While there are a host of resources available to couples wanting to keep their relationship on the right tracks, it is an unfortunate fact of life that some partnerships will not stand the test of time. When dealing with the emotional, financial and practical stresses of a break-up causes friction, some people turn to mediation to navigate themselves towards a peaceful resolution. We spoke to a selection of industry experts to find out more about the service. Click the names below to find out more…


Kelly Christodoulou, Associate Solicitor, Hodge Jones & Allen

What is mediation?
Family mediation is where an independent professional mediator helps separated partners to discuss and reach an agreement about their finances, arrangements for children or both.

Who is it for?
Mediation is for couples who have separated or who are in the process of divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership.

At what stage should couples seek it?
Couples can engage in mediation at any point after they have separated whether that is immediately after the relationship has come to an end, after a petition for divorce has been sent to Court or during any ongoing Court proceedings to deal with finances or arrangements for the children. Before an application can be made to the Court to deal with finances or arrangements for children the Court requires the person making the application to have attempted mediation and to have evidence to show that they have done so. This evidence comes in the shape of a form signed by a mediator.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Mediation helps couples to reach an agreement after the breakdown of their relationship. Marriage counseling helps couples to work through the difficulties in their relationship and remain married.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
Court proceedings are expensive, stressful and can be drawn out over many months. Mediation is less expensive, less stressful and takes much less time to reach a conclusion. Mediation also gives couples the power to decide what they want to do rather than that decision being in the hands of a Judge.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
The most common issues handled by mediators are finances and arrangements for children. This can include what will happen with the family home, the amount of maintenance to be paid for the children, who the children will live and when they will stay with the other parent.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Mediation can help to resolve issues with extended family members for example agreeing how your children will keep in touch with their grandparents or step families. This can either be through the partners reaching an agreement or by extended family members being invited to take part in the mediation.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
Any agreement reached at mediation is written up in what is called a mediation agreement. The mediation agreement is then signed by both partners. However, the mediation agreement is not legally binding until it has been approved by a Court. In cases relating to finances the agreement must be sent to Court in the form of a consent order so that the agreement reached can be approved by Court and the issues relating to the finances can be finalised. It is not always necessary for mediation agreements relating to children to be made into formal Court Orders. If parents have been able to agree the arrangements between themselves without making an application to Court then there is no need to send the agreement to Court. If an application has already been made to Court and mediation is taking place part way through the Court proceedings then the agreement can be sent to the Court in the form of a consent order for the Court to approve.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
The costs of mediation vary from mediator to mediator but most will offer fixed fees per hour or per session. You may also be eligible for legal aid which will cover the costs of the initial session (often called a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM)) and will sometimes cover the costs of future sessions. Even if only one person is eligible for legal aid the costs of the MIAM and the cost of the first full mediation session will be covered for both people.

How long does the process last?
The number of mediation sessions needed depends on the couple and the number of issues to be agreed. The initial session (often called a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM)) usually lasts an hour and can either take place with both partners present or each partner can have a separate session. Following the MIAM, joint sessions will take place to enable the couple to discuss the issues and reach a final agreement. Some couples may be able to reach an agreement after 2 or 3 sessions but other couples may need more sessions.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
Being the partner of a soldier does not pose any problems to the mediation process. If a soldier is on deployment it may be possible for one partner to be with the mediator and the other partner to join the session remotely using a webcam or setting up a conference call.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
Family mediation helps couples who have separated. If you want to work on your marriage you should seek marriage counselling or couples therapy.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
If a soldier is on deployment it may be possible for one partner to be with the mediator and the other partner to join the session remotely using a webcam or setting up a conference call. It will also be possible for financial information and mediation agreements setting out the final agreement to be sent by email. You should talk to your mediator about this when you first contact them as different mediators will have different ways of dealing with one partner not being able to attend in person.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
If you are attending mediation in order to reach an agreement about your finances it is very important that you disclose all of your financial affairs to the mediator. You need to provide the details of all of your assets and liabilities so the mediator can help you and your partner to reach a final agreement that is fair. If you do not provide the full details of your financial position and the final agreement is approved by the Court based on the information that you provided, it is possible for your partner to apply to the Court to have the order set aside and a new order made in its place.

