Family mediation is growing more and more in popularity as separating couples move away from the traditional route of a solicitor. Not only can your divorce drag-on, the mounting costs can leave you and your family in the red. Here are 10 reasons why mediation works for divorcing couples.
Mediation WILL save you money
During a divorce it is so easy to get caught-up in a battle for property, finances and pensions let alone who will look after the children and have custody of Fido, the faithful family pet! Your solicitor will tell you what you could expect from a divorce settlement, much the same as your ex-partner’s solicitor will have their own expectations. Faced with these expectations, your respective solicitors will sending each other letters offering and conceding on a whole host of issues. The cost of letter writing can very easily and very quickly escalate into the thousands (of pounds) of costs and weeks of to-ing and fro-ing. It is very likely that before your solicitor begins representing you, they will want a hefty retainer, normally several hundred pounds (possibly equal to whole cost of the mediation process).
Mediation is by far a quicker and cheaper method for reaching the same settlement or agreement. Instead of the endless letter writing, counter offers and compromises, all matters are dealt with in a serious of face-to-face meetings (with a professional mediator) where child arrangements, how property is disposed of and the dividing of investments, finances and pensions can all be discussed directly with your ex. You can even decide who gets Fido and the family caravan! Mediation means you cut-out the costly solicitor.
2. Mediation WILL Save you time
You have already worked-out that the endless letter writing, reviewing and responding can take-up a lot of time and can typically stretch-out over several months. Even the most complex of mediated divorces may only take a few short weeks from start to end. Mediation works because it cuts-out the solicitor during the agreement stage and you work only with your designated mediator and of course your ex-partner. Amicable separations can be concluded in as little as one-day. You would meet your mediator in the morning for a private one-to-one meeting (as would your ex.), then during the afternoon you work towards reaching a settlement agreement. FMACS will then prepare the paperwork ready for you to file for divorce.
3. Reduces Legal Costs
If you plan to divorce, then there are some unavoidable costs. These include your Court fees for filing your petition (they currently stand at £550 [June 2017]). Other legal costs will depend upon the route you end-up taking. If you decide upon using solicitors, you will likely begin or rather they will once you have deposited a retainer, generally a few hundred pounds. They will advise you about your rights and agree what terms you would like as part of the final settlement. Then they begin the letter-writing. There will be very few charging less than £60 per letter and where agreement is not reached immediately the number of letters will increase. There are too many cases where costs have escalated into the tens of thousands because one or another will not agree in some way. However much a couple spends fighting for the terms of a settlement, all costs come out of the family’s wealth resulting in there being less savings perhaps, or a proportion of the house going towards paying legal fees.
Mediation however, has a simple fixed fee based service. You pay by the hour for meetings with your mediator and ex-partner and nothing more! Generally at the end of a mediation, your mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding which is equivalent to an outcome statement. It is a document outlining the points you both raised and the agreements you both reach. This may include child care arrangements and plans you both have to divide property, savings and pensions. A further Open Statement of Financial Information will also be produced ready for your solicitor to generate an financial order for the Courts. This is just a more detailed report of your joint finances, properties and pensions. These two reports are charged based on your personal fee tariff.
4. No Losers in Court
If your divorce settlement negotiations cannot be resolved via solicitor interventions then it is very likely you will be faced with presenting both arguments to a Judge. In most cases this will be done by your solicitor or barrister. Barristers can typically charge around £300 per hour for the privilege of representing you in Court. At this stage, all decisions are taken away from you and your ex. It will be the presiding Judge who will determine what they feel is in the best interests of the children. Equally, they will also review any financial information you have presented and again rule over who gets what and what gets who! The biggest single issue with this is that you may not actually get what you wanted anyway. Any conditions imposed by a Judge must be adhered to and therefore may not always suit you and your future plans.
On the other hand, through mediation, the skill of your mediator will help you both to reach agreement across all aspects of your separation and therefore maintain control and the decisions. If it were to take a few additional meetings with your ex to secure agreement, this is far better than allowing someone, who doesn’t know anything about you and your family, to make potentially life changing decisions on your behalf. There are more and more positive outcomes for couples using mediation.
