The Benefits of Mediation in Family Dispute Resolution
The week of family mediation comes to an end today. In this blog, we sum up the mediation process as well as, as in previous blogs, evaluate the key advantages of mediation as well as other forms of dispute resolution as a means of resolving the practical arrangements that follow separation.
The procedure for family mediation
• First call – Mediation usually begins with the mediator having a brief phone conversation with each of the parties. The purpose of this call is to speak with the parties about the mediation process and to determine whether there are any issues that would indicate that mediation is not appropriate.
• Individual meetings – Following the initial calls, the mediator will meet with each party separately (this is commonly referred to as a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM)) to discuss the background briefly and explain the mediation process in greater detail. Because the initial meetings are private, the content will not be discussed with the other party.
• First joint meeting – If the parties decide to proceed with mediation after the individual meetings, they will schedule a joint session with the mediator. The first meeting is used to go over the Agreement to Mediate form, address any interim or pressing issues, and set the agenda for subsequent sessions.
• Additional joint meetings – the focus of future meetings will vary depending on the issues the parties wish to discuss, but they will usually include a discussion of the children’s arrangements, based on a review of the parties’ financial disclosure and an exploration of probable financial settlement.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator can record the pertinent information and decisions in a series of documents known as:
• Open Financial Statement – this document records the financial information provided by the parties in the financial disclosure. This is a document that is open instead of without prejudice.
• Memorandum of Understanding – this document documents the mediation discussions and the overall decisions reached. This is a non-binding document that cannot be disclosed in any court proceedings.
• Parenting Plan – this documents the arrangements for the children as well as any other issues that parents want to document in relation to the day-to-day care of their children.
Any agreement reached in mediation is not legally binding until the parties have obtained independent legal advice. Following this, one of the parties’ lawyers will usually convert the Memorandum of Understanding into an order that can be filed in court for approval by a judge.
The Advantages of Family Mediation
The mediation process has a number of advantages, some of which are listed below. Mediation is not for everyone, and the mediator and each party’s own solicitor will take into account any issues that may make mediation difficult or unsuitable. Among the advantages are:
The mediator will encourage the parties to set the agenda and confirm what they want to discuss during mediation. You can address issues that are important to your family and that would not otherwise be relevant in a court proceeding.
Mediation sessions can be scheduled at a time and location that is convenient for both you and the mediator. You set the length of time between sessions and control the pace. You won’t have to wait months for the next date, as can happen in a court proceeding, and you can both make sure you have enough time to gather financial disclosure and consider any suggestions made.
Mediation decisions can be tailored to your family’s specific needs. This is in contrast to court-ordered decisions, where the judge may lack the authority to impose similar arrangements or has not recognized the nuance of why a particular suggestion may be preferable.
A mediator’s role is to facilitate a dialogue between the parties and to encourage suggestions for the outcome. When parties make a decision together in mediation, it is more likely that they will be satisfied with it and stick to it. Mediation is intended to foster communication and a long-term co-parenting relationship. This is especially important for parents who will be together for the rest of their children’s lives.
Because mediation is a private and confidential process, parties are encouraged to be open about the options they want to consider. This usually results in parties making suggestions that they would be hesitant to make in court. It is also a way for high-profile clients to keep details of their relationship out of the public eye.
• Costs and time
If successful, mediation can be less expensive and faster than court proceedings. Parties have far more control over the process when they set the agenda and choose the number of sessions than when they are involved in court proceedings. The mediator will also manage the process, ensuring that mediation does not continue if it is ineffective or worsening the situation.
Although #FamilyMediationweek has focused on family mediation this week, it could provide an extremely valuable method of settling family disputes effectively as well as amicably in appropriate cases, and it should be encouraged all year.
You might be interested to read our other blogs about mediation as well as other alternatives to litigation in family law – see HERE.
If you have any questions, please contact a member of our family and divorce lawyers, or click here to get started and find out where you stand online.
Our team of specialized family lawyers includes experienced as well as accredited family mediators, allowing you to select the best mediator for your specific situation. We could provide substantive mediation (throughout relation to financial issues and/or child-related issues) as well as MIAMs (Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings).
Contact us to know more about mediation.