Frequently Asked Questions

Ian WalkerThis section of the website endeavours to provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Below are the FAQs about family mediation. In the buttons you will find links to FAQs in respect of divorce, family law and children law and cohabitation.

The answers are necessarily general. They are information – and in some cases detailed information but they are not advice. Advice is something which is specific to you and your situation. We can only give advice as to the best options for your if we know a lot about your individual circumstances.

These FAQs can be a starting point in your journey to sort out difficulties. But the next step should be to arrange a meeting with one of our team of experts.

We are ready to help…

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FAQ's Divorce

Follow this link to find the answers to frequently asked questions about divorce law.

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FAQ's Child Care Law
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FAQ's Family Law (including children cases not involving social services)
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Follow this link to find the answers to frequently asked questions about family law issues including children disputes between parents.

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FAQ's Cohabitation Law
FAQ's Cohabitation Law

Follow this link to find the answers to frequently asked questions about issues arising from disputes between unmarried couples.

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FAQ's Family Mediation

Unless there is a genuine emergency or a prescribed exception applies – then it is now necessary for a family mediator who is accredited with the Family Mediation Council to meet with the person wishing to make the application for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting and for the family mediator to sign the C 100 court form either saying that one or both of the couple have declined mediation or that mediation is unsuitable.

The idea is to encourage parents/parties to try to resolve issues about child arrangements by negotiation within mediation – rather than one making an application to the court.
There is no requirement to mediate. The requirement is to consider mediation.

As with the C 100 (see above) – unless certain exemptions apply – then someone wanting to make an application to the court for a financial order needs to meet with a mediator to consider whether mediation can be used to enable them to resolve the disagreement.

The mediator will sign the form A if they are satisfied that mediation is unsuitable as a way of resolving the dispute or if one or both of the parties decline to use mediation.

There is no requirement to mediate. The requirement is to consider mediation.

Please see the answer to the question: how much does a family mediator cost?

The answer is it depends upon whether you qualify for legal aid and then what the dispute is about and how many meetings it is likely to take to resolve.

Successful mediation usually involves several meetings – if finding a solution was that easy – you probably would have found the solution already.

The cost of family mediation depends upon the matters that need to be resolved and the time spent achieving resolution.

If a party qualifies for legal aid for family mediation then the legal aid agency will pay for all of that person’s costs in the mediation – so FOR THE LEGALLY AIDED CLIENT; MEDIATION IS FREE. If the other person in the case doesn’t qualify for legal aid – then the legal aid agency will pay the non-legally aided persons costs for the first meeting.

If you don’t qualify for legal aid, then our charges are set out on our charges page.
the starting point is that both potential clients will have a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or MIAM to decide if mediation is the right process for them and to understand precisely what is involved.

After we have met with both for their Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, we will be able to give an individual cost estimate.

When thinking about the costs of family mediation it is important to understand that mediation is a process.

When looking at child arrangements a process is required to improve trust and communications and to make real changes and for them to become embedded.

Success comes from taking a series of steps and both delivering upon what they say they are going to do. This is unlikely to be achieved in one meeting.

When looking at financial arrangements, before the discussions can move on to finding solutions, time must be taken to ensure that there is full financial disclosure and that couples obtain additional information (such as finding out about mortgage raising capacity or house valuations et cetera) so that both can make informed choices.

A normal and successful family mediation will therefore take 3 – 4 meetings after the initial assessment meetings.
Sometimes, when solicitors are involved and in financial cases where financial disclosure has already taken place, it will be possible to move to a single decision-making meeting straightaway.

When we have met for the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting we will be able to give you a better idea about both numbers of meetings and cost.

A short single meeting will rarely resolve anything.

See our answer to the question: how much does a family mediator cost?

You are on our website. We are a family mediation service as well as being a legal practice. Therefore, by finding our website you have also found a family mediator.

As a legal practice we use other family mediators from time to time. When deciding who to instruct as a family mediator on a particular case, we are mindful of our own detailed local knowledge of other mediators in our area and their practices.

It would be very unusual for us to instruct a mediator who is not legally qualified. This is because we are of the view that in family matters, it is usually much better for the mediator to have a good knowledge of the legal principles which would come into play if a sensible agreement cannot be achieved.

If you are not in our area then a good starting point to find a family mediator with a legal background is:

Good family mediation is something that requires practice and experience.

