You may get a call or a letter through the post asking you to go to Mediation to discuss the future arrangements for your children or to resolve whether you should sell the family home and how you should share the pension. That first contact with a mediation service can be very intimidating, not deliberately, but just because you perhaps have not initiated the contact with the family mediator or because you do not know what will happen at the first family mediation session.

Keeping an Open Mind About Family Mediation

Where do you start? Well as an experienced Manchester family finance and divorce solicitor I would say start with an open mind about family mediation. Some people think, from the outset, that mediation won’t work for them because their spouse or ex-partner will be too difficult and won’t be prepared to discuss or negotiate. You may be right but, in my experience, mediation sessions can result in even the most entrenched spouse coming round to a compromise. The question then is whether the compromise works for both of you. If so, the agreement that you reach in mediation can be converted into a binding financial court order that is approved by the court in divorce proceedings.

Solicitors and Family Mediation

As a Manchester divorce solicitor it is always assumed that solicitors like me do not believe in the benefits of family mediation. After all the common assumption is that divorce solicitors want all divorcing couples to go to court to  get a judge to decide how their money and other assets should be split . As divorce solicitors don’t always have great reputations it is assumed solicitors push financial court proceedings, rather than promoting mediation, because the legal fees are more if a couple end up fighting about their assets in court rather than reaching an agreement in family mediation.

The answer is that ‘’one size doesn’t fit all’’ – mediation is the right option for some couples whereas for others court or arbitration are the best routes to reaching a fair financial settlement. Why do I say that? Well, if I see someone who is worried that their spouse is hiding money or transferring property or investments to family members, all the indications are that family mediation isn’t appropriate and that financial court proceedings should be started as quickly as possible to preserve the family assets, and, if necessary, get injunction orders.     

On the other hand, if I meet someone who has been invited to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) or to their first mediation session and they are feeling very daunted and a bit vulnerable because they don’t know as much about the family finances as their spouse then I see my job as to support the client through mediation support and not try and encourage them to start financial court proceedings. Ultimately, if mediation doesn’t work for the couple, court proceedings may have to be started but the non-court option should be explored first as , with a help from a Manchester divorce solicitor, the client can feel more empowered and less vulnerable during the mediation sessions.

Mediation Support   

Often separating couples think that consulting a divorce solicitor and going to family mediation sessions are mutually exclusive. They are not as a divorce solicitor and family mediator have 2 completely different roles.

As a Manchester divorce solicitor my job is to give you:

  • legal information and advice about divorce proceedings ; and
  • advice about the extent of your financial claims , for example , if you have a pension sharing order claim or spousal maintenance claim; and
  • talk to you about the information and paperwork needed to help you reach informed financial decisions in mediation ; and
  • the types of orders that a court might make if you or your spouse were to ask the court to decide on how your assets should be split – this isn’t to encourage you to litigate and go to court but to ensure that you can make informed decisions about any financial agreement that is discussed in mediation , bearing in mind the costs and risks of financial court proceedings ; and  
  • Support between the family mediation sessions to help clarify what was discussed, review financial disclosure within the mediation sessions and explore your options; and
  • If agreement is reached in the family mediation sessions and the mediator prepares a memorandum of understanding setting out the agreement in broad terms then converting the agreement and financial information into a draft financial court order and financial statement of information for a judge to then approve and make into a binding financial court order.

Family mediation isn’t the easy option for spouses or solicitors as it takes a lot of courage for many spouses to attend mediation sessions .It also takes specialist divorce solicitors who are prepared to support you through mediation and work with the family mediator to give the mediation sessions the best chance of succeeding. Success often comes through a spouse feeling legally empowered in family mediation sessions by knowing what their legal rights are and having a divorce solicitor working for them and providing legal support in the background.

For advice about mediation support, financial claims and divorce proceedings please call me on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or contact me by email at robin@evolvefamilylaw.co.uk

Appointments are available in Manchester and Cheshire

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