Most family legal teams support mediation as an alternative to court intervention. Or at least, as a starting point to attempt to reach a mutually amicable resolution for all involved.
The vast majority of family disputes can be addressed through communication and the involvement of impartial legal advisers. From inheritance disputes to contentious probate to matters regarding child access and maintenance, it isn’t always necessary to bring family legal matters before the courts.
But what does the family mediation process look like? If considering mediation as an alternative to court intervention, what can you expect when you take part in family mediation?
In most instances, mediation begins with an informal telephone conversation with each of the parties taking part in the process. This is carried out simply to inform those taking part how the process works and what they can expect, while providing the opportunity to ask any important questions beforehand. The solicitor leading the mediation may also ask about the specific issues each individual intends to raise during the discussion.
Each party who agrees to go ahead with the programme of mediation will then be invited for an individual meeting. Sometimes referred to as a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, this provides the participants with the opportunity to discuss their issues and raise their arguments on a more detailed level. All initial individual meetings are held in strict confidence and nothing discussed will be brought up at the joint meetings, or relayed to anyone else taking part by the solicitor leading a discussions.
This tends to be the most challenging and perhaps uncomfortable stage of the process for most. The first joint meeting provides those taking part to begin discussing the dispute in a structured and controlled manner. The solicitor leading the discussions will go through the subjects and issues that will be discussed throughout the programme, while giving those taking part the opportunity to make their initial statements and arguments. All participants are given the opportunity to speak frankly and openly, without interruption from others.
After which, additional joint meetings will be held until such a time as the matter is resolved. There’s no set timeframe for a successful mediation process – some are wrapped up in days, others take several months to make significant progress. At all times, the mediator will provide their input from a purely legal and objective perspective. The solicitor is not there to tell those taking part what to do, but to simply lead the discussions in the right direction.
In the event that no agreement is reached, the participants involved in the discussion will have the option to take further action as they see fit. Examples of which include arbitration and court involvement – both of which can usually be avoided with proactive mediation.
If you have any questions or concerns on any aspect of family law, we’re standing by to take your call.
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