Deborah Whicker joined our Family Law team in Milton Keynes in February and brings particular expertise as an Accredited Family Mediator. Here she introduces us to Mediation and how it works.
What is Mediation?
Family Mediation is a process where two people, for example a separating couple or other family members, agree to an appointment with a Mediator. The aim of the process is to help sort out some of the practical details which may relate to separation, divorce, civil partnerships, child contact arrangements, parenting plans, grandparents, financial matters or any other issues there may be. Usually mediation takes place between the two parties and the Mediator and is usually between one to three sessions lasting approximately 90 minutes each time.
What is a Mediator?
A Mediator is a trained professional who is neutral and impartial. Their role is to help the parties to reach their own informed and workable decisions by way of discussion and negotiations. A Mediator cannot provide legal advice but can provide legal and other information as well as guidance with sign posting to other professionals if necessary that might be helpful to a case, for example, Independent Financial Advisors, Counselling Services or Family Therapy.
Why is Mediation Important?
There is now an expectation in family law matters that all parties are to be encouraged to explore alternative ways in resolving issues other than going to Court. From April 2014 the consideration of Mediation became compulsory and to start any Court proceedings an applicant must show they have considered mediation first and usually attended at least one appointment called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a recognised Accredited Family Mediator and have obtained a document signed from the Mediator.
How does the Mediation Process work?
A party can either refer themselves or be referred by their lawyers. The referring party will then be invited to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting appointment (MIAM) with an Accredited Family Mediator where the Mediator will assess the suitability of mediation, provide information on the process, what the next steps are, and also to assess whether or not legal aid might be available for them. After the first MIAM appointment, if mediation has been assessed as suitable and both parties are willing to proceed, the first mediation session appointment will be set up as soon as is mutually convenient for all parties.
What is an Accredited Family Mediator?
An accredited Family Mediator is a Mediator who has been trained and competence assessed by The Family Mediation Council (FMC) to provide a high quality of service to the public and to meet the standards set by them. Accredited Family Mediators are registered with the FMC www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk . To find an Accredited Family Mediator you might find it helpful to contact The Family Mediators Association on 01355-244594 or visit them at www.thefma.co.uk, or Resolution on 01689-820272 or visit www.resolution.org.uk. Alternatively, information may be obtained from a local Family Court www.courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk.
How much cost is involved?
Public Funding (Legal Aid) is available for mediation although not all Mediation Services are able to offer it. If a party thinks they may be eligible for legal aid funding it might be helpful for to contact an appropriate service in the first instance. Providers can be checked at the above links.
If legal aid is not available to a party there will be a cost involved which varies from service to service and will often depend on what issues are needed to be covered, how many sessions are required and what outcome documents are prepared.
If you would like further information about mediation, please contact Deborah on 01908 660966 or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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