What is Mediation?
Separation and/or Divorce
Separation (with or without divorce proceedings) often leaves people with issues and arguments that they cannot resolve themselves. What is to happen about the children, about the house, about money, how will we communicate between ourselves and with the children?
At such a low and stressful time in your life, you may be tempted by what has been the traditional approach: a legal battle, sometimes ending in Court, turning you and your ex partner into antagonists with opposed interests. This process often proves very costly in both money and emotion. It hurts children!
Mediation – a Better Way Forward
Mediation offers most people a better way of resolving difficult disputes. Sitting down together with an experienced mediator, over one, two but not usually more than three sessions, offers a high chance of resolving your issues much more quickly and with less harm to your future relationship as parents. Mediators can give you information about separation and divorce processes, and make suggestions to you as to what might be helpful to each of you. Mediators do not give advice. It will remain helpful and important to receive individual advice from a solicitor.
Because Courts recognise that mediation is a more positive option, anyone thinking of applying to Court is now asked if they have first considered mediation. (This is done by attending a short meeting with a mediator: known as a MIAM, this is a Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting.) A MIAM is an opportunity for you to find out about the mediation process, to explain your situation to the mediator and to ask any questions you may have, lots of people find that after attending the MIAM they have a much better understanding and decide to give mediation a go. Public funding (legal aid), if you qualify for it, is available to pay for your MIAM and any mediation; if you don’t qualify you will pay on a private paying basis, it is likely you will overall pay considerably less than if you each engaged lawyers to negotiate on your behalf.
Mediation itself always remains voluntary – either or both of you can end it at any time. Nothing in mediation can bind you as with Solicitors discussions. You set the agenda. Everything said is confidential (apart from any concerns about risk to children or adults, and any evidence of fraud). Nobody can use what has been said in mediation in any Court proceedings unless both of you agree to waive confidentiality, so people can feel free to discuss options. You will be asked to make full disclosure about money and property (if that is what you wish to discuss).
For some people it will be too difficult, at least for a while, to sit in the same room with their ex partner. “Shuttled” mediation remains an option here, where people are seen separately, while in the same building. There are also a few people for whom mediation will not be suitable: where there is a history of violent behaviour, or intimidation, or severe doubts about the disclosure of property. Assessing suitability is an important part of the MIAM (referred to above).
For both you and the mediator it is a chance to think about whether mediation is the right process. For the majority of people, we very much believe that it is. In past years our figures show that we have assisted people to resolve their issues in 80% of cases.
Thinking about arrangements for your children is often an important part of mediation. If both of you think it might help, your child or children can to be invited to talk confidentially with a specially trained mediator in a child consultation meeting. This is entirely voluntary on their behalf and, with your permission, the mediator will write to them personally to explain that. She and the children will agree upon what they would like to be fed back to you as parents. This gives the children ‘a voice’ in a situation where they may be feeling ‘invisible’, upset or confused – or where divided loyalties could become a problem.
Mediation – The End Product
If the discussions in mediation result in proposals acceptable to both sides, the mediator will write these up and the document should then be shared with a solicitor; the proposals may then, with the consent of both sides, be turned into the form of an order, which can be made binding. Public funding is available to pay for legal help and support alongside mediation.
What Does Mediation Cost?
- Legal Aid is still available for mediation and we have a legal aid contract to cover all our outposts. Legal aid is calculated on your income and expenditure, if you qualify and can provide all the evidence to support your income and outgoings, mediation is completely free of charge. If you or your ex-partner qualifies then you will receive your first mediation session for free. You can assess yourself through the Legal Aid Calculator . If however you are still unsure call us so we can send you a comprehensive eligibility form to complete which clearly lists the evidence you will need to provide before we can book your appointment.
