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DTM Legal is actively promoting family mediation as an accessible and effective alternative dispute resolution method. Our Family Law team explains the basics of mediation, its benefits, cost considerations, the role of solicitors, and situations where mediation may or may not be suitable.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a method of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) with the aim of resolving disagreements between separating couples without the need for Court intervention. The issues to be resolved could be the arrangements for any children or what a financial settlement might look like after separation.

The process involves a trained mediator, as a neutral third-party, assisting couples to find workable solutions whilst hopefully reducing the risk of ongoing conflict. Mediators are trained to help both parties work collaboratively ensuring that decisions are made on a joint basis and are fair to each party. It can be a great way to help parties take control, make decisions together and navigate their way through any issues.

Family Mediation, what is the first step?

The first step is to attend a ‘Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting’ (MIAM) or ‘first meeting’. During this meeting the mediator will provide some further information in respect of the process so parties can consider whether mediation is right for them. Each party attends one of these meetings separately to start with but after the MIAM appointments have taken place, if both parties are still willing to mediate, the mediator will then arrange a joint session.

Is Mediation expensive?

The cost of mediation can vary dependent on the number and complexity of the issues to be negotiated but also the particular practice and their location. It can be helpful to make enquiries with several practices prior to starting the process.

Legal aid is still available, however, for Mediation so if you are on a low income, you may want to look into whether you might be eligible. If your former partner has legal aid, but you are paying privately for mediation, the MIAM meeting and first mediation session will also be free for you too.

In addition, the Government has set up a Family Mediation Voucher scheme to encourage more people to consider mediation as a means of resolving disputes, where appropriate. To support this, where couples are eligible, a one-off financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation can be provided. However, as it stands, the current scheme only covers resolving arrangements for children. This scheme can be discussed further with any mediator instructed.

Do I need a solicitor?

Mediators aren’t able to give specific legal advice to ensure they remain impartial. They can therefore only explain general legal terms to couples.

It is a matter for the individual whether they instruct a solicitor alongside mediation however, it is recommended that both parties at some point during the mediation process obtain legal advice so they know their legal position and certainly if they are in anyway unsure. This can then make the mediation process run smoother.

Once an agreement has been reached during mediation, the mediator will normally a memorandum of agreement. This document is not legally binding however, so if participants want to ensure their agreement is made legally binding, the assistance of a solicitor is required to prepare the necessary paperwork.

When Might Family Mediation Not be Suitable?

Mediation might work for a great number of people, however, there are situations when mediation may not be appropriate/suitable. This can include: –

  • Where there are allegations of domestic abuse or other risks of harm;
  • Where there are extreme levels of conflict or potentially disputes on fact, which makes the issue incapable of being negotiated.
  • When one or both parties are not willing to mediate
  • When one or both parties demonstrates a lack of commitment or genuine engagement with the process

If mediation is deemed not appropriate or unsuitable, either at the outset or during the process, the mediator will provide a certificate confirming this. You would be required to provide a copy of this certificate should you decide to issue Court proceedings. Mediation is only one type of alternative dispute resolution, however, and you may wish to discuss other options with a solicitor before progressing to Court.

When considering instructing a solicitor, it is important that you instruct someone who will adopt a pragmatic and balanced approach to your case. Checking to see whether they are a member of Resolution can help as Resolution is an organisation of family lawyers who are committed to navigating matters in a non-confrontational and constructive way.

Speak to a Family Law Solicitor

If you are in a position where you feel you require advice from a family law specialist, please contact our Family Team by calling 01244 354835 or email Helen Davies at If you have other concerns relating to family law or divorce and dissolution, visit our Family Law page for more information on our services.

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