The Mediation Process
First and foremost, mediation is confidential. All aspects of mediation are confidential. All participants are obliged to keep confidential everything that transpires during a mediation session. This clear rule pertaining to privacy of process and outcomes is secured by:
the mediation taking place in private, only between the parties involved
the prohibition on publicising any aspect of the mediation
the role of outsiders to the process being determined only by agreement between the participants
The first stage of the mediation process is for either party, both parties or their respective third parties to make a referral to a family mediation service. The referral will usually include one or both parties contact details and a brief explanation of the issues to be dealt with in mediation.
The Initial Meeting – The Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
Since the Family Law change in April 2014, it is a requirement for clients of unresolved family matters to actively consider mediation. This can be accomplished by attending the preliminary meeting, referred to as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
For this meeting, the mediator can meet each party separately or together. The purpose of the MIAM is:
To explain the mediation process
To have some understanding of what the hopes, issues and concerns are for each of the clients
To assess if the client is entitled to legally aided mediation (free mediation, funded by the Legal Aid Agency) if they are on a low income
To assess whether mediation is suitable, if not, what alternative options are there to resolve their issues or disputes
If mediation is deemed suitable and both parties are willing to start the mediation process, they will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate document.
Your mediator will begin by working with your identified issues, as well as hopes and concerns about future outcomes. They will encourage helpful dialogue between all parties, whilst remaining impartial and help you to consider the available options based upon what each party has proposed and explore together whether these options are viable. The mediator does not give legal advice but helps the parties to make arrangements and agree on solutions in relation to their specific family matters.
The number of sessions will vary according to the issues and progress that can be made. Your mediator will give their view on progress and record what has been achieved through a session summary report.
Mediation sessions generally last up to 90 minutes.
Once you have reached an overall agreement on all issues, your mediator will draft up a record of areas covered and agreed proposals. This document is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is not legally binding. In property and / or financial cases, your mediator will draft an Open Statement of Finances which is based on the assets, liabilities, income and monthly outgoings of each client. The clients involved can then take the MoU to a solicitor if they want to formalise the agreement.
A Successful Outcome
At the end of the mediation process when all parties have reached an overall agreement on all issues, each party will know where they stand in relation to future child, financial, property and communication arrangements. Each family member can then move on with their lives in a more constructive manner.
Many people going through the separation process also go through the process of shuttle mediation.
During shuttle mediation, the two parties in dispute sit in different rooms while the mediator ‘shuttles’ between them while trying to reach an agreement.
This type of mediation may be used in cases where for example, domestic abuse has happened in the relationship. There are cases where too much family conflict means the couple are not meant to be in the same room together or as one of them feels much intimidated by the other, leading to less probability of mediation to be successful.
Shuttle mediation is still a good way to avoid court for people who just cannot or should not mediate in the same room.
The mediator decides on a case to case basis whether there will be a need for this form of mediation.
Consultation with Children as Part of the Mediation Process
Clarity Works seeks to offer children (usually aged ten years and ‘above) and young people the opportunity to be involved and have their voices heard directly in the mediation process in a safe, confidential and supportive environment.
It can be extremely helpful when parents are having to make decisions regarding their children that parents understand their children’s views, feelings, needs and desires. Involving children in the mediation process may be a good way to do this. Children like to be informed and they appreciate having their views and options heard, although they need to understand that they are not responsible for the overall decision.