Jenny Russell, family law solicitor and mediator, explains what Mediation is and what its key benefits are.
What is it?
Mediation is a process of trying to reach agreement, often before a separation or divorce. The parties usually meet with a trained neutral mediator who tries to help the parties work together to reach their own agreement. A mediator can give legal information, although not legal advice and both parties would, ideally, also have their own solicitors to advise them during the process.
Do I have to go?
Mediation is voluntary but before issuing court proceedings relating to disagreements about money, children, or property, it is necessary for the party to attend a meeting. This is called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting known as a MIAM. Since 22nd April 2014, it is necessary to attend such a meeting unless one of the exemptions apply, and to provide proof to the court of attendance.
At the meeting the mediator will explain what mediation is and how it works and assess whether it is suitable for you and your spouse/partner. You will be told about other forms of alternative dispute resolution and signposted to other services which may help you. The mediator can also advise you whether you would qualify for legal aid for the mediation. The meetings usually last between 30 to 60 minutes.
What happens if my spouse/partner won’t attend?
If they will attend, you can have a MIAM separately or together. Your spouse/partner is expected to attend but if they are not willing to do so, you would still need to go to a MIAM. The mediator would be able to confirm that mediation is therefore not suitable and you would be able to proceed with issuing court proceedings.
What are the advantages of mediation?
Mediation gives you the opportunity to try to reach your own agreement with your spouse/partner without anyone trying to impose a solution upon you, but with the help of a trained mediator. If you are able to reach an agreement then it can work out to be a lot less expensive than having to pursue matters through the court. Parties often need 4 to 6 mediation sessions, each session lasting from 60 to 90 minutes. If the parties are able to reach an agreement, the mediator can draw up the agreement and provide copies to the parties. They can pass this to their own solicitors, obtain independent legal advice and have the agreement drawn up in the form of a court order, where appropriate.
Do you offer family mediation?
Yes, Jenny Russell is a mediator trained by Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association). She is based in our Chesham office but also sees clients at our Amersham office. Jenny qualified as a solicitor in 1990 and has practised almost exclusively in matrimonial and family law. In 2005, she became an accredited specialist with Resolution in advance financial provision and private children law, which she renewed in 2010.