From 17 to 21 January, Resolution and the Family Mediation Council are hosting their annual Family Mediation Week.  

Mediation is not about fixing the broken relationship, nor is it about reconciliation. Instead, mediation's focus is enabling the parties to resolve together the issues arising from the broken relationship supported by and in the presence of a mediator. 

Of course, the most common issues are the distribution of the capital and wealth within the family, and the future practical and financial arrangements for the care of any children. 

Mediation offers the couple an opportunity to discuss and gain an understanding of the available resources within the family and each individual family member's needs, to make proposals and consider any implications for all those concerned. 

The voluntary process relies upon the co-operation and integrity of the parties involved. Equality of bargaining power is essential to reach a proper conclusion. If successful, mediation can reach an early settlement, minimising any costs. 

Mediation is also a "without prejudice" process, which means that it is private to the individuals and if instructed, their individual solicitors. The parties are able to have support from a solicitor throughout and to seek the advice of a solicitor upon any agreement reached before confirming agreement.  

This method can provide a cost effective and efficient way to resolve family disputes. Mediation is something which is very much supported by the current government and also by the judiciary. Legal aid, subject to means testing, is available for mediation. Some mediators but not all, are members of regulatory bodies. 

Mediation is something which should be an initial consideration for all those involved in family disputes. However, it is not of course always appropriate, for example, in cases involving domestic abuse and cases where one or both parties are not open and frank in disclosing the extent of income or capital sources.

Often, even when agreement has been reached a solicitor will need to be instructed to put the agreement into effect, and if necessary into a Court Order.

Mediation is not currently compulsory for parties to proceedings. However, in applications for arrangements for children and financial orders following the breakdown of a legally formalised relationship, the court requires that the party seeking to apply attends a Mediation Information and Advice Meeting (MIAM). At this meeting, the individual will learn more about the mediation process and can then make an informed decision about using mediation, or simply proceeding to make the application to court. If the other party will not co-operate in what is a voluntary process, mediation cannot begin.

For more information about Family Mediation Week, and some of the events that are taking place next week, click the link below.