Mediation is basically a voluntary process.
There is however, at present, an expectation by the courts that anyone who applies to the courts to resolve a family dispute will first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to learn about the benefits of mediation and to explore the possibility of mediating. This is unless there is a very good reason why mediation may not be suitable, as for example where there has been abuse or violence.
However from April 1st 2014 the courts will require, rather than just expect, nearly everyone who applies to the court regarding family issues to have at the very least attended a MIAM. This will give everyone the chance to see for themselves the benefits of mediation before embarking on the costly and stressful court process. Most people when asked if their stressful battle through the courts was worth it , answer ” no” so it makes sense to try the quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative, mediation.
Mediation provides the parties with the opportunity to voice their concerns and needs and to be involved in the making of the decisions which will affect their and their children’s futures.
How does it fit in with other family issues?
Separation and divorce are times of great turmoil.
If there are children involved their needs are paramount and mediation can assist in ensuring that they have their future as stable as is possible. In contrast to proceedings in court, mediation can be arranged very quickly and can assist even before a formal separation has taken place.
Mediation is appropriate even when court proceedings have begun and arrangements for the children dealt with in a sympathetic and compassionate environment.
Where they are to live and times for them to see the non -resident parent are discussed in mediation. Arrangements for holidays and birthdays are also open for discussion and both parents will have a voice in the mediation process. Concerns are addressed and understandings reached so that both parties are able to face the next stage of their lives knowing that their children’s needs are taken care of in the best possible way. When there are finances involved, the mediator will be able to guide the parties to an appropriate division of the assets that have been accrued during the time of their relationship.
Properties, pensions and other assets are looked at during the mediation sessions and the mediator will help the parties to make informed proposals. The legal position is taken into account and parties will be given the opportunity to speak to their own independent legal advisors throughout the process. But it is the parties who will make the final decisions.
It is their lives that are under discussion and their wishes are of the utmost importance. It is often crucial that decisions are made before the decree absolute is granted so the earlier in the divorce process that mediation is started the more likely that there will be no problems of delays.