Family Mediation

When divorcing or separating, many couples want to work through their issues together, in private. While this can work, some may need support along the way. Family mediation is there to help them reach mutual decisions on what matters to them most - without court intervention.

Mediation can be used to discuss common issues raised in separation and divorce including who children will live with, or to address immediate financial concerns and seek long-term financial solutions. It’s not a means of solving marital or relationship problems in themselves.

Making important decisions, together

When entering into family mediation, you set your own agenda and discuss issues in complete confidentiality. Your mediator acts as an impartial third party, providing a safe environment for discussion and guiding you towards a constructive dialogue. An Agreement to Mediate (pdf), into which you enter with your mediator, provides a framework for this process – helping you reach a beneficial outcome.

Read more about how the process works, how it differs from other divorce and separation options, and the mediator’s role in the FAQs below. Or contact us if you have any further questions

How we can help

Richard Sharp has 20 years’ experience helping couples resolve a range of personal issues through family mediation. Thanks to our strong reputation among our peers, other divorce solicitors often refer clients to us for mediation at Sharp Family Law.

If you select a mediator elsewhere or are already in mediation, we can help prepare you and explain how to get the best out of it. We can also advise you throughout the process and draft the necessary court documentation about agreements you reach.

Contact Us to arrange a time to talk about family mediation and whether it’s a suitable option for you and your partner.

Family Mediators

Richard Sharp

Family Mediation FAQs

How could Family Mediation benefit me?

Over a series of meetings, the parties meet with a Mediator and together identify issues, exchange information, and use problem-solving techniques to come to an agreement.

  • You set your own pace. The process can move as fast or as slow as you choose and you are not restricted a court calendar.
  • You stay out of court. You agree to reach agreement outside of a courtroom while the mediation process proceeds.
  • You retain responsibility for resolving your conflicts. Many forms of conflict resolution place the responsibility and authority for resolving conflict in the hands of the professionals. In the court system that is the Judge. In Mediation you can reach resolution yourself by working through the issues, which can be more fulfilling and rewarding.
  • You enjoy confidentiality. Your mediation sessions remain private. Many couples prefer to negotiate their own private arrangements with the assistance of a Mediator rather than put their decisions in the hands of the courts.
  • You can minimise conflict. By providing a safe environment, where you can explain your concerns and needs to each other in the presence of a Mediator, hostility can be reduced and the chances of long-term co-operation can be improved – especially important if you are co-parenting.
  • You can communicate directly. You have the opportunity to communicate directly with each other rather than via lawyers or across a court room.
  • You can consider all the available options. A trained and impartial mediator can help you to consider all the available options and come up with a bespoke solution. Mediators can also ensure that you have the information (both legal and, where appropriate, about the affects of separation and divorce on their children) needed to reach informed decisions about the future of your family.
  • You make the decisions. Your decisions can ensure that future arrangements are tailor-made to suit the needs of your family and you.
  • You can reduce the costs. Mediation is often less expensive than litigation as you, rather than lawyers, legislation or the court, are controlling the pace.

How does Family Mediation work?

Over a series of meetings, the parties meet with a Family Mediator and together identify issues, exchange information, explore available options, and use problem-solving techniques to come to an agreement acceptable to all without the Family Mediator offering legal advice or advocating for either party.

  1. Learn what it’s all about.
    At the first meeting, the parties talk about their reasons for using mediation, and the Mediator provides them with an outline of how the mediation process works. If finances are being discussed, together they will identify the information and documents that may need to be exchanged between them and agree upon any necessary ground rules.
  2. Identify issues and develop understanding.
    The Mediator will help the parties to identify and specify the issues they may wish to resolve. On an issue by issue basis, the Mediator will attempt to understand as fully as possible each party’s point of view as well as his and her needs, interests, and priorities. The Mediator also assists the parties in understanding each other.
  3. Explore interests and consider options.
    With further discussion, the parties explore their interests, and, in view of their own priorities, develop various options that best serve their present and future needs. Very importantly a mediator will help the parties to keep the needs of any children at the forefront of any negotiations.
  4. Reach resolution and consensus.
    During the last step, the Mediator will help the parties consider possible options and choose those that work for them and are acceptable to both. Those options are then incorporated into a Memorandum of Understanding that is drawn up by the Family Mediator.

