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The advantages of mediation to resolve a family dispute

8th December 2022 by Gemma Burden

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‘All conflicts are capable of peaceful resolution,’ said Nelson Mandela, although it may be hard to envisage this when you are in the middle of a family dispute arising from a relationship breakdown.  It is important to remember that family connections can rarely be completely severed, especially if children are involved. 

‘Seeking to win at all costs is not usually the best outcome, as most families will need to preserve some channels of communication,’ says Gemma Burden, head of Family Mediation at Laceys.  ‘Mediation provides an important alternative to dragging a dispute through the courts and it can be particularly effective at reducing conflict and animosity within a family by independently brokering a compromise.’

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process that you and your former partner attend in order to discuss your problems and see if a solution can be reached.  Mediation can be commenced at any time, however, if you wish to bring your case to court then normally you will be required to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) before making your application.  A MIAM is an information session with a mediator but is not mediation itself.  It is aimed at informing you of your options and helping you make the choice on how best to proceed for you and your family.

The mediator will facilitate discussion between you and your former partner.  As a neutral party, they will allow each of you to air your feelings and views and communicate what is important. A mediator can help both participants to see the other person’s perspective and encourage you to find common ground. In many cases this helps a couple to agree a solution that is acceptable to both and meet the needs of any children if there are any.   

What types of disputes can mediation help?

Mediation can be helpful in resolving a number of different types of family disputes, which would otherwise need to go to court, such as:

  • disputes about where your children will live;
  • how much time your children will spend with each of you;
  • disagreement over a child’s upbringing, such as choice of school or extra-curricular activities;
  • medical treatment for your children;
  • separation of financial assets;
  • division or offsetting of pensions;
  • maintenance requirements;
  • what time grandparents and extended family can spend with your children; or
  • arrangements for the family home.

What are the advantages?

Mediation offers several advantages over going to court:

  • Understanding your family needs. No one knows your family’s needs better than you. Reaching a mediated solution means you can tailor arrangements that will best fit you and your family’s requirements.  You can consider the details of each of your weekly routines, such as who will take the children to their swimming lessons or football matches at the weekend.  You can also suit your own needs if, for example, one of you has irregular or unpredictable working hours.
  • Avoids a court forcing a solution on your family. If you proceed via court, a judge will order what is to happen, effectively forcing a solution onto you and your family. This always comes with a risk, as you lose control over what the outcome will be.  It may make more sense for you and your partner to mediate and compromise on issues you are comfortable with.
  • More cost-effective. Mediation can result in significant cost savings. To begin with, both you and your former partner will pay the one mediator.  This is in contrast to you both having to pay for your individual independent legal advice via your own solicitors.  In some cases, you each may have a barrister involved as well.  The courts also make a charge for bringing applications before them, and for seeking a hearing.  Depending on the nature of your dispute, you may be able to avoid court altogether if you can reach an agreement in mediation, thereby avoiding court fees and legal representation fees.
  • More creative solutions. Quite often mediating couples will have more time and knowledge of their own circumstances to think up solutions that a judge simply would not have the time for. Mediating couples can discuss all eventualities that concern them and come to an understanding as to how they can resolve each issue.  Sometimes, solutions you can agree between yourselves may even be outside that which a court could order. For example, in a financial settlement, you may decide that one party will take on a jointly owned negative equity property on the understanding that when it is sold, the other party forgoes any financial interest they may have in same. 
  • Speedier results. While mediation is a process, and how long it takes varies, it tends to be quicker than issuing court proceedings. It can also yield immediate results.  If you agree an issue, such as arrangements for your children at the first mediation session, implementation of this can occur straight away.  If you proceed via court, then you are likely to have to await the court date before obtaining progress.
  • Keeping communication channels open. Mediation is a process, where both you and your former partner will be encouraged to discuss the issues you are experiencing, and face them head on. The mediator does not act for either of you.  By its very nature, court proceedings can pit you against each other.  In court, there can be a level of mistrust and suspicion between former partners that does not usually arise in mediation, or if it does arise, steps can be taken to address and improve things. 
  • Less conflict and animosity. This tends to result in amicable resolutions with less conflict going forward. There is an openness between mediating couples that you tend not to find during a court process.  For couples with children, this is a major advantage not only now, but also into the future when your paths will cross again in relation to your children’s lives.
  • Partial results. Even if you can only resolve some of your issues, and still have to go to court to resolve the remaining issues, the mediation can have saved you some time and money.

Does mediation work for everyone?

Mediation is not for everyone.  If you have suffered abuse at the hands of your partner then you may not want to want to participate in a mediation process with them, or you may be willing to but only with some added precautions in place such as Zoom appointments, or shuttle mediation where you do not see each other face to face.

Both people need to want to reach a solution and must be prepared to talk openly and make compromises.  If either participant is not willing to come to mediation with an open mind, then mediation is unlikely to succeed.   

How we can help

If you are embroiled in a family dispute and would like to explore mediation as a route to resolving the dispute, then please contact Gemma Burden on 01202 377993 or email mediationinfo@laceyssolicitors.co.uk.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

Gemma Burden

Partner — Mediation

Direct dial: 01202 377993

Email

Gemma Burden, head of Family Mediation, Laceys Solicitors
  • “As it was mediation for divorce I was worried just how complicated it would be but it was all handled well by Gemma who put my mind at ease and explained everything well. Thank you. ”

    John Littlefield

  • “Gemma was able to help us narrow the issues between us so we could focus on resolution. I feel she treated us both equally and professionally.”

    Maria Vine

  • “Gemma seemed to quickly understand our situation and acted accordingly and in what I felt with best interest.”

    Charlotte

  • “I was very happy with Gemma Burden. She was very clear and to the point. Gemma Burden was very good at staying neutral. This must be very hard sometimes. She is very professional and is very good at explaining all points in mediation. I would recommend Laceys Mediation to all. I would give Gemma Burden top marks in all aspects of mediation and she has my thanks.”

    Anonymous

  • “Having used Laceys before, it was an easy choice to use them again. Gemma was professional, polite and thorough. An absolute credit to the company.”

    A Wood

Gemma is the head of our mediation department and a Family Mediation Council Accredited lawyer mediator. Gemma qualified as a solicitor in 2000 and joined Laceys in 2001. She has specialised in family law since qualifying as a solicitor and has worked full time as a mediator since 2009.

Gemma is qualified in all areas of family mediation, including divorce and financial settlements, child arrangements and property disputes between cohabitees.  She is also qualified to see children as part of the mediation process.  Gemma is able to draw on her legal expertise when helping couples work out complex financial settlements and new parenting arrangements.

In her spare time Gemma likes to spend time with her family, especially her dog who never answers back.  Her chosen stress beaters are running, swimming and the beach.

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