Mediation is essentially a safe environment for two people to air, discuss, and hopefully resolve their difficulties.
It is facilitated by a mediator, who is there, essentially to “chair” the meeting, in other words to keep it on track and to ensure that both parties have a fair and equal chance to speak and to be heard and likewise to listen to what the other party has to say in their turn.
They are not referees and definitely not judges. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about family mediation so here are 5 “urban myths” on the subject along with the hard facts.
Mediation is the same as counselling
Counselling focuses on finding the reasons why a relationship is in trouble and tries to determine what change needs to take place in order to save that relationship (or to minimize the damage to the parties as they separate).
It can be extremely valuable, but it is usually a long-term process involving the recognition of a need for change. Mediation simply accepts the current situation as is, without judgement, and looks to find a way for both parties to move forward with their lives.
Mediation is about finding a way for couples to reconcile their differences
As previously mentioned, mediation is about couples finding a way forward. It may result in couples agreeing to reconcile their differences, but there are many other possible outcomes to the mediation process.
In short, mediation is not a way to “get your partner back” any more than it is a way to “get back at your partner”. It is basically intended to be a way to have a meaningful conversation with your partner.
Mediation can be legally enforced
In and of itself, mediation is just a framework in which to hold a productive conversation on a given topic (or topics). You may choose to convert any agreements made into a legally-binding format but that would be up to you (and your partner).
Mediation can be held against you in court
You and your partner can choose to tell a judge that you have been to mediation and agreed a route forward which you would like to present for their formal approval.
The judge does not have to agree to it, but would probably require a very compelling reason not too (such as reason to believe that one partner had been coerced into an unfavourable arrangement). If, however, you are unhappy with the result of the mediation process, you can simply put the whole situation into the hands of the judge, who will take it forward.
Mediation is a substitute for legal advice
You could argue that there is a certain degree of truth in this in that couples with minimal assets and no children might just agree a way forward in mediation and choose to proceed in court on that basis, but where there are significant assets to be divided and/or children, then it is generally very much recommended to speak to a lawyer as well as to a mediator.
About the Author
Elizabeth Bilton is an accredited mediator and qualified solicitor for Midlands Dove, with a specialism in family law disputes.
Elizabeth is one of only a few Mediators in the UK with an appropriate FMC accreditation to sign off on MIAMs required by the Family Court prior to an application being issued.