Using the family courts to reach agreement after divorce or separation can make a difficult situation even worse. But going to court is not inevitable. So what are the alternatives? Father Figure takes a look at what family mediation can offer.
Research shows that children whose parents reach agreement through mediation are likely to find separation less distressing than when a dispute ends up in court. Parents who use alternative dispute resolution also report a greater degree of satisfaction. So how does it work?
Mediation or other types of dispute resolution focus on the areas that you and your ex partner are finding it difficult to reach agreement on. Trained mediators then work with you both to find a solution that works for you both. Issues that are commonly taken to mediation include:
If you reach agreement, they can prepare a legal document of your agreement - a consent order - to present to the courts.
Mediation is a chance to talk openly and honestly about the things that you need to make decisions about after separation. You will be working with trained mediators who are there to offer non-judgmental advice about ways to reach agreement around your children and other important issues.
Using alternative dispute resolution services such as mediation can offer you a feeling of ownership over the decisions you both take. It can also reduce the amount of time involved in reaching a decision and help you avoid the big legal fees involved if you have to go to court. This is clearly a benefit not only to you but to your children.
Mediation is also a great way to improve communication between yourself and your ex partner. Talking in a safe environment with a trained mediator means that you can both talk about the things that concern you. A good mediator is also able to help you express your thoughts clearly and find ways of reaching agreement.
Mediation works well when both parties are able to come to the table with a willingness to find the best way forward together. The average number of sessions to resolve all issues is between three and five. This will depend on individual circumstances and the complexity of the issues that need resolving.
Choosing to use mediation does not prevent you from using the courts at a later date. You may also wish to seek legal advice as well as using mediation services, and should check the documents and proposals with your own solicitor. Many parents who have reached agreement through mediation will make return visits when their circumstances change.
Mediators are legal professionals so usually charge on an hourly basis, so the cost will be similar to using a solicitor.
Reaching agreement outside of the courts offers some real benefits to both you and your children. It is usually quicker, cheaper, more flexible and less hostile.