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Mediation in family law

View profile for Emma Roberts
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The Family Mediation Voucher Scheme - what it can mean for you

Family mediation is a process in which an independent, professionally trained mediator assists separating or separated couples work out arrangements for children and finances. 

Mediation can also be helpful when arrangements already in place may need to change or be adapted, this is particularly relevant as children grow up and important decisions need to be made or arrangements need to be adapted.

Mediation is designed to be collaborative, and help separated couples stay amicable if possible. It also aims to help couples stay in control of their own arrangements. Within the mediation process no-one will make a person do anything or reach an agreement against their wishes.

The role of a mediator is to try and assist the parties to find a solution that works for both them and their children. The mediator can also explain what needs to happen to make an agreement between you legally binding. The mediator will work with a separated couple in a way tailored to their situation.

The mediation process can make separating and reaching agreement less stressful and significantly quicker than going to court and can save money.  

Legal aid is available for those that are financially eligible.

A couple do not have to be in the same space if they or the mediator decides that working with them in separate spaces would be preferable.

Here are some frequently asked questions about meditation: 

Why should I try mediation?

Mediation can have many benefits: 

  • It can be far less stressful and far quicker than going to court;
  • It can be cheaper than getting legal representation; and
  • Can assist you to make arrangements over parenting, property, and money,

For those who attend joint mediation, it helps over two thirds of those reach an agreement and avoid contested proceedings.

After separation it can be difficult to talk to a former partner, let alone discuss significant issues such as childcare or finances. As a parent it is also far better for your children if their parents work together to try to agree the way forward – but this can be hard to do without support. Family mediation provides a safe and supported structure to sort out the best arrangements for children, taking into account what is going to be important for them, both now and in the future. It also provides the space and time necessary to think about what is most important for the whole family.

Whether a parent or not, mediation can help you reach agreement about how to divide what there is in terms of finances, where you will live, and how your future finances will work.

When should I try family mediation?

Mediation can be accessed at any time. Even if separation took place months or years ago; or if the case has already gone to court, mediation can still help to resolve things.

Save for if you are exempt, there is a requirement to attempt mediation prior to issuing court proceedings. If an applicant cannot show mediation has been attempted or they are exempt, the judge may stop or delay proceedings until mediation has been attempted.

The first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out if the process is right and appropriate.  If mediation is not suitable this can be determined at the MIAM by the mediator.

When mediation might not be suitable

Mediation works for many, but it isn’t right for everyone. It may not work if:

  • Someone’s safety is at risk, for example where there has been domestic abuse or child abuse;
  • A dispute is about financial issues, and one party is bankrupt;
  • The whereabouts of a former partner are unknown or you cannot contact them;
  • The mediator thinks mediation will not be suitable.

It will be up to the application to show the court that mediation is not suitable by completing the relevant section of the application form. 

A mediator can help you decide whether mediation is suitable for you, at a MIAM.

I want to try mediation – what do I do?

If you are interested in trying family mediation to help you sort out issues following separation, you can find a mediator through the Family Mediation Council

At the first meeting you will have an opportunity to explain your situation and find out more about how mediation might work for you (MIAM).

It can assist if the mediator is chosen by both parties, but it you do not want to do this, you can meet a mediator of your choice to discuss next steps and the mediator can make contact with your ex-partner (if appropriate).

My ex has been to see a mediator – what do I do?

If your ex-partner has contacted a mediator, then you may be asked by that mediator to attend a meeting, sometimes known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is a standard part of the mediation process. It means that your ex-partner either will attend, or has attended, a MIAM.

If you or your ex-partner are not eligible for legal aid, you will have to pay for the meeting.

You should usually go to the mediator that your ex-partner has seen but, if you have concerns that they are not right (for example, because they do not offer legal aid when you are eligible to claim it), or because you know the mediator and there is therefore a conflict of interest, then you can see a different mediator. It is sensible to speak to your ex-partner, as well as the mediator who your ex-partner has contacted, about the reasons for wanting to see a different mediator.

Can our children attend mediation?

Child inclusive mediation gives a child or young person the opportunity to meet and talk with a trained mediator who is helping their parents to sort things out.

The mediator will be able to discuss with a child their feelings and wishes. Both parents have to agree to the child speaking to the mediator. The child can decide if the mediator should pass the thoughts on to their parents. The mediator will discuss this carefully and agree exactly what is to be kept confidential and what the child would like the mediator to feed back to their parents. The only exception to this confidentiality between the child and the mediator would be if any concerns about safety arose.

