Family mediation is one of several options that couples have when resolving child or financial issues that may arise during a separation process.

Family Mediation Week (17 - 21 January 2022) runs each year in January and seeks to raise awareness of family mediation and the benefits it can bring to separating couples. Mediation involves the participants meeting with one another, along with the mediator to discuss these issues and explore options to resolve them.

Family mediation has the benefit of allowing participants to reach their own conclusions formally, but importantly, together and by agreement. The role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussions, manage the conversations and help participants reach conclusions that are ‘fair’ (i.e. within the scope of what a court might order) and ‘workable’ (i.e. capable of being implemented).

One of the associated benefits of mediation, and indeed other forms of alternative dispute resolution, is that each case that is settled out of court reduces the pressure upon the court itself. As a family lawyer and mediator, I am acutely aware of the pressures the Family Court is under and feel that each case that can avoid court, releases judicial time for those cases that require judicial input. For example, where there are significant safeguarding or welfare issues or where there are complex legal or factual disputes to determine.

There have been discussions for mediation to become mandatory. Currently, most applicants are required to attend an initial mediation information meeting before an application to court can proceed, but mediation itself remains a voluntary process.

As a mediator, I wouldn’t support such a move. One of the features of mediation is that it is voluntary and as mediators we want participants to want to be there rather than being forced to be there. It would be a concern if participants were made to mediate as they may not be willing or able to speak freely or indeed listen to what the other participant had to say. Not being able to speak freely or listen intently would impact on the likely success of mediation, meaning that cases may be prolonged unnecessarily and result in litigation in any event.

What we would support and are increasingly seeing, is more robust and routine referrals from the judiciary for parties to consider mediation once court proceedings are underway. We find that once proceedings have been initiated, and having heard from their solicitors, but importantly also the judge, participants to mediation are motivated to find suitable settlement terms having heard and seen first-hand the implications if they do not.

For more information

If you would like more information about Anthony Collins Solicitors family mediation services please contact Chris Lloyd-Smith or call us on 0121 200 3243.