This year’s Family Mediation Week runs from 22 to 26 January. An initiative of the Family Mediation Council (FMC), the annual event is an opportunity to raise awareness of family mediation and its benefits to separating families.

To mark Family Mediation Week 2024, Adrian Silk, our Office Head of Family Law in Waterlooville, answers some frequently asked questions about mediation and considers the key role it plays in resolving family law disputes.

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves a separating couple sitting with an impartial, professionally trained third party (the mediator) to discuss issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship.

Family mediation helps separated or divorcing couples agree on arrangements for their property, finances, and children without going to court.

What are the benefits of mediation in family law disputes?

Family mediation has many advantages over court proceedings, which are often stressful, time-consuming, and costly.

Some of the advantages of family mediation include:

  • Speed. Mediation is a much faster process than having to go to court.
  • Cost. Mediation is cost-effective as couples share the expense of the mediator, and both save on legal fees.
  • Reduces conflict. Mediation is focused on reaching an agreement together rather than pitting one person against another.
  • Encourages collaboration. An independent mediator helps couples focus on the future and helps parties reach a consensus.
  • Less stressful. Court proceedings can be traumatic and take an emotional toll on everyone involved.
  • Maintains open communication. Family mediation in the UK is ‘without prejudice’, which means couples can discuss matters openly, make offers and explore different options without being legally bound to them.
  • Retain control. Parties are responsible for reaching their own agreements rather than delegating decision-making powers to a third party, such as the court.
  • Flexibility. Mediation is a bespoke process that can be tailored to a couple’s particular needs.

What issues can family mediation help with?

Mediation helps separating couples decide on practical arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship. It can be tailored to the specific needs of a couple.

Some common issues mediation can help with include:

  • Financial decisions, such as what will happen to property, savings, and pensions.
  • Arrangements for children, including where they will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and what will happen during the holidays.
  • Child maintenance payments.
  • Dividing personal possessions and household goods.
  • Dealing with any debts.

Do you have to use meditation in family disputes?

Attending a mediation and assessment meeting (MIAM) is a legal requirement in most family law cases.

However, there are a few exceptions, for example, if there is evidence of violence or domestic abuse.

If you are thinking of separating from your partner, please speak to Larcomes. Regardless of the complexity of your family law matter or dispute, our solicitors in Portsmouth and Waterlooville have the knowledge and expertise to help.

We will explain all the options available and advise on the best way to proceed. For a free, no-obligation and confidential discussion, please call our divorce and separation lawyers on 023 9244 8107 (Portsmouth) or 023 9244 8106 (Waterlooville) or make an online enquiry.

What is a MIAM?

A mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) is the first meeting with a qualified family mediator, during which you discuss your situation and the issues you need to agree on following your separation.

If you have children over the age of 10, the mediator will also discuss with you whether it is appropriate to take their opinions into account.

This initial MIAM session is confidential and usually lasts about an hour.

At the end of this meeting, the mediator will tell you whether your issues can be resolved without going to court, and you can proceed to mediation.

How many mediation sessions will I need?

Depending on what issues you need to address and how engaged each party is in the process, people generally need between three and five mediation sessions to reach an agreement.

Mediation sessions usually involve you and your ex-partner together, although you can also arrange to see a mediator separately if necessary.

How much does family mediation cost?

The cost of family mediation varies according to the number of sessions required and the issues that must be addressed.

According to Gov.uk, the average cost of a MIAM is £120 each, and the average cost of mediation is £480 per person.

If you are on a low income and qualify for legal aid, the MIAM and mediation sessions will be free.

The government also introduced a family mediation voucher scheme whereby eligible parties receive a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the cost of mediation. For more information, click here.

Is a mediation agreement legally binding?

A family mediation agreement is not in itself legally binding. However, it is possible to make the agreement legally binding by applying to a court for a consent order.

Once you and your partner have reached a consensus about your future arrangements, you should discuss the agreement with an experienced family solicitor, who will advise on the appropriate next steps.

Can I change a mediation agreement?

Yes. If your circumstances change or the arrangements you decided upon don’t work, you can return to the mediator and update the original agreement.

Family Solicitors Waterlooville

Specialist family law solicitor Adrian joined Larcomes in August 2023 and has headed up the firm’s family law practice in Waterlooville since December last year.

Adrian has almost 30 years’ experience and specialises in all areas of family law and has represented many clients on a wide range of legal issues, including divorce, grandparents’ rights, and financial remedy disputes.

Along with Larcomes’ other family law solicitors, Adrian is accredited by Resolution, a group of family law professionals who believe in a non-confrontational approach to resolving family issues.

Regardless of the complexity of your family law matter or dispute, our solicitors in Waterlooville and Portsmouth have the knowledge and expertise to help.

We will explain all the options available to you and ensure you are aware of the costs involved, guiding and supporting you through every step of the process.

Our specialist family law services include:

To speak with Adrian or for legal advice from another of our specialist family lawyers, please call 023 9224 6666 or make an online enquiry.

Remember, you can talk to us in complete confidence and gain reassurance from speaking to someone who understands your situation.

Click here to find out more about our family law team.

Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.