Experienced family mediators will have achieved accredited status. The relevant accreditation schemes are with the Law Society: this is a link to the find a solicitor page. By using the pro search option to find a person and then the more search options to find a solicitor with the family mediation accreditation, you will be able to find an accredited family mediator in your area.

In our practice, Ian Walker and David Howell Richardson are both accredited on the Law Society Family Mediation Accreditation Scheme. In the alternative, a local family mediator could also be found using the search page on the website of the Family Mediation Council:

With this search tool, the results do not immediately show which mediators have achieved accreditation standard. You need to click into the details of the individual mediator from the list which the search provides.

Ian Walker is accredited as a family mediator by the Family Mediation Council.
In our view the law society accreditation is the more rigorous accreditation standard.

Family mediation is a way to find solutions to family related problems. Most often these would include the arrangements through which children spend time with their parents or resolving the financial implications of a divorce. The subject of family mediation can be any problem between family members.

Family mediation is a process of confidential negotiation.

The family mediator facilitates the negotiation/mediation.

The family mediator provides a neutral and safe venue for the mediation. The family mediator will assist the couple to focus on those matters which need to be discussed in order to find a solution. The family mediator will keep a neutral record of what is discussed and proposals that are made.

The family mediator will encourage the couple to adopt a problem-solving approach so that they can find solutions to the problem which have benefits for both and in particular have the most benefits possible for their children.
The family mediator can provide information. If the family mediator is a divorce lawyer or family law solicitor, they will be better able to provide information about legal principles and processes than someone who does not have legal qualification. This information can assist the couple to make informed choices

A legally qualified family mediator will also be able to say when a couple are proposing a solution which is not one that a court would consider to be reasonable.

The family mediator will have been trained and will have skills which they will use to assist the couple to listen to each other and to discuss the matters that need to be resolved in a constructive way.

Please see the answer to the question above: What do family mediators do?

A family mediator can come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Many family mediators are also family Law solicitors – but this is not an essential requirement.

Family mediators can also come from other professional backgrounds where they will work with families. For example social work, counselling, therapy. Family mediators can also be accountants.

The role of a family mediator is to provide neutral facilitation of the confidential negotiations that make up family mediation. This neutrality is extremely important.

Family mediation takes place within the shadow of the law. By this we mean – if the family mediation fails to produce a mutually acceptable outcome – then either or both of the couple may make an application to the court and a judge may decide what the couple should do (for example: what the financial settlement from the divorce or the child arrangements should be).

A court will make decisions based upon the application of various legal principles to the facts of the case in question. Because of this, in our view it is usually better for the family mediator to be legally qualified – because they will be able to explain the meaning of the relevant legal principles – which will better assist the couple to make the best informed choices.

Choosing the right mediator for you and the other party is an important choice. It cannot be said that there is an absolute best mediator.

When choosing a mediator, it is sensible to consider their professional background (are they a solicitor or do they have no legal background at all?), Do they have any accreditation’s? (The key accreditation’s are with the Family Mediation Council: FMCA or the Law Society), how long have they been practicing as a mediator?

If the mediation is about children issues – what arrangements they have in place for obtaining the views of your children? Sometimes it is helpful to obtain the views of your children, other times it isn’t. What is important is to have the option.

What would the mediator do if mediation is not successful? In our practice we promote mediation with arbitration. We encourage clients who are stuck in mediation to obtain resolution of stuck issues through the use of arbitration.

There are lots of things to think about.

What is also important to remember is that the mediator doesn’t have a magic wand. Mediation will only work if both parties entering the mediation want to use mediation to find a solution.

Therefore what do you really want? What does the other person really want? What compromises can you make to assist them make progress in achieving what they want? Whilst allowing them to make compromises to assist you in achieving what you want?

Successful mediation requires listening and compromise and a forward-looking problem-solving approach. You could have the best mediator in the world and the mediation would be unsuccessful if the parties in mediation have no desire to compromise….

Family mediation can work. However, the mediator doesn’t have a magic wand.

Success in mediation is down to the participants.

Successful mediation requires taking a forward-looking and problem-solving approach. The past cannot be undone. The future can be shaped. Solving the big problem will help solve the smaller problems.

Therefore – success in mediation requires both to think about what they want to achieve out of mediation. Can they find common goals? For example child arrangements that genuinely work and where everyone is happy? Or achieving a straightforward divorce and a and financial settlement where the housing needs of all can be met?

