1. Does mediation replace the need for lawyers?
As a mediator can only give legal information and cannot advise you as individuals, it is important that you both have legal advice. You can take that advice between sessions and discuss any points raised during mediation with your legal representative to see how they would advise you to proceed. Your lawyers will also deal with any divorce proceedings for you and help you to make any agreement you reach in mediation legally binding.
2. Can my lawyer be present during the mediation sessions?
Provided you both agree, your lawyers can be involved in the mediation process. On occasion, it may also be useful to involve other professionals such as accountants and financial advisers in certain sessions, but again this has to be by your mutual agreement. Also, when there are difficult legal arguments (such as about contributions which you say you have made by way of inheritance for example or spousal maintenance, we will, if you and they agree, see just the lawyers to find out whether the gaps in your different positions can be closed.That is potentially cheaper than having your lawyers in the mediation and could be a great deal cheaper than making an application to court with all the uncertainty as to outcome and the certainty of the substantial costs involved. Again,if you both agree and your lawyers feel that it is a good idea, a joint barrister’s opinion could be asked for on a problematic point to try to assist in reaching resolution.
3. Does mediation only cover finances and children?
Although for a large proportion of separating and separated couples, these are the key areas of concern, mediation aims to help you tackle all the issues relating to your separation. Your mediator will be able to tell you specifically during your initial meeting if there are areas where another specialist would be able to provide more appropriate help and guidance.
4. Do I have to go to mediation and MIAMs?
Mediation is not obligatory although since April 2014, most people, before issuing a financial or children application in court, have to make a referral for a mediation information and assessment meeting, a MIAM, unless they can claim a specific exemption. When you make a MIAM referral, the mediator finds out whether the other person will attend a MIAM. If you both attend but your case is not suitable for mediation, the mediator signs the court application to that effect as he/she also does if the other person is not willing to attend a MIAM. You will usually have to attend a MIAM even if the other person is unwilling to do so.
In either case, you will have demonstrated satisfactorily that you have considered mediation, but cannot proceed. More positively, the meeting gives you the chance to decide with professional help whether mediation is a good option for you and your family.
Our charge for a MIAM including providing the signed court application if appropriate is £75 plus VAT, £90 in total.
From 1st January 2016 only a mediator who is registered with the Family Mediation Council with the designation FMCA can sign the necessary court forms if a case is either not suitable for mediation at the outset or in the event that a mediation breaks down. Both Vanessa Stirum and Anne Braithwaite are FMCA mediators so can sign court forms.
5. How much does mediation cost?
Some people qualify for public funding to pay for mediation. Your solicitor should be able to tell you if you might qualify. Although we do not do publicly funded work, we will check if you are likely to qualify when you contact us. Also, if you look up “legal aid keycard” online, that explains the limits of financial eligibility. We will explain our charges when you contact us. You effectively share the cost although who pays can be negotiated as part of the mediation process. What is certain is that mediation is a great deal cheaper than the usual legal process.
6. My partner is unwilling to seek mediation. What can I do?
You can’t enforce a mediation process on an unwilling party. Mediation has to be entered into by both parties on a voluntary basis. When you or your solicitors make a referral to us, we will find out whether the other person will come to an assessment meeting. If they remain unwilling to participate, your only option is to pursue matters through your legal representative. However, from April 2014, if there hasn’t been a MIAM, the judge at a first hearing in a family case will have to consider why not. The judge will be able, if s/he thinks it appropriate, to stand the case down so that both people will have the chance to attend a MIAM. That means that, if the other person wouldn’t attend one before you applied to court but you want to try mediation, you will be able to ask the judge to allow the time for that to happen.