- Separate Mediation Information and assessment meeting (MIAM) is £100
- Joint assessment meeting £75 each
- Mediation Session £126 per hour per person (inclusive of VAT)
- Summary of Proposals & Open Financial Summary £189 per person (inclusive of VAT)
- Summary of Proposals £126 per person (inclusive of VAT)
The majority of clients like to pay as they go for their sessions but we understand this isn’t always viable for everyone. We therefore do not want costs to get in the way of you making progress so we offer the facility for you to pay monthly. The minimum payment per month is £50.00 or you can pay more if you prefer. Mediation is a cost effective way to resolve your issues so we strive not to let costs become a burden.
What is a MIAM? (Mediation information and assessment meeting)
This is the first meeting where you meet with a mediator on your own to find out about the process. The mediator will gather background information from you to assess whether mediation is suitable. A separate miam meeting takes approximately 30-45 minutes and costs £100 unless you qualify for legal aid. Your ex-partner will not be present at your meeting. Following your appointment you can decide whether you wish to proceed with mediation. If you feel it is not the right process for you then we will supply the C100 or the Form A to prove you have attended a miam which you can provide to the Court or a solicitor if you decide to apply to the Court. The law now states that anyone wishing to apply to the Court must attend a miam before applying, there is an expectation that the other party to the application will have also attended a miam.
If you and your partner live a distance apart and feel that mediation can help, we can offer to undertake your assessment meeting through Skype, this would be done in the same way as if you were attending the office in person and would cost £100 and take about 45 minutes. At present we do not offer online mediation sessions buy if mediation is found suitable and both parties wanted to go ahead, we would arrange your first mediation session at one of our outp0sts, we usually allocate more time for people travelling a distance so you can make good progress in resolving your dispute and perhaps you will not need to travel again for a second session.
What is a Joint MIAM?
This is similar to a separate MIAM, but you come to the meeting together and agree to receive the information regarding mediation in the same room. This usually takes 45 minutes. However, you will see the mediator separately for 10-15 minutes to begin with to provide the mediator with some background information. If after hearing about mediation you would both like to proceed and if time allows, you can proceed straight into your first mediation session. A joint MIAM costs £75 each (£150 for both). If you then start mediation you will be charged for the time spent at a rate of £126 per person per hour.
What is a C100 form?
A C100 form is the form used to apply to the courts for a contact or residency order for children. Usually the courts expect mediation to be attempted first (although this is not necessary if there has been evidenced domestic violence) but mediation can be a good way to sort out any issues with contact. To get a C100 form you need to attend a MIAM as explained above.
What is a Form A?
The Form A is the document used to start a financial application to Court in divorce or civil partnership proceedings. If you have a dispute regarding property or finances that cannot be resolved in mediation then you will need to apply to the Court by using a Form A. This can only be provided after your have attended a MIAM.
Normally we schedule one and a half hours for each session (costing £189 each inclusive of VAT). However sometimes sessions finish earlier so you will only be charged for the time taken.
Shuttled Mediation (mediating in separate rooms)
Mediation doesn’t always have to take place in the same room we offer something called shuttled mediation which means clients arrive at separate times and sit separately throughout the mediation session and we ensure that clients leave at separate times. Mediation works best if you can sit together but can be just as successful sat apart, how mediation takes place either together or separately is your choice and something the mediator will discuss with you at your assessment meeting. We will not force you at any point to sit with your ex-partner.
Are There Any Hidden Costs?
We do not charge extra for simple letters or telephone calls. If a Summary of Proposals or Open Financial Summary is prepared we would charge each person an hour extra for the preparation of each of these documents. It is sometimes useful after a session to receive an ‘outcomes’ letter from the mediator, confirming what was discussed or outlining issues: if this is a lengthy letter we would charge each of you £25 but the mediator will ask before preparing this document.
We like clients to feel reassured that they will not receive a large bill at any point during the process and we ask that they pay at the end of each meeting as people usually find this helpful for budgeting purposes. If however you are unable to pay for the whole session on the day we can discuss a standing order scheme or a payment system that works for you and your budget.