Mediation has been an alternative to court hearings for some time now, but its popularity is rising in part thanks to its relative affordability in comparison to the cost of running a case to court with solicitors and barristers. The court is understandably keen for parties to attempt mediation before taking up court time, and indeed in certain cases, for instance, matters involving children or finances on divorce, it is a requirement that parties have formally considered mediation before the court will entertain an application. This will involve both parties attending a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (a MIAM) to decide whether mediation is something which could work for them.
At a mediation appointment, parties are encouraged to speak openly to each other and with the mediator to see whether anything can be agreed, or if the points of disagreement can be narrowed at least. The mediator is trained to help parties approach issues in the way that a court would approach them so that parties concentrate on trying to agree solutions which are fair and manageable without having to go to court. Mediation does not necessarily mean sitting down face to face. If parties have particular concerns about having conversations in this manner, then the mediator can facilitate what is known as ‘Shuttle Mediation’, attending each party in turn.
Mediation can be a less expensive way of reaching agreement than using solicitors for the entire duration of a case, but there is a place for solicitors’ input following mediation. If, at mediation, an agreement is reached, we can help draw the agreement up into a court order so that it is binding on both parties and gives the parties certainty. If mediation is partially successful and some things are agreed, or some issues narrowed, we can help parties to reach agreement on the remaining issues. If mediation fails and the parties do not manage to agree anything, we can help to continue negotiations through solicitors or alternatively to make an application to court for a judge to decide how the parties are to deal with things.
With a view to having the most productive mediation possible, parties should be as prepared as possible. For instance, if parties are mediating in relation to splitting finances, they should try to obtain property valuations, bank statements, pension valuations, details as to their ability to get a mortgage, wage slips etc. Many clients also like to take independent legal advice prior to attending a mediation appointment, so that they understand what sort of an outcome would be fair in the circumstances.
Even if mediation fails, parties are often better informed and better equipped to handle the ongoing case through solicitors and at court.
The Covid 19 Pandemic has not impacted upon the ability to facilitate mediation appointments and local mediators are working remotely.
If you have any questions about the mediation process, or if you would like to engage us in finalising an agreement reached at mediation or to instruct us after a failed mediation, please do get in touch with our Family Department. We offer a fixed fee initial consultation appointment which clients often find useful for this service.
If you think that a more amicable approach to sorting out disagreements sounds good, but you do not feel confident to mediate without a solicitor, please do let us know and we can advise you on sorting out your disagreements in the least confrontational manner.