Hodge Jones & Allen

Catherine Wheatcroft, Family Law Group

What is mediation?
Mediation is an effective way of resolving disputes without the need to go to court. It involves an independent mediator who helps both sides come to an agreement relating to their separation, children and finances. The mediator will help both parties to reach a solution and to arrive at an outcome that both parties are happy to accept. Mediation is a voluntary process and will only take place if both parties agree.

Who is it for?
Mediation is for separating couples who have issues to resolve around their separation, children or finances.

At what stage should couples seek it?
It can be before the separation, when disputes start to arise or at any point that the parties feel that the time is right or they are ready to engage in the process.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counselling?
Mediation focuses on dealing with aspects of the separation where disputes are arising and looking forward to a future as a separated couple. Marriage counselling is about helping to resolve issues with a view to resolving them and continuing in the relationship.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
Mediation is non-confrontational and enables the couples to make the decisions about child arrangements, finances or separation in a cost effective way. It is also a much quicker process than going to court.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
The most common issues arising are Child arrangements following separation and dealing with the financial aspects of a separation.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Yes mediation can help if the issues relate to child arrangements or financial disputes.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
Agreements in mediation only become legally binding if they are legalised through a solicitor.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
Up to a maximum of £500 each depending on how many sessions of mediation take place, compared to spending on average between £2,000 and £5,000 going through a court process. Legal Aid is available with mediation for qualifying parties.

How long does the process last?
An average case can take anything from 1 to 3 months depending on the issues in dispute.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
No

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
No because mediation is not the same as counselling and is for couples looking to or going through the separation process.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
Yes we do have Skype facilities and can offer remote meetings, but this is only available to private paying clients.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
Yes as both parties are required to sign an agreement to mediate which requires parties to provide full and frank financial disclosure.

Family Law Group

Mary Shaw, Family and Collaborative Lawyer and Family Mediator, David Gray Solicitors

What is mediation?
Mediation gets people to a place in a safe space where the can reach agreements. You don’t have to be friends or like each other for mediation to work, in fact you can have very different views to each other in mediation. Mediation is suitable whether people already have lawyers and are going to court, or where they don’t and they aren’t. Mediation is quicker, less expensive and can provide good long term fixes to your separation problems. Mediation works.

Who is it for?
Mediation is for most people who have separation issues or post-separation issues to resolve about their children or children in their family , and about money and property including pensions

At what stage should couples seek it?
Going to court never leaves you in a better place with a former partner and so getting information about mediation  at an early stage is best as it can save time and money and avoid the situation with a former partner becoming more difficult. This will significantly help your children.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Marriage counselling can either  help you to repair a relationship (this is always worth exploring-as people can assume that a relationship isn’t fixable when it may be) or it can help with the emotional aspects of separating so that you can truly say goodbye to each other as partners and hello to each other as parents if you have children. Mediation recognises that a separation is inevitable or has happened and supports and facilitates you making the necessary emotional, practical, financial and  legal decisions that you need to make to deal with all of your separation “stuff” so that you can  get on with your lives and be good parents to your children.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
How long have you got? There are many reasons why court should be avoided.

  •    Your children will benefit hugely from you resolving things between you rather than going to court. Parental conflict can have serious long term consequences for children.
  •    Maintaining control over the outcome. Many people are genuinely shocked to hear that there isn’t one legal “answer” to their problem and that there is a range of outcomes that a court could order. Mediation avoids that judge “lottery” which can leave both of you unhappy with the end result after a court hearing.
  •    The nature of the court process- it’s adversarial and focusses on differences between you and points to score rather than solutions and common ground. It makes it harder to work together as parents after the court proceedings are over.
  •    Cost- much, much more expensive than mediation- money your family will need to pay for 2 homes
  •    Time- court can take many, many months all then  while you are in an “emotional waiting room”
  •    Flexibility in various ways:
  1. Mediation meetings can take place when and where you need them, including online.
  2. Courts concern themselves only with things which are legally relevant regardless of whether they are important to you. In mediation anything of concern can be looked at and dealt with.
  3. Mediation doesn’t follow a rigid timetable- it can be used just when you need it and at a pace that is as fast or as slow as you both need.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
Family mediators deal with all of the usual problems arising from the breakdown of a relationship, e.g.childcare arrangements, introduction of step-parents, choices of school and other parenting decisions, the financial aspects of separation – property, personal possessions, income, pensions, debts– and how and when to separate or divorce.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Yes. Step-parent issues and grandparental contact with children can be mediated.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
In most separations the court will not want to interfere in the arrangements for your children and will make no order unless one is really necessary. However if it is necessary, or in financial cases, agreements made in mediation can be made legally binding by getting an order from the court by consent. In financial cases people often wish to do this to achieve a long term clean break. Consent order applications are in most cases a paper exercise and it won’t feel like you have “been to court”.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
Significantly less than for a conventional court process or solicitor negotiation by letter (which in my view rarely if ever works, costs more than people might anticipate and invariably leaves them in a worse place with each other). There is legal aid for mediation (for people on very low incomes and their ex-partner gets an initial free meeting too). Typically a three-session financial mediation might cost £600-800 each if neither person is eligible for legal aid.

