As specialist divorce and family law solicitors we are regularly asked by divorcing couples if they can skip mediation and go straight to court. It is understandable why some people think that mediation might slow the court process down, but in some situations, mediation can avoid the need for expensive or protracted family court litigation. In this blog we look at the circumstances where you can skip mediation and go straight to court.
When Can You Skip Mediation to Resolve Family Law Issues?
Family lawyers say there are some situations where you and your ex-husband or ex-wife or separated partner don’t have to go to mediation before you can start court proceedings. Examples include:
- Where the situation is a children law emergency – such as where you fear that the child will be taken overseas unless you secure a prohibited steps order to prevent child abduction
- Where the situation is a potential financial emergency – such as where an estranged husband or wife is selling or transferring assets and you need the protection of a court order to stop them from disposing of assets to defeat your financial claims
- Where there are domestic violence issues and you need the protection of an injunction order or it isn’t considered safe for you to engage in mediation.
There are other situations where family mediation can be skipped and you can start court proceedings without first attempting family mediation but family solicitors would question if that is necessarily a good idea.
What is family mediation?
Many spouses or separating couples want to skip mediation as they see it as a hurdle to overcome before a court will make a decision. However, lots of people don’t appreciate just how long it can take to secure a court order or how complex the process is. A specialist family law solicitor should explain all options to you so that you can make informed choices.
Family mediation is a voluntary form of non-court-based dispute resolution. The family mediator is an impartial third party who helps you reach a resolution to family issues such as child care arrangements or your financial settlement. The mediator should ensure that you both listen to one another even though you may not agree with what the other has to say. The job of the mediator to help you find a solution that works and is acceptable to both of you.
Normally family mediation takes place with a family mediator sitting in a room with both of you and the mediator uses their skills to help you reach your own agreement, rather than have an order imposed on you by a family court judge.
If that type of family mediation doesn’t appeal to you then either shuttle mediation or solicitor involved mediation can take place. In shuttle mediation you and your partner do not meet in the same room and instead the mediator shuttles between rooms to help you reach an agreement. In solicitor involved mediation each of you can have your solicitor involved in the mediation sessions as well as providing legal support outside the mediation sessions.
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Why use family mediation to resolve your family law problems?
Although you may want to skip mediation it is best to take some legal advice before starting court proceedings as not all family law solicitors recommend the use of court proceedings to resolve every type of family law issue, whether it is sorting out who gets to keep the family home, how pensions are shared or the child care arrangements for the children.
You may have a preconceived view about mediation because it didn’t work for your friends or a family member going through a divorce or because you are worried that the mediator will side with your ex-partner or that you will be bullied into reaching an agreement. Talking to a family solicitor about your concerns about mediation can help and in addition you can:
- Make sure that you get the right legal support during mediation so that you know your legal rights and the potential likely outcomes of any court proceedings
- Get your family solicitor to help choose a mediator with the particular skills you need to try to make mediation work for you
- If you are worried about being in the same room as your partner looking at the option of shuttle mediation.
What are the alternatives to family mediation?
If you don’t want to use family mediation or family mediation doesn’t work for you then there are other alternatives to court proceedings, such as:
- Solicitor negotiations
- Round table meetings
- Collaborative law
- Family arbitration.
A specialist family law solicitor will talk you through the various options with the focus being to use a resolution method that gives you the best outcome for you and your family. In some situations, court proceedings are the only realistic option to reach a resolution. For example, where a former husband or wife is refusing to give financial disclosure so a reasonable financial settlement can’t be reached in the absence of information that the court can order is disclosed as part of the court financial disclosure process.
An experienced family law solicitor won’t have a fixed view about the best method for you to reach a financial or child care resolution but instead will listen to your concerns and questions and help you work out the best option for you. They may say that skipping family mediation isn’t in your best interests as it could be the cheapest and quickest way of your reaching a resolution and that with mediation support from a specialist family lawyer you won’t feel as if you were bullied into a resolution that hasn’t been reality tested or that doesn’t meet your needs as you felt you weren’t able to express them during mediation.
Our Manchester and Cheshire Family Solicitors
Evolve Family Law specialise in separation, divorce , financial settlements and children law matters. For help with your family law needs call us or complete our online enquiry form. Evolve Family Law offices are located in Whitefield, North Manchester and Holmes Chapel, Cheshire but our family law solicitors are experienced in working remotely and are offering meetings by telephone appointment or video call.