This article explains how mediation can help you to resolve disputes during your divorce and possible help you to stay out of court. Most conflicts are about money or the children.
It is quite likely that you and your partner have very different ideas as to how to deal with your money after separation or divorce. You may also find it hard to agree what kind of living and contact arrangements would be best for your children. Even at the best of times disagreements about money or the children can be very difficult to resolve and this is even more so when you are splitting up. You are, naturally, likely to experience many unpleasant feelings: anger, hurt, resentment and so on, which can make it difficult to talk to each other, to identify the real issues and/or to find as practical and beneficial a solution as is possible.
Asking the court to resolve your disagreements is, of course, always an option but it is very expensive and can result in both parties feeling dissatisfied. You will, after all, be told what is best by a third party rather than working it out between yourselves. In order to avoid this, the court will very often suggest that people try mediation to reach an agreement. You can also contact the Family Mediation Service directly to find your local branch and make an appointment.
How does it work?
A professionally trained mediator will help you to try and find an amicable and practical solution to your problems. They do this by providing you with a neutral environment to talk, guiding your discussion, helping you identify the real issues and looking at possible solutions. They do not take sides but help you to see each other's point of view. They do not give legal advice or provide counselling (for more on counselling, please see the link at the end of this article). Instead, the focus is on resolving particular practical issues in a way that is acceptable to all parties.
The process is entirely voluntary. You remain in control. You can stop mediation at any time. You are under no obligation to reach an agreement.
Who is it for?
Family mediation can be used before or after separating, by grandparents, adult children and other family members. It is open to both married and unmarried partners. The purpose is to try and resolve conflicts. Mostly, these will relate either to children (such as where they are going to live, when and how they are going to see other family members) or to finances (how to best divide up property and work out maintenance payments).
Why should you consider it?
Prolonged disputes in separation and divorce cause a lot of stress to everyone and can be extremely damaging to children, in particular. Legal costs can mount up quickly and you may end up with a result neither of you is particularly happy with instead of one you have worked out and agreed yourself. If you have children, you will need to be able to communicate with each other in future too and mediation can help you to do that more easily.
What does it cost?
If you are on a low income or income support, mediation is free. Otherwise charges are on a sliding scale depending on your financial means. One thing is absolutely certain: a few sessions of mediation cost only a small fraction of what your legal bill will be in contested proceedings!
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