Our family Mediation-Arbitration scheme is launched
To coincide with Resolution Good Divorce Week we are launching our own innovative Family Law Mediation-Arbitration (med-arb) Scheme.
Sorting out financial arrangements connected with divorce can be painfully slow and horrendously expensive. If the case proceeds through a court process costs can easily exceed £15,000 each and the whole process from walking into a solicitors office for the first time to obtaining a financial order can take over a year – sometimes well over a year
Mediation can help couples to reach agreements much quicker and at less cost – but mediation does not guarantee that an agreement will be reached. If the mediation fails this adds to the cost and to the delay – which is why many families – particularly where there is a limited budget decide not to mediate.
I am one of a handful of practitioners who are quadruple qualified as a Solicitor, Family Mediator, Civil Mediator and Arbitrator. What I have done, is to work out a scheme – a process – which combines the security to clients of receiving legal advice and representation, the benefits of reaching an agreement through mediation together with the certainty of outcome that can be achieved with arbitration.
Most clients are familiar with what a solicitor does (advise and represent) and what a mediator does (assist the couple on a neutral basis to negotiate – and hopefully also to improve their working relationship).
Arbitration is a different form of resolving disputes. It is relatively new in the context of family breakdown. Essentially the arbitrator is a private judge who will make a legally binding decision.
Everyone does what they are good at
In our Family Law Mediation-Arbitration Scheme we have worked at a process where the solicitors gather together financial disclosure and advise their clients on the parameters and fairness of what a settlement could be. This is what solicitors are really good at. Obtaining a clear financial picture can be more challenging for a mediator.
The solicitors and the mediator and the couple work towards a one off mediation meeting where all will attend – armed with all the information that they need with a view to reaching an agreement. We have called this the Case Resolution Mediation Meeting. Most cases will settle at this stage.
The mediator will work with the couple at the outset to deal with any interim issues and then before the Case Resolution Mediation Meeting to help the couple be properly prepared for that meeting – in order to maximise the prospects of settlement.The mediator will use their skills at the Case Resolution Mediation Meeting to maximise the prospects of settlement. If all goes well a final financial consent order will be drafted on the day.
Cases which don’t settle at the mediation stage move seamlessly into arbitration
If the case does not settle at the Case Resolution Mediation Meeting our Family Law Mediation-Arbitration Scheme allows the case to move seamlessly into an arbitration process.
In most cases, even if there is not an agreement at the Case Resolution Mediation Meeting, the gap between the couple should be sufficiently narrow that the arbitrator will be able to make a decision simply by looking at the paperwork.
If a paper arbitration is not possible then there will be an arbitration hearing.
Even in the worst-case scenario, the whole process should be able to be completed in less than six months. The biggest potential delay would be obtaining pension information/advice.
Apart from the scenario where there is an attended Arbitration Hearing – the eventualities are sufficiently predictable that these can be charged on a fixed fee basis. Full details of the fixed fees are in the scheme documentation. However, in all scenarios the costs should be significantly less then a contested court process.
Committing to case resolution from the outset
The process gets underway after the couple and their solicitors sign the mediation contract and the binding agreement to arbitrate. This means that if the mediation part fails everyone is committed to proceed to arbitration. Our Family Law Mediation-Arbitration Scheme does however include a single break clause which deals with a scenario where one of the couple fails to provide full financial disclosure. This break is there as a safeguard – but it is unlikely to be needed – because exercising the break calls will commit the couple to spending thousands of pounds in a court process.
Here is a link to the scheme’s home page on our website:
Here is a download to our detailed Family Law Mediation-Arbitration Scheme brochure.
Our professional team
In order for this to all work we need to have a team of expert arbitrators and solicitors who are committed to working within the process and who are willing to work to the fee scheme.
Our panel of arbitrators
I am pleased to say that we are very lucky with our panel of participating arbitrators. These are:
Karin Walker|Partner KGW Family Law, Woking
Ian Taylor |Partner Coodes, St Austell. Deputy District Judge
Rhys Taylor |Barrister, 36 Bedford Row Chambers, London.
Barbara Corbett | Partner, Benest Corbett Renouf, Jersey.
Karin Walker is a member of the National Committee of Resolution and she is also the Chair of the Resolution Dispute Resolution Committee.All of our participating arbitrators and our initial panels of solicitors have considered the terms of the Family Law Mediation-Arbitration Scheme very carefully and are all very happy to be involved in it. The mediation side of the scheme has also been independently assessed by my own mediation PPC (practice supervisor).
I am in the role of mediator.I have been a family mediator since 1996.
I am also a practising solicitor and an arbitrator and mediator for civil disputes (where the style of mediation is slightly different).
Our initial panel of solicitors
Our initial panel of solicitors are:
Zoe Gaitskell | Partner Beviss & Beckingsale 01404 548055
Fin O’Leary | Solicitor Scott Rowe 01297 32345
Kim Stradling | Partner Everys 01395 264384
Terry Bastyan | Partner Gilbert Stephens 01392 424242
Fiona Yellowlees| Partner WBW 01626 202415
Victoria Oerton and Graham Simm| Partners Oerton Simm 01823 259449
All are very experienced solicitors and members of Resolution.
Inclusive and not exclusive
Our scheme is inclusive and not exclusive. We would be very happy for other solicitors to participate and we will also be happy for the solicitors to pick arbitrators not on our panel.
To be included on the list – solicitors need to commit to the fixed fees and to working within the spirit of the scheme.
I could not speak to everyone that I know in the legal world when I was working this out. I therefore limited those who I discussed it with to some near neighbours.
If anyone would like to be added to the list, they will be very welcome.
Devon and Somerset and elsewhere
I will be offering the scheme in its attached form in East Devon (from Honiton), Exeter, Taunton and Newton Abbot. I am happy to run a modified version of the scheme elsewhere.
If you are slightly further afield and you would like to be able to participate in the scheme then please do let me know and we can work out how we can make modifications to benefit your clients.
Here is a flowchart showing how it works. But you need to read the full brochure. (Link above)