If the couple can work together to find ways to solve the joint problem in a mutually acceptable and fair way – then their mediation has good prospects of success. If one or both of the couple simply want to use to continue ongoing disputes and to force the other to compromise – without making compromises themselves – then mediation is unlikely to succeed.

Family mediation is not compulsory.

In non-urgent cases it is currently a requirement for someone wishing to make an application to the court to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting or MIAM. However once the MIAM is complete, there is no requirement to go on to mediation.

Part of the way in which mediation works is through it being a voluntary process. Each party knows that the other party is attending mediation because they want to use mediation to find a solution to their joint problems. This gives both confidence that there is a commitment to find a solution.

Attending a MIAM is compulsory (except in urgent cases) because the courts recognise that it is better that parents and/or separating couples resolve their family problems together if possible through talking in mediation – rather than through a lengthy and costly court process.

Firstly, you need to think: what do I really want to achieve? What does the other person want to achieve? What joint goals can there be? What compromises can I make to assist them in achieving their goals/joint goals? What compromises do I really need from the other person? What compromises are they able to make?

If the mediation is about financial issues – then you need to prepare your financial information. You also need to think about the practicalities of a financial settlement. How am I going to meet the housing needs of our children? How am I going to assist the other person in meeting their housing needs? How am I going to meet my own housing needs? What is my mortgage raising capacity? Am I able to borrow money from family members?

If the mediation is about child arrangements then you need to think about small steps that can be taken to achieve long-term goals. The solution won’t happen instantaneously. It will be taken through a series of smaller steps. What steps are realistic?

Mediation can be stressful. The reason why mediation is required is because a couple have not been able to find a solution by talking directly to each other. Couples often separate because they no longer get on. Talking about big issues will be stressful. Therefore, are there things that you can do to reduce that stress? Good preparation is one thing.

Another is being prepared to listen to the other person and not to dismiss their ideas and proposals out of hand. But also think about your own support. It is helpful if your support network are supportive of you trying to find a solution – rather than being negative. Sometimes counselling or stress release/management strategies can also be helpful.

There is a well known saying: fail to prepare – prepare to fail. That is true with mediation as with many other things in life.

Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes – yes.

When a couple enter mediation, they will already be in disagreement with each other. The starting point of mediation is that they have agreed that they cannot reach an agreement without help. They both choose to mediate because they hope to find a solution together with the help of the independent mediator.

If there is a breach of trust within mediation or if there is not a serious attempt to resolve matters amicably then this can make relations worse.

For example – if a couple agree to changes to child arrangements – but one then reneges on the arrangements without good reason – this is not going to assist further changes.

Mediation is not about coming into the meeting and repeating in a hostile way proposals that have already been rejected or using the meeting to repeat past grievances.

Mediation is intended as a constructive process to look at how to make the future better. Mediation is an opportunity to try different things and it to be successful it requires thinking about things creatively. How do you persuade the other person to agree what you want them to agree to? The answer is invariably by giving them something that they want? In other words by creating win/win solutions.

Delivery on what you say you were going to do is also fundamentally important. Don’t offer to do something unless you are prepared to carry it out.

Whether mediation is successful or not very much depends upon the commitment of the couple.

Historically the solicitors who undertook family work practised in the same non-holistic way that would be used to general litigation/dispute resolution.

The 1980s saw the formation of the Solicitors Family Law Association (now Resolution) who wanted to find a better way to resolve family disputes. This involved changing the style of the practice of family law to being one which was more sensitive to the impact of disputes upon family relationships. A more problem-solving approach was encouraged.

It was in the 1980s that interest developed in mediation. A pioneer had been John Haynes (a lawyer based in the USA). Up to this point, there had been some mediation in England which grew out of conciliation schemes from the court welfare service – encouraging parents to reach agreements over children disputes.

A group of mainly solicitors including John Cornwell (one of the founders of the SFLA) and Henry Brown formed the Family Mediators Association and pioneered the use of mediation to resolve family financial disputes as well as children disputes.

Since then the use of mediation has grown slowly over time. There are a number of professional bodies, some of which are very much lawyer based, others are predominantly nonlawyers – but all worked together under the umbrella of the Family Mediation Council.

