When relationships run into difficulty, it can be only too easy for negative emotions to take over and to be the primary driving force behind decisions which will have long-term consequences not just for the people involved but for the people around them.
Even if there are no children to consider, the effect of a divorce can spill over onto family and friends.
This is even more likely if the couple moves straight to the courtroom “without passing go”.
While family courts do generally try to take a gentler approach than their counterparts in other areas of the law, even they can bring out the combative side in people, which can end up producing undesirable consequences.
Going to mediation as a first step may not save the relationship (although, in some cases that may be possible), but it does bring many benefits.
Emotions are acknowledged and managed
Mediators do not attempt to eliminate all emotion from the sessions that would be unreasonable and arguably impossible. Instead, they work to ensure that emotions are acknowledged but managed. They aim to stop people from being consumed by negativity and keep them focused on what is in their long-term best interests
Discussions are kept confidential
Courtroom proceedings are, generally, open. There are a very few exceptions to this, but they are highly unlikely to apply in standard divorce proceedings. The openness of courts is integral to the ideas behind them. Basically, it’s not only that justice needs to be done; it needs to be seen to be done in a fair and reasonable manner.
This approach has a lot of benefits overall, but it may not be ideal in a divorce situation, especially if children are involved as it can result in them finding out information their parents would prefer them not to know, at least not now.
Even if children are not involved, there may be many other reasons for preferring confidentiality.
Sessions can work to a much shorter time-frame than a court
In simple terms, the more people need to be involved in a situation, the more challenging it can be to find a time when everyone can get together.
Courts involve multiple people whereas mediation sessions, in principle, only involve three people (the couple and the mediator). Added to this is the fact that mediators do not necessarily have to treat each issue raised with the depth which would be expected in a legal situation.
There is great flexibility
Obviously, any agreed outcome has to be compliant with the law, but otherwise whatever is agreed between the couple is entirely down to them. As an added benefit, outcomes do not have to be “set in stone” the way they often are in legal proceedings. Couples can test them and make adjustments as mutually agreed.
The cost of mediation can be much lower than going straight to lawyers
For all of the above reasons and more, the cost of mediation can be substantially lower than the cost of going straight to lawyers.
What’s more, if the couple do end up divorcing, they can simply pay lawyers to formalise the agreement created by the mediator, rather than paying them to create a brand new agreement.
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.