January and February are the most popular months of the year for people to book their next summer getaway, this is in no doubt because of the lack of daylight, lack of funds after the holidays and failed resolutions. In this sense, it should also be noted that January and February also hold the highest divorce rates in the United Kingdom. And so, this provides the perfect timing to mention the now-annual initiative known as “Family Mediation Week”, which highlights the benefits to separating and divorcing couples who seek Mediation, rather than heading straight over to Family Court (Nowak, 2019).
Mediation provides a safe environment for both spouses to discuss and hopefully resolve any difficulties. These meetings are facilitated by a Mediator who “chairs” the meeting, to ensure that both parties have an equal chance at discussing and that the meeting stays on track of the subjects. Usually, couples will be unable to take a case to court if mediation has not been tried beforehand, if a spouse cannot show that they have considered Mediation, the judge may even stop or delay the proceedings until proven otherwise. In fact, according to the Law Society, whilst the Children and Families Act 2014 made is compulsory for most separating parties to attend MIAM. This initiative has failed to attain rising numbers, and growth remains “painfully slow” (O’Dwyer, 2016). This is saddening as Mediation not only saves couples time and money but ensures that decisions can be made in a more diplomatic and flexible process at the direct hands of both parties. Therefore, in this article I wish to deal with some common “myths” which may prevent separating parties from attending Mediation.
- Meditation is not couples counselling
Many separating couples may believe that Mediation is similar to counselling. Whilst it can encourage clients to talk about their feelings and at some points may become emotional, it is not the Mediators intention to rekindle past romantic relationships or disputes. Couples Counselling may focus on finding reasons as to why a relationship has broken down, whilst Family Mediation simply provides a practical and safe space to diplomatically discuss arrangements rather than emotions. Mediation accepts the current situation and does not wish to change this, it instead allows both parties to move forward within their lives more specifically focusing on; Division of assets, Property, Child Maintenance Payments or perhaps types of contact a parent may have with their child. (Robey, 2020).
- Still attend Mediation, even If you don’t think your ex-partner will
A common belief when someone is presented with the opportunity of Mediation is that it will not be any point attending as their ex-partner will not go. As previously mentioned, Since April 2014 it is a legal obligation to consider Mediation before any divorce case is taken to court. The Jury in a court will need proof of mediation before allocating a court proceeding time for divorces (GOV.UK, 2020).
It can be very frustrating if a divorce is at a standstill as a spouse is refusing to participate in Mediation. If an accident or significant illness has caused the spouse to not attend, the judge may reschedule the hearing. However, if the spouse is simply refusing to attend it is then recommended to attend Mediation without the spouse present. At the end of the mediation you will be given a document showing the agreement is legally-binding. If the other spouse is not present, then the Mediator will be able to give you a document explaining that you still attended, this can be added into your divorce application to prove you considered Mediation.
- Mediation can save you extra costs
The process of divorce can often lead to other additional and strenuous matters, making the cost of divorce particularly high. Whilst paying for mediation may prevent couples from attending, this process is a great deal faster and more cost efficient that if both parties discuss arrangements in a stressful court room environment.
Furthermore, it is important to add that Mediation is free for people who qualify for Legal Aid. Where if at least one party is eligible, Legal Aid can cover the cost of both parties to attend (CAFCASS, 2017).
I believe that mediation is the most effective for providing the child (who of which is predominantly in the centre of “family break-ups”) a voice and a chance for each spouse to move away from the anger and resentment divorce can cause and to work together in determining the family’s future within a relaxed and productive setting. We have a family law legal aid contract to help all our clients navigate these complications of family law proceedings and also offer a free 20 minute appointments for anyone who needs help.
By Olivia Mann
- (2017). Family mediation. CAFCASS. Available at: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/family-mediation/
- UK. (2020). Making child arrangements if you divorce or separate. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/looking-after-children-divorce/mediation
- Nowak, C. (2019). This Is Why January Is the Biggest Month for Divorce. Available at: https://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/january-divorce-month/
- O’Dwyer, T. (2016). Mediation: why aren’t you doing it yet?. The Law Society. Available at: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/practice-areas/family-children/mediation-why-arent-you-doing-it-yet/.
- Robey, J. (2020). Promoting family mediation during a busy time. Family Law. Available at: https://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/promoting-family-mediation-during-a-busy-time