What is Family Mediation Week?
Family Mediation Week is organised by the Family Mediation Council (“FMC”). The purpose of having a dedicated week is to attract attention to and raise awareness of this method of alternative dispute resolution. In the right circumstances, mediation can be a helpful tool for a couple to resolve issues surrounding the financial consequences of their separation or to assist in settling arrangements for their children (or both).
What is family mediation?
Mediation is a method of resolving disputes without going to court. The mediation process is entirely voluntary and can only work if both parties are committed to the process and seeking to resolve their issues away from the court. The parties cannot be compelled to attend, and it is open to either of them to discontinue the mediation process if they decide that they wish to withdraw. It is completely confidential, and if it is unsuccessful and the matter later goes to court, the negotiations that took place in mediation cannot be communicated to the court. The only information that may be passed to the court is financial disclosure. The purpose of this is to allow free discussions in which the parties can make concessions that they would not be prepared to make were the matter litigated at a later stage. If the mediation is successful and the couple are able to resolve their issues during the sessions, the agreement is recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding which is not binding and remains both privileged and without prejudice until such time as both parties have had the opportunity to take their own separate legal advice on the proposed deal. Having received that advice, and on the basis that both parties are content to do so the agreement is then recorded in open correspondence and will then be converted into a draft consent order by the solicitors to be placed before the court for approval by a Judge. That order would then be fully enforceable.
What about the Mediator?
As part of the family team here at Payne Hicks Beach, we have Matthew Booth, who is dual-qualified as both a lawyer and a mediator and so is particularly well-placed to assist couples wishing to explore mediation. Matthew is able to meet with a couple together and guide them through discussions to try to find solutions that meet the needs of them and their children. Matthew is also able to highlight issues where more information might be needed, for example, if up-to-date tax advice is needed. Mediation is typically quicker and cheaper than legal proceedings, and for the right couple can be a way to cut through difficulties and find a swift resolution. Many people feel more comfortable in a mediation situation and find it less stressful. It also offers flexibility as sessions can be arranged at any time and in a more comfortable location than a crowded court. If you think mediation might be suitable for you or wish to learn more about the process, please contact Matthew on 0207 465 4300.