When a marriage or long-term relationship ends, there are numerous details to work out. Financial support and child custody arrangements can be challenging to navigate, but family mediation is a valuable line of support.
A mediator will work with couples to discuss their needs and help them make arrangements. According to research from the Family Mediation Council, by far the majority of cases are successful, making it a beneficial process for most families.
Many families wonder if mediation is legally binding; the answer is no but proposals agreed will be submitted to your solicitors who can then advise how they can be drafted up as a binding consent order in the context of your divorce proceedings.
In this guide, we’ll explore how family mediation works and reveal its legalities.
Family mediation offers many benefits for couples who want to avoid going to court and are willing to reach an agreement in terms of childcare and financial support.
In the UK, family mediation must be without prejudice, which means people can freely discuss their options and work with a mediator to explore various solutions—without being legally obligated to enter them immediately.
Mediators must be impartial throughout the process and are there to listen to both sides and help you come to an agreement. They can’t tell you what to do or side with either party but they can certainly guide you towards proposals that are likely to work and can explore all available options with you.
Once both parties agree, the mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the joint proposals and enabling each person to review it in more detail.
While the document has no legal implications, it makes proceedings easier and can help your solicitor turn the proposed agreement into a formal one.
Both parties can also settle any disputes in court and apply to have their memorandum turned into a legally binding document.
We’ll cover when family mediation becomes legally binding soon, but it’s also essential to understand why the process is so important.
Family mediation might seem like extra work, but it can make the entire process easier and give each person a chance to voice their concerns in an impartial environment.
The mediator’s role is to listen and facilitate open conversation, which is why it offers a multitude of benefits.
Solicitor’s fees can mount up, especially when neither party can reach an agreement, but mediation fees are lower.
The FMC estimates that the average session costs £140 an hour per person.
Each party can control the speed at which they reach a decision, with the mediator being there to encourage open communication but not interfere with the process.
There’s also more autonomy as each party can decide how to settle disputes without pressure from the courts. In mediation you decide your own outcome; it is not imposed upon you by a judge.
Perhaps most importantly, mediation can often result in better outcomes in terms of the agreement itself and the relationship between both parties. Exploring all viable options makes it easier to see which arrangement offers the most flexibility.
When each party is happy, their relationship will improve, which is vital when co-parenting.
Once you reach an agreement, you can consider with your solicitor whether and if so how the proposals should be drafted up as a consent order.
Let’s look at how you can turn mediation decisions into legal agreements.
In the UK, any financial or property arrangements are considered once and for all decisions, so many couples make them the focus of mediation sessions.
When each party reaches an agreement regarding who will keep the property and whether there’s any spousal support, they can apply for a financial consent order, which the courts issue.
However, the courts will only issue these orders if you’re in the process of obtaining a divorce and have a conditional order.
Once you agree on financial and property arrangements, you can get a solicitor to draft a legally binding agreement.
For some couples, coming to an arrangement that benefits their children is the most important thing, and mediators are instrumental in helping parents decide on child arrangements.
For example, deciding where the children live primarily and designating certain weekends or holidays means the divorce causes minimal disruption to the family unit.
Some parents apply for a child arrangement order. It’s more in-depth and can be beneficial for some families, but most find the general agreement is more than adequate.
As you can see, family mediation is a complex process .While the initial memorandum isn’t legally binding, it’s easy to move on to a child arrangement order or a financial order.
When both parties are happy with the arrangement, making it legal ensures you can move on and maintain stability for yourselves and the children.
If you’d like to access reputable family mediation services, our dedicated team offers impartial support throughout your separation talks.
We’ll help you reach an agreement with minimal conflict.
Please feel free to contact us today. We look forward to supporting you.
Mediation agreements aren’t initially legally binding, so you can discuss all options before going to court.
Mediation is voluntary. Other options are court process or arbitration.
Yes, they are. All sessions are confidential and count as privileged information, which means anything you say to your mediator isn’t inadmissible as court evidence. The only exceptions to confidentiality are issues of safeguarding or financial irregularity.
If you have any questions, call us on 0161 425 3940 or fill out this form