider everything the court wants them to consider.

This includes highlighting what is viable and not viable, giving them options to consider, and allowing them to understand each other’s perspectives and find common ground. They ultimately reach an agreement that includes a shared parenting plan and a fair financial settlement based on both their future needs.

By using a platform like family mediation, they have not only saved time and money but also found a way to move forward amicably.

Integrating family mediation into legal processes

Remember that Family Mediation offers an alternative to many conflicts. It really does work, 90% of our Mediate UK clients reach an agreement through mediation and our fixed fee mediation and legal packages can save thousands of pounds on your legal documentation.


Summary

Family mediation is a versatile and effective tool that can be initiated at any stage of divorce or separation proceedings. It offers numerous benefits, including cost and time efficiency, confidentiality, child-focused resolutions, relationship preservation, flexibility, and reduced stress.

A court will expect you have attempted mediation in most cases and may delay your case whilst you try to resolve a point or issue through mediation. It also shows the court that you have acted reasonably and responsibly to sort out the problem. This can have a significant impact on whether legal costs are awarded.

By integrating mediation into the legal process,  you could achieve more satisfactory and sustainable outcomes. Rather than viewing mediation and legal proceedings as an either-or choice, recognising their complementary nature might just be the key to resolving your conflict in a more amicable and efficient manner. Always keep it open as an option where possible.

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