When people separate there are a number of matters that need to be decided, including where everyone will live, what the parenting arrangements will be and how the money will be settled now and in future. These discussions can be complicated and difficult because obviously people’s future welfare is at stake.
Mediation is now the preferred method for helping people investigate all options and decide for themselves how matters should be arranged. This is because the legal system is adversarial, with a resulting danger of polarisation and escalation of conflict. Mediation, on the other hand, gives people control over outcomes and ensures they have a voice. It does not preclude legal advice: in fact mediators are keen that people should have your own advice at some point in the mediation process, so that they can make well-informed decisions.
Most people do resolve matters for themselves through mediation. However, you should never feel pressured to decide things in mediation. Engaging in mediation does not in any way affect your legal rights. You retain these rights and can ask the court to decide matters on your behalf at any time. This is a perfectly respectable way forward. It is also usually the case that the work done in mediation means that people are well-prepared for court: matters to be decided have been defined and clarified, which reduces both court and solicitor time.
If you decide to ask the court to decide it is usually best if you enlist the help of a solicitor to help you navigate the best course through the system.
For further information, visit Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals
For further information, visit our page on The Children and Family Family Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass)
The Courts recognise that parents are generally best placed to know what is in their children's interests and are encouraging parents to work this out together, with the assistance of a qualified mediator. They acknowledge that mediation is not suitable in every case but for the vast majority it represents an opportunity for you to find a solution that fits best with your family’s circumstances.
Since April 2011, anyone applying to the Courts for assistance in resolving a dispute about parenting or finances following relationship breakdown has had to comply with the Pre-Application Protocol. This requires you to attend a meeting to learn about mediation – a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting or MIAM.
Legal aid is no longer widely available for divorce proceedings although if you are seeing a mediator and are legally aided you will be entitled to Help with Mediation if you instruct a solicitor who undertakes Family Legal Aid work.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.