Who Pays for the Cost of Mediation?
If you are on certain benefits, low income and you don’t have a lot of savings or assets, you may be eligible for legal aid for mediation for your family mediation.
An accredited family mediator will need to assess you for legal aid, and if you are eligible then your mediation will be free and the other party will have their initial meeting and the first joint mediation session for free as well. They only need to start paying for any subsequent mediation meetings, after the first one, if they are not eligible for legal aid.
This is something worth considering if you are looking for a mediation service and think you may be eligible for legal aid. You can find a local mediator to you using the Family Mediation Council search.
But if you are not eligible for legal aid funding – then who should pay for the mediation and how can it work when resources are tight?
Most mediation companies will quote their fees per person per hour or per person per session. This is because in most cases each party will pay for their own fees for the duration of the service. It means that each party then has a vested interest in progressing matters and getting to an agreement.
Some couples will agree that the costs of mediation are taken out of a joint account or savings, or one party will pay upfront and then the costs will be shared as part of the overall financial agreement.
But what if one party cannot or will not pay? In such cases, the other party has three choices:
- Maintain the current situation or try to resolve between themselves
- Pay for the mediation in full themselves
- Apply to the family court for an order
The costs of going to court, with representation by a lawyer or barrister is likely to be far more expensive than the total cost of family mediation and will normally take longer too. So it is something that needs to be carefully weighed up before you apply to court.
If you don’t want to pay for the full cost of the mediation, you will normally need to have at least considered mediation with a MIAM. You can do these online and Mediate UK have an expedited system, suitable for those who just want to go directly to court.
In some cases clients feel that the other party should pay for the costs because they are the one to blame, or the one causing the issue to deteriorate. But just as a court will not look to punish or rewards for behaviour during a relationship, the mediation service cannot insist that one party pays. And if you cannot agree who will cover the costs, mediation will be unlikely to take place.
According to the FMC survey in 2019, the average cost of family mediation is £140 per person per hour (including VAT). Most solicitors charge an hourly fee of £250 to £400 per hour (excluding VAT). And if you end up going to court for a financial matter you will be quoted upwards of £20,000 plus VAT if you require representation – which you always should at least consider if going to court.
Mediate UK regularly manage to help clients reach an agreement in 90% of cases – so you have a good chance on resolving the issue through mediation, even if you do pay the total cost yourself. In addition to this, most clients need 2-3 joint sessions to reach agreement on a parenting or financial matter – so it is a far cheaper and quicker option than going to court.
Ali Carter, Managing Director of Mediate UK says: “It is always frustrating for us when clients have already spent several thousand pounds on legal fees and got no further forwards to reaching an agreement. This may be because the parties have entrenched positions or one party is just not participating.
One couple were referred to us in desperation by the judge as they had exceeded £230,000 between them in legal fees! It was a difficult case, taking longer than normal, but we helped them reach an agreement in six joint sessions – for a total cost of just over £1,000 each. My best advice is to try mediation first, share costs if possible and you can always negotiate the cost of the mediation appointments as part of the mediation process. Either way it will usually save you many thousands of pounds.”
Mediation Fees Who Pays? – Case Study
Martin and Mai came to family mediation following Martin’s decision to end the marriage. It was a high conflict case, Martin had left Mai for another woman and he was now co-habiting with her. Although their children were all over 18, Mai felt financially responsible for them still.
Mai said she would only come to family mediation if Martin paid, and Martin initially refused. Martin decided to apply for a financial order through his local family court, but had to attend a MIAM first. By attending the MIAM he agreed we should write to Mai formally inviting her to mediate their divorce agreement. She said she would pay for her initial meeting, but Martin would have to pay for any joint mediation session. Martin reluctantly agreed.
They managed a full financial disclosure but really struggled to put the circumstances of the divorce to one side and they both struggled to reach an agreement. But they did agree to ask a barrister for a review. This cost them £499 each and they received a full report and legal opinion on what they should do and what would be a likely outcome were they to go to court. On receiving the report, they both accepted the barrister advice in full and bundled it up into one of the fixed-fee divorce packages.
The total cost to them – for mediation, the paperwork, a barrister review, divorce and consent order, including a solicitor each to manage the whole process – was a little over £2,000 each. They had both been quoted £5,000 to £10,000 just to get to a first hearing for the financial dispute at court – which would not have included the additional work to manage the divorce and process the consent order.
The clients were delighted and they were not only able to move on quicker with their lives, they also had at least £20,000 more in their bank accounts, to spend on themselves post-divorce. And it all came about because Mai agreed to pay for her MIAM and Martin agreed to pay for their first joint mediation session.
Ali is the Managing Director of Divorce Ltd, a Mediator, Divorce Negotiator and has been previously through a divorce himself.