Blackfords have an active Mediation department with both Nicola Chamberlain and Aisling Rowe qualified family mediators and Solicitors within the family team.
Family mediation is a way of resolving the issues that can arise before, during or after separation or divorce.
The mediation process is an efficient and cost-effective alternative way to settle a wide range of family disputes, without the need for the costly and time-consuming process of litigation and court hearings. Most commonly, mediation will cover:
- Children issues
- Separation/divorce/dissolving civil partnership
- Cohabitation disputes and agreements
- Contact disputes
- Financial settlement/pensions
It is a voluntary and confidential process during which you make the decisions about your future with your former partner, with the assistance of a qualified third party – the mediator.
A family mediator will:
- Provide a neutral safe environment for your discussions
- Help you to try to reach an agreement
- Let you take control of the timescales
- Facilitate your discussions
- Suggest ways of solving a problem that you may not have considered
- Reality test or check your suggestions and any final agreement
- Make suggestions as to how various disputed issues could be resolved
A family mediator will not:
- Give specific legal advice
- This is because they act in a neutral capacity
- Make the decisions for you
- Mediation is there to help you make your own decisions about the issues that are affecting you.
- Try and help you to reconcile
With the help of a family mediator, the aim is for you to reach a solution that works for you and your family.
Resolution is a national organisation of family lawyers who are committed to easing the pain and the financial costs of family breakdown. All Resolution members follow a code of practice, which encourages solutions rather than confrontation using a conciliatory approach, taking into account the needs of the whole family. Resolution also undertake comprehensive training for family lawyers to become qualified family mediators. As long standing members of Resolution, Nicola and Aisling are committed to working with you to achieve the right solution for your family.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
After the initial telephone call, the first step is to arrange a short 20-30 minute meeting with each party, separately, so that the mediator can assess whether mediation is suitable. This meeting will be free of charge. If everyone agrees to proceed, a mediation session will be arranged and you will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate.
Will I have to meet with my ex?
A mediation session will involve both people in the same room as the mediator. This is important because it promotes communication which is a key issue, particularly in cases where there are children from the relationship. Very occasionally, mediation can take place with the parties in separate rooms and the mediator shuttling between the couple. However, this is not common and is not recommended in most cases.
Can I bring someone else with me?
You are welcome to bring a friend, family member or current partner along to the initial individual meeting as support. However, mediation itself usually takes place with just the two of you.
How much does a session cost and who pays?
The initial calls and assessment meeting will be free of charge. Sessions are booked for 1 & 1/2 hours, and cost £200 plus VAT per hour. Usually the cost of the session is divided between the couple. However, it is not uncommon for one party to agree to pay the full fee, or for the fees to be paid from a joint bank account. The fees are paid at the end of each session.
Charges are not made for telephone calls, letters or emails during the mediation process. However, if an interim or final agreement is written up, the hourly rate of £200 plus VAT will apply for the time spent to do this. Again, the costs are normally shared.
How many sessions will I need?
On average, and depending on the issues, you will need anything between 3-6 mediation sessions. If there are issues about both finances and children it is likely that there will be more sessions, and an average might therefore be 4-6 sessions. If it becomes clear that the mediation process is not working for you then the mediator will let you know as soon as this becomes apparent.
Will there be any reports about what has taken place in mediation?
If an agreement is reached through the mediation process then the mediator will draw up a document setting out the terms that have been resolved and explaining the background. This will include a summary of the financial information that has been provided, if mediation has resolved a financial dispute. There will be a charge for drawing up this documentation as outlined above.
Is mediation legally binding?
No. Discussions that take place in mediation are private and cannot be referred to if mediation breaks down and the issues go to court. However, any factual and documented financial information disclosed and exchanged is open and can be referred to in court.
If an agreement is reached in mediation, this is also deemed private, or “without prejudice” and is not binding by law. This enables both parties to reflect on the agreement and to have independent legal advice on the terms reached. It is possible subsequently to give the proposals legal effect in a court order, particularly in relation to financial settlements.
Do I still need a solicitor as well?
You do not always need your own separate solicitor. Many people resolve matters through the mediation process and find that they do not need any further advice. This is often the case with children arrangements. However, where mediation deals with financial matters, the mediator will normally recommend that each party has independent legal advice from a solicitor, either during the mediation process, or afterwards, in relation to any agreement reached.
What happens if the mediation breaks down?
If you are unable to reach an agreement or if either party has a change of heart about mediation, the mediation process will end and Blackfords LLP will have no further involvement.
Can Blackfords LLP mediate when you have acted for me before?
Generally we cannot mediate for our own clients as there would be a conflict of interest. This would mean that there would be a potential for perceived prejudice in favour of a client for whom we have previously acted. This also means that we cannot provide family legal advice to a client for whom we have previously mediated. The mediation process can only work by being impartial and transparent.