Family Mediation Helping couples achieve a future focused resolution

Family Mediation Services

Family mediation services help to cut through the stress, emotion and arguments that often arise – often with good reason – when trying to settle cases that concern relationships such as marriage, civil partnerships and parenthood.

Mediators work carefully and diligently to make sure issues are resolved before they can escalate into insurmountable disagreements, all while offering an unbiased and positive voice on proceedings.

In fact, family mediation is so successful that it is now mandatory to at least consider using mediators in most family law cases, including civil partnership dissolution and divorce, as well as cases that affect children and the family’s money.

Because of this, it is very likely that you will be required to attend a MIAM before a family law court will even accept your application – and your case may be adjourned if the court is not satisfied that you have had this introductory meeting.

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What is a MIAM?

A MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting) is an introductory session either in person or by telephone to discuss what is involved in the mediation process. This is sometimes known as a ‘first meeting’. It is now a legal requirement to attend one of these sessions when you begin divorce proceedings.

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What is the process of family mediation?

Mediation starts with an email or telephone call.

We have offices in central Manchester on Deansgate, Altrincham, Warrington and Northwich allowing us to serve clients from across Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

If you’re enquiring about a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) we can arrange a convenient time for this to take place – either in person or by telephone.

There’s no obligation during our early contact with you, and we’ll make sure you have a timetabled, costed plan for your mediation before we proceed. In most cases the process is as follows:

• First contact (email or telephone).

• No-obligation initial chat.

• Timetabled and costed mediation plan.

• MIAM with both parties in person or by phone.

• Mediation sessions as required.

• Final summary drawn up for solicitors.

• Ongoing support and guidance.

• Faster and less stressful closure.

Ultimately the main aim of mediation is to make the whole process easier, faster and less stressful.

Sessions can take different forms – you might meet your mediator individually, or together, or in separate rooms with the mediator passing between the two.

This last method is known as ‘shuttle mediation’ and is an effective way to make progress in cases where you prefer not to speak directly or face-to-face with one another.

In family mediation cases involving children, sessions can also be established to talk to the children and find out what they want for the future, including for example where they want to live.

Mediators can even consult grandparents and ensure they are involved in deciding what’s best for their grandchildren – often they can be a valuable additional voice with a slightly more independent perspective.

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How much does family mediation cost?

One major benefit of family mediation is that it typically costs a fraction as much as going directly to court. A mediation session costs around as little as £165 per person and, if everyone is willing (and your experienced mediator will facilitate this mindset), it is not unusual for your mediator to help you come to a satisfactory agreement within no more than three sessions. This means you may pay no more than £700, compared to the staggering legal and court costs which can range from £7000 to £10,000. While some cases are more complex, it’s worth remembering that the savings made via mediation far outweigh the legal costs. Because of this, if your case takes longer to reach a final agreement that can be ratified by the courts, it is likely that doing so via mediation will save you even more, compared with paying for the equivalent amount of court time.

Why does mediation work?

There are lots of reasons why mediation works. Part of it is down to the Marcia Mediation team, which consists of senior mediators with many successful cases behind them. It’s a method that has been tried and tested, and can be trusted, backed up by professional training and accreditation – and Marcia Mediation founder Marcia Lister is qualified to deliver this training too.

But it also comes down to the parties involved in the case, whether that’s just the two parties of a divorcing couple or involves children and extended family. It goes without saying that in most cases, you are best equipped to make decisions that will affect your lifestyle, finances and family structure for the long-term future. Mediators respect this by listening to the opinions of everybody involved, and proposing solutions that are fair, unbiased and mutually acceptable. In doing so, they draw on their training, experience and natural empathy to find the best possible outcome for all concerned, with the minimum of stress, cost and delay. Crucially, this gives you much more control than if you allow a court to make those same decisions on your behalf – so you get a preferable outcome that also costs you less in time and money, making family mediation a truly win-win scenario.

What issues are discussed?

