The dictionary definition of mediation will tell you it’s intervention or arbitration in an attempt to resolve a dispute, and while this is a good simple summary of what mediators do, it lacks some of the finer detail.
Here are five common mistakes about what mediators do, and even more importantly, about what mediators don’t do when handling your case – and why not.
1. Mediators don’t take sides
Impartiality is a defining feature of what mediators do. They are not there to represent either party as an individual, but rather to serve as a bridge across the gap between you.
That means they can help you to compromise and to see the other party’s point of view, and can also help to make other voices heard, for example any children affected by your separation, or other family members who you want to be represented in future arrangements.
2. Mediators are not marriage counsellors
Your mediator is not there to try and patch up your relationship. Quite the opposite in fact – their role is to help you to divorce faster and more amicably.
That’s not to say that you can’t have a positive relationship with your ex-partner moving forwards though, and in many cases mediation allows separated couples to stay on good speaking terms, which is good news for future family occasions where both need to be present.
3. Mediators are not compulsory
This is a common misconception in recent years, as in family law cases it is now compulsory to consider mediation as an alternative to court action.
You are not required to use a mediator – if you have considered the option and decide not to, that’s fine – but in the vast majority of cases it can be much faster, cheaper and less stressful to use mediation, which is why it has been made mandatory to at least consider doing so.
4. Mediators are not lawyers
Mediators can help you to understand points of law, they may even hold legal qualifications, but in their role as a mediator, they are not there to act as lawyers.
The key difference here is that although they may explain the law to you, they are not there to advise you on it like divorce solicitors might do, but instead have a focus on getting things moving forwards as amicably as possible to help you to reach a stress-free, mutually acceptable resolution.
5. Mediators are not legally binding
You don’t come out of mediation with a legally binding verdict. Instead, your mediator prepares a document that you can give to the judge, to make sure their ruling takes into account your wishes and the outcome of any negotiations during your mediation.
Again, it’s a way to bridge the gap – so you don’t face the stress of having to express those opinions in court yourself, you avoid a lot of the court fees, and you still have an influence on the judge’s ruling which IS legally binding.