It is not until you start thinking about family mediation that you realise that most divorce solicitors do not support their clients enough through the family mediation process.
Manchester divorce and family finance solicitors tend to think of legal advice when talking about family mediation without actually talking about the practical considerations and tips that can mean the difference between the success and failure of family mediation sessions.
It is important to get the best out of family mediation to try to reach a financial settlement. If you are not able to reach a mediated agreement then one of you may have to start financial court proceedings. The drawback of court proceedings is that they are likely to be more expensive than mediation. Furthermore, instead of you and your ex-partner reaching a compromise agreement a judge will impose a decision on you.
How to get the best out of family mediation
Therefore, the question I want to continue to look at is ‘how to get the best out of family mediation ‘.
Here are some tips on how to get the best out of family mediation. Some of the tips may seem self-evident experience shows that it is sometimes the obvious tips that people get the most benefit out of.
The choice of mediator
Make sure that the mediator is right for you and your spouse or ex-partner. Both of your solicitors should ideally agree the choice of mediator or if you do not have legal representation by both of you.
It can be hard to choose a mediator but do not be swayed by their location and convenience or your friend’s views or experience. These can be important considerations but other factors may influence your decision. It may be the case that you know your spouse would feel more comfortable with a male or female mediator. You may be keen to accommodate their wishes to give mediation the best chance of working.
Your family finances may also be a consideration when looking at the choice of mediator. If you own a family business or have complex finances an experienced mediator, from a legal or financial background, might best meet your needs.
The mediation agenda
At the outset of the mediation sessions, the mediator will normally discuss and agree an agenda.
You may only have one item on your agenda, for example to keep the family home or your pension .Although it is important that your spouse, your solicitor and the mediator knows what your priority is, it is also important that other things and options are put on the agenda for discussion.
Mediation is a two way process. That is why it is hard, as you have to listen to your ex-partner’s views in order to try to reach a compromise. Listening to them should ensure that they treat you with the same courtesy and listen to what you have to say.
Mediation sessions can be emotionally hard and can sometimes bring up painful topics or memories. If it is too much for you ask for a break.
It is better to have a break rather than continue when you are very emotional or upset.
Ask for explanations
Solicitors, mediators and spouses can all assume that you know what they are talking about when they through in legal terminology or talk about financial matters, such as pension sharing options or mortgage finance.
If you are uncertain, about what has been said or what is proposed then ask for clarification. A mediator cannot give either of you legal advice but they can explain legal or financial terminology. You should also ask for a detailed explanation from your solicitor and not make any decisions about your options and any proposed agreement until you have done so.
Do your homework
A mediator will often ask you to bring some paperwork or carry out some investigations before the next mediation session. For example, you may be asked to get an estate agent’s appraisal of your family home or to speak to a mortgage advisor to look at your mortgage options.
Even if you do not want to sell the family home or get a new mortgage, it is important that you do the homework. If you do not your ex-partner may get frustrated by the mediation process and start financial court proceedings. You will then lose the chance to try to reach a financial agreement in mediation.
Talk to your solicitor
Mediation should not be carried out in isolation to legal advice. It is a common misconception that the mediator can give you both legal advice. They cannot do that. Their job is to act as an impartial mediator to facilitate an agreement. They therefore will not take sides or advise you.
Mediation works best if you have mediation support . That involves:
- Getting legal information and advice about your separation and divorce and the timing of the divorce ; and
- Getting advice about your financial claims , for example , you need to know if you have a pension claim and the legal answer will depend on whether you are or were married to your ex-partner or not ; and
- Explain why you need financial paperwork to help you reach decisions in mediation and , if necessary review your spouse’s paperwork with you ; and
- Getting advice on the types of orders that a court might make if you or your ex-partner were to start financial court proceedings so you can make an informed decision about any financial agreement discussed in mediation; and
- If agreement is reached, preparing a draft financial court order for a judge to then approve.
Family mediation is hard work. That should not put you off. Most people agree that it is better to reach a financial agreement in mediation than leave it to a judge to decide how your assets are divided.
There will be some situations where mediation is not appropriate or does not work. The key to mediation is to give it your best shot so that you then do not regret starting financial court proceedings if that is the option you have to take.
For advice about mediation support, financial claims and divorce proceedings please call me on +44 (0) 1477 464020 or contact me by email at [email protected]