What will the Family Mediator do for me?

The job of a family Mediator is to help parties to reach mutual decisions without court intervention.

The mediator will act as a neutral third party, to manage the process of the mediation and to help with the exchange information, ideas and feelings of the parties and to encourage the parties in mediation.

The Mediator does not impose decisions or settlements on the parties. The responsibility for all decisions remains with the parties as they know better than anyone else what is right for their family.

The Mediator cannot give advice, nor make decisions for you, nor draft up agreements nor protect the individual interests of either party. However, the Mediator can

  • provide legal information where this is needed to ensure the parties reach informed decisions.
  • make suggestions as to how an issue might be resolved and what the process would be if the issue was to be ever litigated in court.
  • reality test with you the solutions proposed, and help you to reach those that are acceptable and work for you both.
  • provide a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recording a summary of the issues discussed and the proposals expressed during the sessions. As a privileged document, the MOU does not record nor create a binding agreement between the parties.

The mediator will encourage the parties to take independent legal advice between and after sessions; so that they are assured that their legal rights are supported by their mediated decisions. With your permission, the mediator can also keep your solicitors informed with the progress of the mediation.

Can other professionals be involved in Family Mediation?

The Mediator will suggest to the parties to take independent legal advice, so that they are assured that their legal rights are supported by their mediated decisions.

The parties can also choose to be supported in their decision making by other professionals such as Valuation Experts, Financial Planners, Accountants, and Family Consultants or Divorce Coaches.

What is the difference between Collaborative Practice and Family Mediation?

In Collaborative Practice, parties are represented by their lawyers throughout the entire process. The lawyers work with their clients and one another to assure a balanced process that is positive and productive. Mediation involves an impartial third party who facilitates negotiations between the parties but cannot give either legal advice nor advocate for them. In Mediation, parties can each instruct separate lawyers, who can be present during a mediation session or be consulted between the sessions.

In Collaborative Practice, the lawyers can draft the settlement agreement. The mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms for review and editing by both you and your independent lawyers.

In the Collaborative Practice Agreement, everyone agrees not to go to court and the lawyers contractually agree to serve as “settlement counsel” only. That prevents them from ever representing their client in Court if the collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement. If mediation doesn’t result in a settlement, the parties can instruct their chosen lawyers to represent them in Court.

How do you refer a potential Family Mediation to Us

If you would like to refer a client or partner to mediation please download or print out our mediation referral form.

Download the referral form

What are the potential costs of a Family Mediation Process?

The costs are structured around the number of mediation sessions held with the mediator. Often 2 – 4 sessions of 90 minutes each are required (it may be more or less, depending on what you have to deal with). Our fees are £250.00 + VAT per hour per couple. This means a 90 minute session with a mediator costs £375.00 + VAT (£450.00 inclusive of VAT) per couple.

Fees can be shared between you in any way you may agree. Depending on how you choose and agree to mediate, If three, 90 minute sessions are required, and the costs are split equally between you, then for each of you the cost would be £562.50 + VAT (£675.00 inclusive of VAT).

It is also possible to arrange for your mediation to take place over a half or full day or in any way that is agreed between us as most appropriate to your needs and situation. However, once you have arranged dates for your mediation sessions, if these are cancelled, a cancellation charge may be required.

The hourly rate of £250.00 + VAT also applies to any work that may be required between sessions. For example, in drafting documents or in reviewing financial papers disclosed. However, we I do not normally charge separately for routine telephone calls or letters. Depending on the degree of complexity, it usually takes around 2 to 3 hours to prepare mediation outcome documents – Memorandum of Understanding or Parents Plan and if we think that it may require more time to do so, the Mediator will discuss this with you first.

