When divorcing or separating, many couples want to work through their issues together, but find it a struggle to do so just on their own. The family mediation process offers a supportive way to help couples 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 your children will live with, or what will happen to the family home and how will we formally end our marriage.
Making important decisions, together
The process of family mediation is voluntary, confidential and it is the couple who make the decisions about future outcomes based on an understanding of each other’s views, and the reality they face. The mediator acts as a fair-minded neutral facilitator, providing a safe environment for constructive dialogue between you and without giving advice or expressing an opinion guides you towards a settled proposal. An Agreement to Mediate into which you enter with your mediator, provides a framework for this process – helping you to reach a beneficial outcome.
Read more about how the process works, how it differs from other dispute resolution options, and the mediator’s role in the FAQs below. Or contact us if you have any further questions.
Why choose Sharp Family Law for family mediation?
Our team of family law solicitors in Bath and Bristol includes qualified family mediator, Richard Sharp, who can guide you through the mediation process.
Richard Sharp has 25 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 have selected a mediator elsewhere, or are already in mediation, we can also:
- Provide initial information about the mediation process so you know exactly what to expect and can decide whether it is right for you
- Prepare you for the mediation process and explain how to get the best out of it
- Advise you during the process, assisting your discussions with your former partner, and helping you consider settlement options
- Draft the necessary court documentation about the agreements you reach
As well as our mediation expertise and experience, we work closely with a range of other professionals, including mental health professionals, financial planners, and child specialists.
We are independently recognised for our skills:
- Richard Sharp is personally ranked Band 1 in Chambers & Partners for Family/Matrimonial.
- Chambers & Partners – we are ranked Band 2 for Family/Matrimonial in Somerset
- The Legal 500 – we are ranked Tier 3 for Family in the South West
Our team also includes several members of Resolution – the professional network for family lawyers committed to taking a non-confrontational approach to family law. To find out more about our family lawyers’ individual expertise, please take a look at our team.
Contact Us to arrange a time to talk about family mediation and whether it is a suitable dispute process option for you and your partner.
Family Mediation FAQs
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. This is how mediation could benefit you:
- You set your own pace. The process can move as fast or as slow as you choose and you are not restricted by 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 effects 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 court litigation as you, rather than lawyers, legislation, or the court, are controlling the pace.
- 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
- Learn what it is 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.
- 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 their needs, interests, and priorities. The Mediator also assists the parties in understanding each other.
- 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.
- 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.
- The job of a family mediator is to help parties to reach mutual decisions without court intervention.
- The mediator will act as a fair minded 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 were 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.
- The choice of mediator is usually a joint decision between the parties. However, if you cannot decide, it is possible to ask an independent third party to appoint a mediator for you. It is advisable to seek legal advice before going to mediation so your family solicitor can provide advice on what to do if you cannot agree on a mediator.
- Your mediator will often encourage you to take independent advice from a family lawyer during and after mediation sessions. That will ensure you are aware of and understand your legal rights and they are supported by their mediated proposals and decisions
- Seeking legal advice after mediation is particularly important to ensure the Memorandum of Understanding reflects your best interests and so you can take the next steps towards getting your agreement turned into a legally binding Consent Order
- Usually, mediation sessions take place without your solicitors attending. However, they may by agreement with them, the parties and the mediator, participate in the mediation process in any useful and appropriate way
- The parties can also choose to be supported either in or alongside the mediation process and in their decision making by other professionals such as valuation experts, financial planners, accountants, family consultants or divorce coaches.
- In collaborative law, 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 or 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.
- With mediation, 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 does not result in a settlement, the parties can instruct their chosen lawyers to represent them in court.
- Mediation is a voluntary choice, and it is important that you can discuss matters freely and without risk of threat or harm. Thus, it may not work where someone’s safety is at risk, because of domestic violence or child abuse. Court intervention may be needed promptly. You may qualify for legal aid to do this. Mediation may also not be suitable if you or your partner is bankrupt.
- A mediator can help you decide whether mediation is suitable for you, at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
- You come to mediation by choice. No-one can make you take part in a mediation session. Being a voluntary process, you can bring a session to an end at any time, if you want. You can always explore other dispute resolution options, such as collaborative law, solicitor negotiations, or court involvement.
- Any significant decisions arrived at in mediation (including any proposals you make together) will not usually be turned into a binding Agreement (usually a Consent Order) until you have had the opportunity to obtain legal advice on them from your solicitor.
- Your Mediator can prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). That is a privileged and ‘without prejudice’ document. It would record the outcome proposals and decisions, and an explanation of what lay behind them that have been reached. It does not record or create a binding agreement
- The MOU is intended to help you obtain independent professional advice on the proposals before you take any steps to enter into an agreement whether through solicitors or informally between you and your partner. Unless and until they decide to enter into a binding agreement, no such binding agreement exists between you.
- All discussions in mediation, and any communication and information about possible options, proposals, and the terms of any financial arrangement, are on a “without prejudice” basis. That means they cannot be referred to in court (except by order of the court or where the law imposes an over-riding obligation of disclosure on a mediator). Also, an ‘evidential privilege’ will ordinarily apply for all attempts to resolve issues in the mediation.
- This ensures you are able to share in mediation sessions ideas and proposals that you may have thought about as possible options for resolving things without having to be concerned that that information might later be used against you in any way.
- The Family Court will normally uphold the confidentiality of the mediation process unless there is an over-riding right or obligation of disclosure in law.
- All financial information is provided on an “open” basis in mediation. That means it can be used in court. This may be in support of an agreed order made by you or in contested court proceedings.
- The information can be ‘portable’ for you and you will be able to use it with your solicitor, independent financial adviser or any other professional who you may choose to assist you with your financial issues. This is important as your individual legal or financial adviser will need to see your disclosed finances before they can advise you on any proposals you have reached or are considering
- The mediator can prepare an Open Statement of Financial Information containing all the financial information disclosed and discussed by the parties during the mediation process.
- You do not have to attend mediation if you feel it would be inappropriate for your situation.
- However, if you want to apply to a family court for decisions about matters relating to finances or children after divorce and separation, you may need to first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to show you have at least considered family mediation.
- There are certain limited circumstances where you may not need to attend a MIAM, such as where there has been a history of domestic abuse.
- A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is a session with a mediator to talk through the process and how it might benefit you. You do not have to attend with your former partner, so it does not matter if they refuse to consider mediation.
- At the end of the MIAM, you can decide whether to proceed with mediation or you can choose another option, such as seeking further legal advice. Your mediator will also give you a certificate so if you decide to go to court, you can show that you have already tried mediation.
If you would like to refer a client or partner to mediation please download or print out our mediation referral form.
- 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, depending on what you must 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.
- 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
“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.”
- 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.
- “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.
Contact us for more information on family mediation
For more information on family mediation, please contact your local team in Bath or Bristol: