Family mediation is becoming increasingly popular for families to help resolve conflict and reach agreements surrounding children or finances or in some circumstances, both.
There are various steps involved in the mediation process which are explained below:
1) Referral to mediation
The first stage of the process is for either party or their respective solicitor to make a referral to a family mediation service. The referral will include providing the mediation service with both parties contact details and a brief explanation of the issues they wish to mediate on.
2) Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
Following the initial contact with the parties, the next stage is for each respective party to attend a MIAM. For this appointment the mediator will meet each party separately. The purpose of this appointment is for the mediator to meet with each party and assess whether mediation would be suitable for the issues at hand and ascertain if both parties are willing to attend mediation.
If the mediator assesses that mediation is not suitable or if one party does not wish the attend, the mediator can provide the party who attended their MIAM with either a duly signed C100 form (for children applications) or a duly signed Form A (for financial applications) to enable them to issue court proceedings.
3) Joint Mediation Session
Once both parties have attended their MIAM and are assessed suitable by the mediator and both parties indicate they wish to proceed with mediation, the next stage of the process is to facilitate a joint mediation session. Prior to the session, the mediator will send each party a client care package will consist of: client engagement letter, agreement to mediate, funding agreement and in financial cases; a financial disclosure booklet.
During the session, the parties will have the opportunity to sit together with the mediator to discuss their respective views and what they would like the outcome to be. The mediator will help the parties to consider the available options based upon what each party has proposed and explore whether these options are viable. The aim of this session is to narrow the issues at hand and try to reach an overall agreement that both parties are content with. A typical mediation process involves 2 or 3 sessions but more sessions may be necessary depending on the issues to be resolved.
4) Mediation documentation
After each mediation session, the mediator will draft a mediation record which summaries the issues discussed, any proposals put forward and any tasks they need to complete before the next session. Once both parties have reached an overall agreement the next step for the mediator would be to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and an Open Financial Statement (OFS). The OFS is prepared in financial mediation cases only and contains a summary of each parties financial information.
The mediation documentation is not legally binding and the parties will need to take the documentation to a solicitor if they want to formalise the agreement e.g. draw up a consent order.