Because family mediation is a means of resolving family disputes it has attracted family lawyers to train. The endpoint of mediation (almost always in financial cases, and sometimes in children cases) can be a financial order. One of the roles of the mediator is to give neutral information to the mediation clients. A lawyer mediator is well placed to do this – because understanding the legal issues and the party’s legal rights is integral to what the family solicitor does on a daily basis. This means that the family solicitor is well placed to tell mediation clients if they are proposing a financial arrangement which is outside of the parameters of what a court might order. Because a family solicitor regularly drafts financial orders – when they are acting as a neutral mediator, they will have in mind some of the intricacies that needs to be covered. If these are covered in mediation then there is less scope for confusion about precisely what had been agreed later on.

But in answer to the question, the practice of family law is these days more holistic and there is much greater emphasis on problem-solving in a holistic way. Family solicitors are negotiators and do much much more than simply run cases through the courts. It is therefore natural that many have chosen to train as mediators.

In my own view, training and practising as a mediator was one of the best things I ever did to improve my skills as a family lawyer.

See the answer to the question above – why are so many family mediators’ solicitors?

Mediators come from a variety of professional backgrounds. There are some very good mediators who are not lawyers.

When looking for a family mediator you need to find someone who you can both work with and he you both think can work with you. You should look at their experience and their accreditations.

Because family disputes take place within the shadow of the law (meaning that the parties are negotiating something which might otherwise be resolved in court and where knowledge of their legal rights and the likely legal outcomes is a consideration in how they resolve their dispute), we would take the view that having good legal knowledge is very important if not essential.

Therefore as a legal practice, when we make referrals to mediators, we invariably make referrals to mediators who are either practising solicitors or who have practised as solicitors for a good period of time. Of course, we also think about personality, style, experience, accreditation, convenience et cetera. However, in our view it is essential that the mediator has good legal knowledge.

Legal aid is available for family mediation. This is subject to a means test. Please see our page on legal aid: there is a link from this page to relevant pages on the legal aid agency website.

The legal aid agency requirements of there being domestic abuse does not apply to family mediation.

This is a difficult question to answer.

If you qualify for legal aid for family mediation then your share of the mediation costs will be paid for by the legal aid agency and therefore to you mediation is free.

If you are paying for mediation then the cost will depend upon the time spent.

If mediation doesn’t work at all there might only be one session.

If mediation is to be successful then you need to view it as a process and there are likely to be three or four sessions. These will probably be shorter in cases seeking to resolve children issues and longer in cases where financial matters are being considered.

All cases are different. The dynamics between a couple are also different.

If a couple come into mediation with and unwillingness to negotiate or to look at options other than what they have already put forward or to use mediation as an excuse to have a go at the other person – then mediation is likely to be much slower than if both come into mediation with an open mind and a willingness to listen to what each other are seeking and proposing.

Generally, a successful mediation could come at a cost of between £1200 – £3000 each (including all the paperwork and VAT). But this will always be much cheaper than arguing matters in court – where the cost could be 10 times as much!

If you qualify for legal aid for family mediation it will cover all of your costs for the mediation. Realistically this would be for up to 3 – 4 meetings. The legal aid will also cover the initial assessment meetings.

Where one person is legally aided and the other is not, then legal aid will also pay for the non-legally aided persons assessment meeting and first joint meeting (but not any paperwork afterwards).

Sometimes mediation fails because a couple get so far but they get stuck on a particular point.

If someone decides the sticking point – it may be that the couple can then negotiate the remainder of the matters in dispute.

Alternatively, it may be that the couple are agreed that they cannot agree and simply want someone to make a decision which avoids them having to go to court.

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution where an arbitrator who is a private judge will make a legally binding decision. Because the couple are paying for the arbitrators time, there is much more flexibility than the courts and arbitration can take place at an agreed venue, in a slightly more informal way than court, within a short period of time. In simple cases the arbitrator can make legally binding decisions simply by reading submissions from each of the parties.

Combining mediation with arbitration means that if a couple get stuck in mediation they can have confidence that all of their hard work will not have been wasted and rather than going to court they can move to a determination quickly.

Arbitration in family cases is quite a new form of dispute resolution in England and the combination of mediation with arbitration is even newer. However the principles are sound and in our view it is a very good way of avoiding one of the obvious barriers to mediation… What do we do if we cannot reach agreement in mediation? Please see our pages on both family mediation and arbitration to find out more.

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