How long does the process last?
This varies but it is usually considerably quicker than other process options. Typically the process can take a few months where financial information has to be put together. In a children case only one meeting may be needed but some people try new arrangements for a while and then return to mediation to discuss and fine tune things .

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
When soldiers are deployed away face to face meetings can be impossible for much of the time but it is possible to meet online to avoid delay.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
Mediation is not the same as relationship counselling. You are very wise to explore whether your relationship can be fixed before you make any other decisions and Relate offers very good relationship support both face to face and online.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
This is possible. Your partner would need webcam, complete privacy and the ability and willingness to be alone during the meetings.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
In a financial case this is usual as it is very difficult to have a trusting and open discussion about solutions and options if the financial situation isn’t transparent for everyone including the mediator. Importantly, if you want to achieve finality and get a binding agreement full financial disclosure is essential.

David Gray Solicitors

Matthew Drew, Head of the Family Department and Finance Partner, Goughs Solicitors

What is mediation?
It is a form of “alternative dispute resolution”. An independent and trained Family Mediator will assist a married or separating couple to resolve disputes or disagreements without resorting to court proceedings.

Who is it for?
All families can access mediation services, whether married or cohabiting, whether they have or don’t have children.

At what stage should couples seek it?
As soon as they reach a point where they cannot effectively communicate or negotiate with each other over any areas of disagreement. For many couples they will initially seek legal advice in order to establish their rights.  At this stage they may also exchange financial information and documentation so that each has a full picture of the other’s financial circumstances. In many straightforward situations, negotiations through solicitors can provide the best route to an agreement being reached, but in other circumstances the solicitor may refer their client to an independent mediator.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Mediation is aimed at resolving disputes, particularly those relating to the couple’s children or their finances. Marriage counselling is more usually aimed at helping the couple to repair their relationship and to reconcile. It is also sometimes used to assist the parties to come to terms with the end of their relationship, so that they both may move on and, if there are children, to maintain a better relationship in the years ahead.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
Court proceedings are nearly always very stressful for the parties and more expensive in terms of legal fees. In addition, over recent years many local courts have closed resulting in frequent long delays in proceedings being issued and hearing dates being allocated. For some couples, however, their differences are so great that only court proceedings will bring an end to their dispute.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?

Assisting couples in resolving financial issues is very common, particularly dealing with issues of the division of assets and the payment of maintenance. Otherwise, mediators also help parents to reach agreement over the arrangements for children following on from a separation. This particularly focuses on which parent the children will usually live with and suitable arrangements for contact with their other parent.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Yes, mediation can certainly assist with wider family issues involving extended family members.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
It is usual for an agreement to be recorded in a document called a Memorandum of Understanding. This is not binding and the couple will often then refer back to their respective solicitors for advice as to whether the terms of the agreement are fair and reasonable given their particular set of circumstances. For divorcing couples the agreement would then be formalised by a binding Consent Order approved by a judge.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
Some mediators charge an hourly rate whilst others charge per session. Others may have a sliding scale and some will charge a fixed fee. So it can vary quite a lot and also varies from region to region! Some mediators will charge a reduced fee for an initial assessment meeting. The best advice is to firstly identify a mediator, perhaps one recommended by their solicitor, and to then phone them and ask about their charges.

