Family Mediation Definition and What to Expect

families going through divorce
Phillip Rhodes Associate Solicitor Slater Heelis
Phillip Rhodes
Associate Solicitor
Slater Heelis

What to Expect from Family Mediation

When faced with the breakdown of a relationship, it can be difficult to think about the best options for you and your family in the future.

Family mediation can help you to discuss your options for separation and devise a plan with your former partner. It all takes place in a controlled, confidential environment that encourages communication and resolution.

Mediation is often a preferred option because it gives you more say in how you want the separation to work, without going to court.

So what is family mediation and what are the benefits? To help you understand more we have created a guide that answers several of the big questions you might have.

What is Family Mediation?

The first important distinction to make is that family mediators do not aim to help you reconcile; mediation is not a form of relationship counselling. Mediators are there to facilitate discussions between you and your former partner once the decision to separate has been made.

If you choose to proceed with family mediation, you and you former partner will work with a qualified mediator to make decisions about how the divorce/separation will work. This includes making agreements about what should happen to your children, finances, property and other assets after you have separated.

What are the Benefits?

Mediation encourages communication between you and your former partner, which can have the effect of making post-separation relations less acrimonious. This can be particularly beneficial to separating parents who will naturally remain in contact.

It also gives you both the opportunity to have your say on what happens post-breakup, allowing you more control over the situation, rather than ultimately having decisions imposed on you.

What will Happen in a Mediation Session?

When you first contact a mediator they will discuss your situation and concerns, provide information about the service and answer any questions that you may have. They will then ask your former partner to also contact them so they can have the same discussion, making sure that everyone is comfortable with the process. Individual meetings are arranged with the mediator before any joint sessions take place.

The mediator will listen to any issues either of you may have as a result of the separation. This can encompass anything, but usually centres on arrangements for children, finances or property. The mediator will then facilitate these discussions and help you both make your own decisions in a managed, secure and safe environment.

Mediation does not take the place of independent advice, so remember that each of you is free to take advice from solicitors alongside the mediation process.

How Long does Mediation Take?

Most mediations will take between three and five sessions, each lasting one to two hours depending on how complex your situation is. However, there is no limit to the number of sessions that you can have, so you can take as much time as is needed to reach solutions that work for both of you.

What Happens when the Mediation Process has Finished?

Once you and your former partner are both satisfied with the decisions reached, the mediator will prepare a number of documents for a solicitor to complete any necessary legal formalities.

The end of a relationship is never easy and it is natural to be anxious about the future. Mediation offers an alternative way of resolving disputes through consensual resolution, thereby removing the stress that often accompanies the adversarial nature of traditional court proceedings.

Children’s feelings are often at the heart of the intended outcome and this ensures that their concerns and worries can be addressed. This can be the key to co-parenting and maintaining relationships between children, their parents and wider family.

Phillip Rhodes is an Associate Solicitor specialising in family law at Slater Heelis, helping to advise and support families on any issue surrounding separation, divorce or dissolution.