Family Mediation Week 2023

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What is Family Mediation?

Family mediation is a way of resolving a dispute without the need to go to court.  Although once a financial agreement has been reached at mediation the parties should instruct solicitors to draft that agreement into a financial order and have it approved by the court so that it is binding.

Family mediation can be used to resolve property disputes, financial disputes or disputes regarding the children following separation or divorce.

The process is voluntary, impartial, confidential and self-determining.  This allows both parties to speak freely about the issues that are important to them and arrive at a solution that works for them with the support of a third party (the mediator).  The mediator’s role is to facilitate these discussions in a safe environment, to ensure that both parties are heard, assist the parties with communication and ask questions so the parties can reach their own solutions.

Why is mediation good for family disputes?

As of November 2022 Cafcass had 33,767 open active private law children’s cases.  In 2021 the Family Court was dealing with 46,461 financial remedy applications (private financial applications following divorce) and 54,649 private law children applications regarding parental disputes about the upbringing of children.  The Family Courts had a total of 265,676 cases covering all types of application both private law and public law.

With this volume of work, the court’s resources and those of Cafcass are stretched to the limit and it can therefore be difficult for separating parties to have their dispute dealt with in a timely manner and feel as though the court has really allocated them the time and commitment to understand their situation and resolve it fairly.

Family mediation allows the parties to discuss their dispute and arrive at a solution at their own pace.  This often results in the parties arriving at a better solution and there is less bitterness or stress.  In court often the parties are left with a sense that one party has “won” and the other “lost” this is not the case in mediation.

The discussion will take place in a less formal setting than a courtroom.  The parties will feel less stressed and more relaxed.  The mediation environment allows the parties to have their say, reduce conflict and be in control of the discussion, which is more likely to result in a mutually beneficial agreement.  At court, the procedure can often feel very formal, disjointed and the process is controlled by the judge rather than the parties.

Due to the huge volume of cases at court hearings are often not for many months and they can often be delayed.  Mediation is far more accessible and proceeds at the pace the parties want to move at meaning that a solution can often be reached far sooner than if the court was involved.

Another advantage of mediation is cost.  Proceeding to court and instructing solicitors and barristers is not only stressful it is also very expensive.  Mediation is considerably cheaper.

In summary, mediation is quicker, less stressful, cheaper and more accessible than court.  Mediation allows the parties to take control of the process and arrive at their own decisions.

Remember mediation is voluntary so if at any stage you feel uncomfortable or that the process is not working you can stop the process.

Finally, it is worth noting that the court now requires any party considering proceedings to at least attempt mediation.  Mediation is therefore a good first step in the right direction to resolving your family disputes.


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