How long does the process last?
This depends on the complexity of the dispute and the amount of disagreement between the parties. At least two or three mediation sessions are often needed and the timescale can be dependent on the availability of the mediator and the parties to fit those meetings in. Most successful mediation cases will take a couple of months. If more then four or five sessions are required then it is often less likely that the couple would be able to eventually reach an agreement.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
No. Mediation is open to the majority of couples but is obviously not suitable if there is a history of abusive behaviour or domestic violence.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
It may possibly help, but if the intention is to save the marriage then professional couples counselling would be the better option.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely? 
Mediation usually takes place with both parties being present in the same room with the mediator. Sometimes, when one party feels vulnerable or intimidated, the mediator may agree to a form of “shuttle mediation” when the parties are in separate rooms and the mediator passes back and forth between the two. Remote mediation is rare, but possible. There are some mediators who would consider this either using Skype or even just over the phone. It is not ideal, but may be the only option for a deployed member of the Forces.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
Yes. If the mediation is aimed at trying to achieve a financial settlement between the parties, the mediator will usually ask both to complete a financial disclosure form and sometimes provide documentation in support. It is wise for all couples to provide full and frank disclosure of their financial circumstances as if they are later found to have concealed an asset it may lead to the financial consent order being set aside.

Goughs Solicitors

Deborah Prance, Partner, Solicitor and Mediator, Wheelers Solicitors

What is mediation?
Mediation is a confidential out of court process whereby parties aim to reach agreement, usually about financial matters or arrangements for children, with the assistance of an impartial third party known as a mediator.

Who is it for?
Family mediation is for parties whose relationship has broken down and who wish to try and sort out issues arising from the breakdown outside the court process in the hope that an agreed arrangement can be made, thereby avoiding the cost and stress of going to court.

At what stage should couples seek it?
Before issuing any court proceedings but it is usually beneficial to obtain some legal advice before attending mediation. It is also more likely to be successful after both parties have at least begun to come terms with the breakdown of the relationship.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Mediation is a process whereby parties who accept that their relationship has ended, try to sort out by agreement financial matters, including housing, or arrangements for any children such as where they shall live and when they should see them. Marriage counselling is for those who wish to try and save their relationship.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
It is generally better to sort matters out by agreement, rather than having a court decide, particularly if there are children and the parties are going to have to continue to deal with each other concerning matters relating to them. It is also usually quicker and cheaper, particularly if they would otherwise each be instructing lawyers to represent them in court.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
Financial matters such as how assets and income will be divided between the parties to enable them each to accommodate and support themselves and any children in the future; arrangements for the children including where they shall live and how they will divide their time between the parties.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Mediation can help resolve these issues and it is possible to include wider family members in mediation where this is agreed.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
Agreements made through mediation are not legally binding until incorporated either in, say, a separation agreement or a consent order on divorce. At the end of mediation, the mediator will usually draw up a Memorandum of Understanding containing the proposals which the parties have provisionally agreed in mediation so that they can then obtain legal advice and a lawyer can draw up the appropriate document thereafter to ensure that the final agreement is legally binding. It is important that the parties who usually attend mediation without lawyers, know that they will not be finally committed until they have been able to obtain legal advice.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
This depends on how many sessions are required but a typical cost would be £1500 to £2000 excluding VAT shared between the parties.

How long does the process last?
This depends on the issues to be resolved but mediation to sort out financial matters can take three to six months allowing for proper financial disclosure to be collated.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
There can be logistical problems in getting the two parties together although some mediators will conduct mediation by Skype.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
No. Mediation is not about saving a relationship. Some sort of relationship counselling would be better for this.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
Some mediators will conduct mediation by Skype.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
Yes. It is essential that both parties give full and frank disclosure. Otherwise, if whatever has been hidden comes to light later, the whole agreement can be re-opened.

Wheelers Solicitors

Jill Cameron, Matrimonial Specialist, Scotts Wright Solicitors

What is mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a couple (or other family members) agree to appoint a mutually acceptable third party (the mediator) to help them reach an informed decision on matters on which they can’t agree – for example, where will the children live when the parents’ divorce.

Who is it for?
Family mediation is for couples – whether married or not – and also for other family members, who may have issues between them that they are finding difficult to resolve.

At what stage should couples seek it?
If you, as a couple, have come to the decision that you are going to separate, and there are issues between you that you can’t resolve by yourselves, then mediation can be a way forward and, ideally, should be explored first before other avenues (such as going to court, for example).

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling – from Relate or any other similar organisation – will help you try to stay together as a couple. Mediation is for couples who have already decided that they want to separate, but need help to work out mutually acceptable decisions and arrangements for the future.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
Research has shown that couples who enter into mediation report that it:

  • Helps them stay in control
  • Helps them reduce conflict, and thereby reduces harm to the children
  • Helps them maintain a good relationship with their ex partner
  • Helps them reach a decision that they are both happy with, and stands the test of time

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
Family mediators commonly deal with issues relating to children – for example, who they see and who they live with. They also deal with finances (maintenance and pensions, for example) and property (what happens to the family home when you separate).

