If you opt to settle your divorce through mediation rather than a drawn out, expensive and contentious Court settlement, choosing the right mediator is vital.
Here are some guidelines to help ensure the best possible outcome for you, your ex, and – most importantly – any children involved in your relationship breakdown.
Who chooses the mediator?
The first step if for each of you separately to attend a confidential Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a qualified mediator who should be approved by the Family Mediation Council (FMC).
You can appoint your own mediator through the FMC register which lists mediators near where you live.
At the MIAM you both discuss with the mediator key issues that need resolving. If you have children, the mediator should explain to you how your children’s voice can be heard within the process.
The mediator will explain the mediation process and consider with you alternative ways of resolving the issues between you. At the end of the session, you and the Mediator will come to a decision together as to whether you think mediation is suitable for you.
Why should the mediator have to be approved by the FMC?
Anyone with no training or qualifications can claim to be a family mediator.
FMC approval gives you the confidence that the mediator entrusted with this crucial role has been trained – and is qualified, and fully insured.
What is the mediator’s role after the MIAM?
If mediation is the way forward, the mediator who conducted your MIAM will set up a joint meeting with the two of you
Your chosen mediator will help you both work out key issues such as children contact and support along with dividing assets, property, pensions, and debts.
It can be very helpful in disputes relating to financial issues for you to use an FMC accredited mediator who is also a family lawyer. Although they will remain impartial in the process, they will be able to give you very useful legal information in the mediation, providing explanations as to how the legal process works and the options available to you around your properties, debt, pension, and income.
Where there is a need for you to take your own legal advice, this will be flagged up by the mediator.
Giving couples control over their divorce, mediation can be completed in as few or as many meetings as you need. These can take place over a few months or, in some cases, weeks. Depending on the issues, some couples are able to come to agreed proposals in just one meeting.
Findings from the Family Mediation Council highlight that agreements are reached in over 70% of cases of couples undergoing mediation.
I have seen repeatedly how mediation helps separating couples to find an agreed way forward in a constructive, positive manner which avoids going to Court, prioritises children’s well-being – and supports the long-term interests of all those involved.
About Nicki Mitchell
Nicki is a partner at Jones Myers Family Law Solicitors. With extensive experience in family law, Nicki specialises in the financial aspects of relationship breakdown – and particularly complex cases involving family businesses, multiple properties, and complicated pension arrangements.
Skilled in mediation and collaborative family lawyer, Nicki is also a Child Inclusive Mediator which enables her to meet with children of separated parents and hear what they want for their future.