If your issues are particularly complicated or you require interim documentation for consultation with your personal legal adviser/s, the mediator will always discuss with you beforehand any likely additional cost. We will provide you with cost estimates wherever practicable to assist your planning of likely costs.

Where it is the case that your mediation involves another supporting professional or co-mediator, we will discuss with you the likely costs for such an arrangement and will provide information about how payment can be made. Costs are usually paid at the end of each mediation session or as otherwise arranged with you.

Can I get Legal Aid?

We are unable to offer publicly-funded mediation. However, if you’re on a low income you may be eligible to receive legal aid to help pay for a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM), Mediation sessions and/or Legal help in support for mediation

Legal aid may be available to one or both of you and each person will be assessed separately. Even if only one person can get legal aid both will have the fee for the MIAM and the cost of the first full mediation session covered.

To work out if you qualify for legal aid, and to find publicly-funded mediation law services click the following link https://checklegalaid.service.gov.uk

Downloads

Download a pdf – Agreement to Mediate
Download a pdf – Mediation Preliminary Information Form
Download a pdf – Referral Form
Download a pdf – Family Mediation FAQs

Recommended Reading

  • “Family Mediation”: by Lisa Parkinson. An authoritative and practical guide which explains the principles and process of family mediation and places it in the context of a changing family justice system
  • “A Guide to Divorce Mediation”: by Gary Friedman lists four criteria necessary for every couple about to enter into mediation: motivation to mediate, self-responsibility, willingness to disagree, and willingness to agree. The book includes 12 detailed case studies to show how in almost all instances mediation can succeed with a variety of personalities and situations.

Useful Links

  • Family Mediators Association (FMA): The FMA offers family mediation to private clients outside the court system. The website has information on family mediation and a register of 300 or more Family Mediators across the country.
  • National Family Mediation (NFM): NFM is a network of local not-for-profit Family Mediation Services in England and Wales that offers help to couples, married or unmarried, who are in the process of separation and divorce. The website has information on family mediation and a list of NFM offices across the country.
  • The Family Mediation Council: It sets standards for family mediation and maintains a register of family mediator members in all parts of the United Kingdom who meet those standards.
  • Resolution: Resolution’s 6000 members are family lawyers and mediators committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. The website provides information on family mediation and mediators. Guides are available for free download in PDF format.

Thank you for mediating between us.  It has been a very difficult few months, but I feel you dealt with matters very sensitively. I do appreciate all that you have done.”

I would have no hesitation in recommending you to anyone who may have to go through the same situation in the future. May I, therefore, take this opportunity to thank you for all the help and assistance you provided throughout the whole process.”

Posts

Sharp Family Law recommended for ‘genuinely having its client’s interests at heart’

  Sharp Family Law has been recommended by The Legal 500 for the third year in a row for its work as a family law practice in the South West. Our entry in the prestigious Legal 500 reads: Sharp F [...]

The Secret of a Great Relationship… with your Lawyer

During a divorce or separation, your lawyer can end up being the most frequently dialled number on your phone. So not only is it a new relationship forged at a difficult, emotional and often confusing [...]

Take a breath… pause for thought… and consider your options

A mild mother of two, with a wry smile, shared details with me of a frenzied attack on her husband’s clothes the previous evening upon discovery of his adulterous affair. She confessed that things h [...]

Divorce: a Challenge to face – not a War to win

Facing a divorce is hard. It is mentally and physically taxing. You don’t sleep. You don’t eat. You worry about how life is going to be in the future, yet are stuck in the present needing to sort [...]

Four strategies

Four Strategies for a Smart Divorce

The decision to separate and divorce is nearly always distressing, challenging and sad. Difficult transitions must be made, emotions managed, children co-parented and financial realities addressed. Al [...]