As a solicitor I have always been an advocate of mediation. In most circumstances I advise my clients it’s likely to be the most cost effective and efficient means to resolve their disputes. So what is family mediation and why do I place so much stock in it?
- It is conducted by a neutral third party – the mediator
Their job is to facilitate the discussions, help the parties explore all the options and signpost them where required to sources of professional help, such as legal or financial advice or therapeutic input if of benefit. Having a third party to facilitate discussions is also often helpful for the parties in keeping lines of communication open at a time when they are usually in conflict. Most people wish to separate amicably and mediation can be a more constructive route to achieving this.
- Both parties are accountable for their decisions
The mediator is not responsible for making the decisions and they cannot force an outcome on the parties like a Judge can. The benefit of this is if agreement can be reached that is down to hard work and commitment of the parties. Experience has shown me such agreements are much more likely to be kept to!
- It can save the parties money
Often mediation is cheaper than litigation. It is very important to take legal advice at the end of the process to make sure what you have agreed is made legally binding, the parties can limit their legal costs by doing the hard work of getting to an agreement during the mediation process. This allows them to preserve monies that may have been spent on legal fees for the benefit of the family and their future.
- It is flexible
The parties can deal with multiple issues during mediation whether they are to do with finances, children or isolated one off issues which may crop up. If in court they may need to make numerous application to do so.
- It is confidential
Discussions during mediation are on a ‘without prejudice’. This means if mediation is not successful what has been said cannot be repeated in Court proceedings. As a result the parties can feel free to have a completely open and frank discussion about potential settlement options and not fear, as many people do in negotiations that they need to keep their cards close to their chest.