We have created a helpful glossary of family mediation terms to help you understand what they mean in legal terms.
Family mediators should all be accredited by the Family Mediation Council or working towards their accreditation. Accreditation is the watermark for family mediation and ensures the mediator is fully qualified and an expert in their field.
These are terms not used in family mediation. These terms describe formal and often binding arrangements and are not used within mediation, albeit that the proposals and conclusions that do can often be turned into binding legal agreements outside of mediation by parties legal advisors.
Conflict of interests
This exists where the family mediator knows one of the parties to mediation, either professionally or personally. One of the principles of mediation is impartiality. Where a conflict of interests exists there may be a perception that the mediator may not be impartial. As such where there is a question as to whether a conflict of interests exists mediation should not take place with that particular mediator being involved.
In family mediation all discussions are confidential. This means that nothing will leave the mediation room without both parties agreement.
This is the application that would be made to the family court for any child-related matters. In usual circumstances the family mediator will have to sign the C100 before it is sent to court, otherwise the application is likely to be refused by the court.
A Form E is a financial disclosure form used by the court. It is often also completed when parties agree to voluntary disclosure outside of court proceedings.
‘Full and frank’ disclosure
‘Full and frank’ disclosure means complete disclosure. It is important in family mediation for disclosure to be complete as, in the event conclusions are reached, they can be ‘set aside’ if it subsequently transpires that something has been forgotten.
Schedule of income needs
When dealing with financial matters in family mediation it is important to understand what income parties will need following separation. A schedule of income needs sets out the individual monthly expenditure a party will pay each month. This information helps parties to reality test proposals to see if they are financially workable.
The family mediator does not take either parties side during mediation and will not say if one party is right or wrong.
The family mediator does not act for either party.
Legal advice is information given to parties by their legal advisor designed to help them and their case. The family mediator will not provide legal advice to either party during the family mediation process.
This differs from the advice explained above. Legal information, given to both parties in an impartial way, can be given by the family mediator to assist the family mediation process and where appropriate to do so. It is sometimes given to inform parties of the law concerning a certain area or what criteria a court will take into consideration when making a decision.
Memorandum of Understanding
This is a formal document prepared at the conclusion of family mediation by the family mediator, where proposals have been made and or conclusions reached. It provides a summary of the discussions, what the proposals/conclusions are and importantly why they have been made. This document is confidential and without prejudice so cannot be disclosed to the family court without both parties consent.
Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
This stands for Mediation Information and Assessment meeting. This is an initial mediation appalment, usually undertaken separately where the family mediator gives information to a party about family mediation and other forms of dispute resolution. The family mediator also asks questions about the parties relationship and having done so makes an assessment as to whether he or she feels mediation is safe and appropriate for a party.
Open Financial Statement
This is a formal summary of the financial disclosure provided by parties within mediation. It is prepared at the conclusion and accompanies the Memorandum of Understanding. Unlike the Memorandum of Understanding, the Open Financial Statement is an open document so can be disclosed to the family court.
Reality testing is when parties look at a proposal to see whether it is workable and meets parties needs.
At all stages of the family mediation process the family mediator is obliged to consider whether family mediation is safe and appropriate and whether a party or child is at risk of harm. Where safeguarding issues arise the family mediator may consider bringing family mediation to an end. In certain circumstances, where these issues the family mediator is also obliged to contact agencies such as social services or the police in order to protect that party/child.
This is requested at the end of family mediation sessions. It records discussions held by parties and any proposals made. The record is confidential and without prejudice but is routinely provided by parties to their legal advisor so that legal advice and be provided.
Throughout the family mediation process the family mediator will consider whether other professionals or agencies can help the parties emotionally or professionally. These can be surveyors, pension experts, psychologists or counsellors. Where circumstances exist the mediator will provide details to parties so that extra assistance can be provided outside of mediation.
Family mediation is entirely voluntary. Parties to family mediation should want to mediate. In the event either party does not wish to mediate they can terminate family mediation at any time. An important reason why family mediation is voluntary is in the event a party does not want to be in family mediation they will not be able to speak freely and consider proposal openly. In that event it is likely that family mediation will not be successful.
These are private discussions and negotiations that take place between parties but cannot be subsequently disclosed to the court.
For more information
You can find out more about how we can support you with family mediation, as your mediator or your solicitor on this part of our website. Alternatively, please contact Chris Lloyd-Smith, Elisabeth Howe or Maria Ramon.