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Yes, grandparents, for example, who feel that they are losing touch with their grandchildren when the parents of those children separate, may find mediation useful and less confrontational than going to court.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
Mediation works best when it is supported by legal advice from your solicitor. An agreement reached in mediation is not binding until it is incorporated into a court order, or other form of legally binding agreement.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
There is no standard fee for mediation. Each mediator will charge different rates, although most charge by the hour. If you are eligible for public funding (legal aid), then the cost of your mediation will be paid for by the Legal Services Commission. The mediator will, generally, assess whether you are eligible for public funding at your first meeting and, if not, give you an outline of the likely costs involved.

How long does the process last?
This depends on your own particular circumstances. If you are only seeking help with one or two particular issues, then the process is likely to be quicker than if there are several areas of dispute, or if, for example, your financial affairs are more complicated than usual. The mediator, once he or she gets an idea as to what is involved, will be able to give you a realistic timescale.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
No, mediators deal with people from all walks of life throughout the mediation process. Even if your partner is stationed away from home, sessions can take place over the phone or even by Skype.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
Mediation isn’t to stop couples splitting up, it is to help couples work out how best to deal with their family for the future. If you are sure that you want to stay together, but are having problems in your marriage, then consider going to Relate, or any other similar counseling service.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
Yes, mediators will try hard to use whatever tools are available to them to ensure that both parties can actively participate. Telephone, Skype and email can all help facilitate this.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
If the mediator is working on financial issues for you, then he or she will need to have full information from you (and your partner) to be able to consider all options. Don’t forget that mediation is confidential, and the mediator will not pass any information (or any decision reached) on to anyone else, unless both you and your partner agree. There are certain exceptions to this such as, if it appears from what is said during mediation that the child (or a vulnerable adult) has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm.

Scotts Wright Solicitors

Juliet Mayhew, Partner – Family, Trethowans Solicitors

What is mediation?
Mediation is a safe space for confidential frank discussions about the arrangements for children and the finances.

Who is it for?
Families going through separation.

At what stage should couples seek it?
As early as possible, but mediation can help at any stage of the legal process to reduce conflict.

What’s the difference between mediation and marriage counseling?
Mediation deals with the legal aspects of relationship breakdown and helps couples to find workable solutions for their separation, rather than a reconciliation.

Why should couples consider mediation over court?
Mediation avoids the high legal costs and conflict of going to Court.  It fosters an effective co-parenting relationship post separation and reduces long term conflict to the benefit of the whole family.

What are the most common issues handled by mediators?
Arrangements for the children and the financial aspects of the marriage.

Can mediation help resolve issues with extended family members?
Mediation offers a creative space for conflict resolution that can be individually tailored to include the wider family whose interests may be pivotal to the arrangements.

Are agreements made through mediation legally binding?
When the mediation leads to a set of proposals that the parties are satisfied with, each of them will then take advice from their respective solicitors.  It is then the solicitors who create a legally binding agreement.

What can couples expect to pay for the service?
At the outset we will explain the basis of our charges and how these can be met.  The overall cost of mediation is likely to be less than a Court based process, even if you each instruct your own solicitors.

How long does the process last?
The length of the mediation will depend on the issues to be discussed.  Some people can resolve everything in one or two sessions, for others it takes longer.

Does being the partner of a soldier pose any problems to the mediation process?
There are various options available to accommodate a mediation if one party is overseas, for example video conferencing or skype can bring people together.

My relationship has hit rocky ground but I really don’t want a divorce. Is there a chance family mediation can save my marriage?
Mediation is intended to help you make decisions about your children and your finances on separation. If there is a chance to save the relationship, you should consult a marriage guidance counsellor or family therapist first.

My partner is deployed while I’m at home with the kids. Can he take part in mediation remotely?
There are various options available to accommodate a mediation if one party is overseas, for example video conferencing or skype can bring people together.

Do I need to disclose all of my financial affairs to a mediator?
If the mediation is about the finances, full and frank financial disclosure is an essential first step. It makes it possible to base the discussions on factual information. Financial disclosure is essential if the proposals reached in mediation are to be made in to a legally binding agreement.

Trethowans Solicitors

About The Author

Related Posts