Finances

Our team of mediators can work with you to decide on the division of income, savings and assets, while helping you to prepared for and adjust to financial changes going forward. Importantly, we have experience of what is acceptable in court, such as preventing any individual party from suffering significant hardship following a separation. This means we can not only work towards an outcome that is fair for all concerned, but also one that can be ratified in court without any undue delays or additional costs.

Remember, living apart will almost always cost more than living together, so it is likely that one or both parties will see a drop in their standard of living to some extent. Divorce mediation helps to make sure that no one party is unfairly affected, or at risk of being driven into poverty due to the cost of separation.

Even where you are financially very comfortable, mediation can help to make sure family law proceedings reach a satisfactory conclusion without running up unnecessary and costly legal bills. In this way you preserve as much of your family finances as possible – even in acrimonious separations.

Disputes over finance, property, maintenance payments and child support can all derail what began as a fairly amicable divorce settlements or separation – and with the help of a mediator, you can get those proceedings back on track quickly, at low cost, and with a view to reaching a satisfactory conclusion without exhausting your own finances on legal fees.

As always, mediation is there to make sure all parties’ views are heard equally, with fair consideration given to everybody’s needs, including the separating partners and any dependents. The mediator is not there to take sides, but rather to act as a bridge over any impasse that may be reached, and to guide you towards an outcome that is mutually satisfactory for all concerned.

Children

Family mediation is fundamentally an inclusive process, and that means where children are involved, mediation can incorporate not only the biological parents’ points of view, but also those of step-parents, other family members and legal guardians, and the children themselves.

The importance of including children in legal processes that affect them is still receiving growing recognition not only within the legal sector and among families, but at parliamentary level – in 2015 the Justice Minister at the time, Simon Hughes, said that “for too long, children and young people have struggled to have their voices heard during the family court process”.

Mediation by definition gives a voice to all concerned, and ensures that no one person can shout louder than the rest; children, although young and likely less experienced, are by no means counted out of holding a valid point of view, especially on issues that will affect their future, such as custody, residency and guardianship.

It’s all too easy to exclude children from the conversation, but a mediator can help you to make sure you agree on arrangements that are best for them and for you. That can include talking directly with the children (age appropriate) – you can trust mediators to do this sensitively, and your children might find it easier to open up if you are not in the room at the time.

Our mediators are trained and accredited child inclusive mediators with many years of experience in this field. This gives us a unique ability to put across your child’s voice in a way that can be taken into account alongside the opinions of the adults, and to make sure that they are listened to in the final agreement that is reached.

Family mediation with children is also a two-way street, and allows the legal process itself to feed back to young people who are involved in the case at hand – a means by which to provide reassurance and a sense of inclusion, and to prepare children for the eventual outcomes of the case.

Even where it is not appropriate or even not possible to engage children in the legal process itself – for example because they are very young – mediation has become the go-to option for family law procedures especially where children are affected.

Mediation provides parents with some emotional space to discuss their children’s futures via a mediator, who can help to make sure both parties’ views are heard, and to keep the discussions under control if they begin to get heated or emotional.

This helps to avoid distress for the parents when settling a divorce, while steering the process towards a positive outcome for all concerned, with a particular focus on achieving a swift and positive result for the young people who are affected, and who are often the most vulnerable individuals in any instance of family law.

Grandparents

Despite ongoing work by campaign groups, grandparents in England still have very few rights when it comes to their grandchildren during and after divorce proceedings. This can be very distressing for grandparents who have been closely involved in their grandchildren’s upbringing – and this can range from occasional babysitting to being regular closely involved caregivers. In cases where it is appropriate to do so, mediators can make sure grandparents are considered when deciding on the future living arrangements of the children. This may involve speaking directly with the grandparents to find out what they think would be best, or offering an independent option as to what might be the best arrangements for the children. Mediation is about making sure everybody gets the outcome that is best for them. That might not always include grandparents, but when it does, this is a highly effective way to ensure that their voice is heard in a way that it would not be in court.

 

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