Couples who want to use the Courts are obliged to be assessed to see if mediation is a better way of reaching a settlement. This is known as a MIAM meeting.
If mediation is chosen, then couples will attend meetings supported by a mediator. The mediator is neutral between the parties but can give generic advice as to the legal process in order that a realistic and fair settlement can be achieved.
There are many positive reasons to choose mediation. It should be a quicker and a cheaper option to agree the finances on separation. Based on the statistics, it works in the vast majority of cases; two out of three couples who start mediation reach a settlement.
The most important benefit is that it is a process that gives you more ownership of the decisions arrived at because you are actively involved in them. You are both supported by a skilled mediator who knows how to help you move through sticking points. The mediators will often work day-to-day as a family lawyer so are also well placed to guide you on issues such as child maintenance, benefits, tax, pensions, wills and property. The mediator will help you to negotiate a reasonable and, most importantly, sustainable agreement.
Separation cannot be pain-free but it can be less adversarial if you are supported by a mediator, helping you focus on an agreed future with a fair and informed view of your respective entitlements.
Mediators use a range of skills and techniques to assist the process and are particularly alive to any power or knowledge imbalance in the couple dynamic.
This can involve having lawyers representing each party in the process (hybrid mediation). Financial advisors and financial neutrals can also be a valuable source of help, as can family consultants with a therapeutic background.
In high conflict cases, shuttle mediation may be proposed. This involves mediation conducted with the clients in separate rooms for some, or all, of the process and the mediator moves between the clients to assist their negotiations.