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    12 January 2021

    Family Law: Family Mediation

    With Family Mediation week taking place from 18 – 22 January, the Steeles Law family team are looking at the different options available to separating families and how mediation can be used to resolve issues collaboratively.

    Included in our article we review options available if you have decided to separate, answer your questions about family mediation, and finally offer you and your family support to find the best way forward ensuring you know your legal rights before proceeding.

    We have decided to separate – what are my options?

    1. Mediation

    Mediation may help you and your partner settle any differences and reach an agreement together, without the need to go to court.  Mediation can assist with many types of family issues, including financial disputes and arrangements for children.

    1. Settlement

    If you and your partner agree n how you will divide your property and finances, you can make this legally binding by preparing a Consent Order setting out the terms of the agreement which the court can then approve. A Solicitor can assist with preparing the order and making the application to the court.

    1. Court

    If you cannot reach an agreement and mediation is not suitable or fails to find a resolution, you will need to make an application to the court to start financial or children proceedings.

    What is family mediation?

    Family mediation is a process where parties who are separating or have separated meet with a professionally trained neutral third party, the mediator, to discuss issues that need to be settled between them.  The mediator can assist with issues around money, property and children.  The mediator is there to assist both parties and will discuss the options available to them and how they may be able to reach an agreement.  If an agreement is reached, the mediator provides the parties with a document recording the terms of the settlement called a memorandum of understanding. This forms the basis of an order by consent.  A solicitor can help you apply to the court for the consent order. Mediation is not compulsory but if you later make an application to the court, you may need to show you have attended a mediation information and assessment meeting.

    What are the benefits of family mediation?

    Greater control – The aim of mediation is for both parties to reach an agreement.  Each party will be given the opportunity by the mediator to put forward their proposals. The mediator will not decide for the parties and will remain neutral.  Any outcome is decided by the parties with the mediator’s assistance, unlike Court proceedings where the final decision will be made by a Judge.

    Less stress – Mediation encourages co-operation between the parties.  It can be less stressful than Court proceedings and limit conflict between parties which can be very beneficial for future relations, particularly when children are involved.

    Costs – The costs of mediation can be significantly lower than Court proceedings.

    Time – Reaching an agreement through mediation can be much quicker than Court proceedings.

    Do I need to contact a Solicitor?

    You can contact a solicitor at any point throughout the separation process.  Mediators must remain neutral and cannot provide specific legal advice to either party, although they can provide general information on what the law is.  Whilst you do not have to contact a solicitor, they can provide important legal advice tailored to your circumstances.  A solicitor can also provide practical help, for example, they can assist with preparing your financial documents for the mediation session.  A solicitor can also provide advice on any proposal and if an agreement is reached, a solicitor can assist with formalising any settlement.  A solicitor can also be present at the mediation session itself if you wish.

    Fixed Fee Appointments

    Steeles Law Family Solicitors offer an initial fixed fee meeting for £100 plus VAT, for up to an hour or £125 + VAT, including a follow-up letter. The team also offer fixed-fee packages concerning divorce and financial proceedings.  If you would like to discuss any of the matters discussed in this article please call the team on 01603 598000 or email family@steeleslaw.co.uk to book your appointment.

    *Family Mediation Week 2021 aims to raise awareness of mediation.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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