Whilst parents will still make the decisions, the child inclusive mediation can often help parents improve their parenting relationship and make better decisions around matters which impact the child.

Can I attend mediation online?

Yes, mediation is available via video conference or sometimes over the telephone. 

Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) and mediation can both take place online.

What is a MIAM?

The first meeting with a mediator is often called a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting or MIAM. Whether it’s called a MIAM or a first meeting, it will cover the same things.

The MIAM will last about an hour and provide an opportunity to tell the mediator about your situation, and the issues in dispute. The mediator will explain the mediation process and other options for reaching agreements.  At the conclusion of the meeting, the mediator will advise whether your case is suitable for mediation, and if not, next steps. 

With agreement, a mediator might also refer you to other organisations who can help, e.g. offer counselling, debt advice or how to parent co-operatively after separation.

If you have children who are over the age of ten, the mediator will discuss with you their rights to have their views taken into account and attend mediation.

How much does a MIAM cost?

The MIAM and mediation sessions which follow will cost you nothing if you get legal aid.

The mediator will help you work out if you can claim legal aid.

If you are not eligible for legal aid, the mediator will charge for the MIAM and all mediation sessions. The cost will vary depending on your provider and where in the country they are based, so you should ask for details of the cost of the meeting when you contact the mediator.

As a guide, you can expect to pay about £150 per person for a MIAM.

What happens after the first meeting or MIAM?

If everyone agrees to try mediation then an appointment is made for your first joint mediation session. If you decide not to continue or it’s not suitable, the mediator will have explained the range of other options for resolving things as part of the MIAM. If you decide to make an application to court to resolve an issue discussed, then you can ask the mediator to sign the court form, which is valid for four months after mediation.

Do I have to go to a MIAM?

Unless exempt, you will have to attend a MIAM before making a court application. There are only a few specific circumstances where this requirement does not apply (mainly involving domestic abuse or urgent child safety concerns). This is because court action should be a last resort when alternative ways have been exhausted.

A court also expects you to have attended a MIAM, unless the same specific circumstances apply before any application is made and can direct attendance before the proceedings continue if you have failed to engage in mediation, without a relevant exemption.

Attending a MIAM is not the same as attending joint mediation sessions.

Who can sign court forms to say I have been to a MIAM?

Only mediators accredited by the Family Mediation Council can sign a court form to say you have been to a MIAM. An accredited mediator is known as “FMCA”.

What does mediation cost?

If you are eligible for legal aid, family mediation will be free. Otherwise mediation will vary depending on your provider and where in the country they are based, so you should ask for details of the cost of the meeting when you contact the mediator.

As a guide, you can expect to pay about £2,000 per person per session.

The family mediation voucher scheme is a time-limited scheme, designed to support parties who may be able to resolve their family law disputes outside of court. The Government has set up the scheme in response to Covid-19 to support recovery in the family court and to encourage more people to consider mediation as a means of resolving their disputes, where appropriate. To support this, a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation will be provided, if eligible. This has recently been extended.

Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) are taking part in the voucher scheme.

How do I know if I am eligible for a mediation voucher?

During a MIAM a mediator will assess the issues you seek to resolve to see if they are suitable for mediation and meet the eligibility requirements for the voucher scheme. Not all cases are eligible under the scheme.

The case types specified below are eligible for a mediation voucher:

  • a dispute/application regarding a child
  • a dispute/application regarding family financial matters where you are also involved in a dispute/application relating to a child.

How will I receive the voucher?

If eligible the mediator will apply for the voucher funding and it will be paid directly to them once all mediation sessions are concluded.  You can only claim once per family/ case for a one-off contribution of up to £500 towards your mediation costs.

If you have an application or dispute relating to a child and have a financial issue application or dispute ongoing at the same time, you can still only receive up to £500.

If you make a second application and have already received a voucher, you will not be offered a second voucher under this scheme.

Will the voucher cover all my mediation costs?

This depends on the rates set by your chosen mediator and how many mediation sessions are required. The voucher is intended to be a contribution towards mediation sessions and you may need to make a contribution.

Can I get a voucher if I am eligible for legal aid?

Yes, if you are eligible for legal aid you can still be eligible for a voucher even if one person or both is eligible for legal aid.

The mediation voucher scheme is a one-off financial contribution of up to £500 and will not cover the cost of a MIAM. Legal aid will provide funding for the MIAM and all mediation sessions, if you are eligible.

If you require legal advice in relation to a family law matter, please contact our specialist team on