5. Improves Relationships
It may seem ironic, but mediation not only helps sort out the practicalities of a separation. It can very often improve relations with you ex. Mediation is all about communication. It allows each party the opportunity to speak their mind in a safe and supportive environment. Even where conflict runs high, the mediator will keep things balanced and calm and may even opt for other forms of mediation, especially where violence or physical abuse have been present in a relationship. In these cases shuttle mediation, Skype or FaceTime options are available. Wherever possible, your mediator will try and set-up joint meetings where you and your ex can discuss and find solutions to move towards settlement.
In many instances, mediators see the difference face to face meetings have. Whilst they may start-off a little fraught, over a few weeks it can make an amazing difference as both come to terms with the impact of separation and divorce. Ex’s often end-up travelling to mediation meetings together as relations improve.
6. Improves the Welfare of Your Children
Separation not only has a devastating effect upon the couple who are parting, it can have lasting consequences for your children. Compelling research shows that conflict between parents can have an impact of your child’s mental health and future life chances. It can cause them to become withdrawn or act-out becoming angry and disobedient. It can affect their academic studies and physical fitness. Much research is being conducted in to the effects of parental conflict and relationship breakdown, an area that the Family Mediation & Counselling Service is heavily invested.
Mediation not only works towards finding solutions for settlements, it is extremely effective for helping to resolve conflict. Whether it is part of a divorce or long after separation has been completed, conflict between parents can raise its head. As children grow so their demands change and therefore it is often necessary to revisit child care arrangements or financial support. Mediation can include meetings with children, a powerful way for parents to understand what their children want and need. Specially trained mediators and counsellors spend time with children (with agreement from both parents) and then feedback during joint sessions. This can dramatically improve the wellbeing of the child, as their voices are heard during the process.
7. Mediation is Private & Confidential
In mediation, sorting out your divorce is a private and confidential affair, generally between you, your ex and the mediator. Your mediator is bound by the Code of Conduct of the governing body, the Family Mediation Council. You can read and obtain a copy of the code by clicking here.
Even at the conclusion of the mediation, the mediator is duty bound to maintain confidentiality at all times. Any reports created by the mediator will only be available to the couple in mediation. Your mediator will not be able to represent nor share any information for either party in Court. FMACS policy following a mediation, is to destroy all notes and documentation relating to both parties. It will only maintain basic details in line with data protection laws.
8. Mediation is Impartial and Non-judgmental
There is a lot of positive feedback from couples who have reached settlement using mediation. From the comments, what stand’s out is the professionalism and standards displayed by FMACS mediators. Everyone lives life in their own way. They can have different views or lifestyles to the norm (whatever that is?) but in mediation no-one is judged and FMACS mediators pride themselves on their impartiality. They always consciously work 100% for both parties in mediation. The success of mediation is partly due to practitioners helping couples to find the solutions and agreement that suit them and not through trying to influence any outcomes. The trust towards mediators continues to increase.
9. Mediation Helps for Future Agreements
Part of the work of a FMACS mediator is to equip clients with a range of tools and techniques to discuss options rather than argue over them. For so many couples, the success of mediation can have a lasting effect. Stories emerged about couples using some of these techniques years down the line to agree changes in child care arrangements or for financial support without the need for further mediation or use of a solicitor.
10. A Safe Place to Come to Terms with Separation
The effects of separation or divorce can make you feel quite isolated. You may feel as though you are the only person experiencing the pain and upset of a separation. Whilst mediation can help deal with the practical issues related to divorce, it is also a safe place and a nice environment designed to support your needs. Your safety and wellbeing is the most important consideration of your mediator. They will ensure your voice is heard and you are supported in being able to say what is on your mind. They will help other to listen to what you have got to say and the opinions you wish to share. It can help people bring closure on unhappy times in your life and empower you to move forward with a positive frame of mind.