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Frequently asked questions

How does it work?


A Family Mediation Council Mediator will meet with you for a series of sessions, in which you will be helped to:
– Make a list of all the matters you wish to consider
– Collect the necessary information about your finances and/or arrangements for your children
– Talk about the choices open to you
– Negotiate with each other in order to reach decisions which are practicable and acceptable to you both
– Discuss how you can consult your children appropriately about arrangements you decide to make




What does the mediator do?


The mediator's job is to chair your meetings – helping to create a level playing field as you exchange information, ideas and views constructively so you can progress towards joint decision-making. The mediator creates a ‘mediated environment’ where it is safe and possible to have discussions about issues that were too difficult or impossible to discuss between yourselves. The mediator has no power to impose a settlement; responsibility for all decisions remains with you as you know better than anyone else what is right for your family. Your mediator is an expert, but he or she cannot give advice – that is your solicitor's job and we therefore suggest that you see a solicitor before you finalise any agreements to check that they will be in your interests.




Can mediation cover all the issues?


Yes, we offer mediation on everything – children, property, finances, maintenance, pensions etc - arising from the break-up of your relationship, including – with your permission – offering your children the opportunity to have a voice.




How many meetings will there be?


That depends on what you need to sort out and how well you co-operate together. The mediator will give you an estimate when she or he has seen you for an initial meeting. Usually it is between one and six mediation sessions. Each face to face mediation meeting will last for around one and a half hours.

We routinely offer parents the opportunity for their children to be invited to be involved. If you wish the mediator to see your children and the children agree, that meeting will take up to an hour and the mediator will need a commitment from you both to receive your children’s feedback. For more information please talk to your mediator.




How much will it cost?


Details of charges can be seen on the how much page of our website and are also available by email or hard copy from the office. If you are eligible for Legal Aid there will be no charge for mediation. An assessment of your eligibility will be made at the first meeting if you bring evidence of your income and housing and childcare expenses. There is no charge for the mediator meeting with your children.ommitment from you both to receive your children’s feedback.




Is mediation suitable for everybody?


Sometimes mediation is not the best way for you to resolve your problems. You will have a chance to discuss this in more detail and look at all your settlement options at your first meeting with the mediator.




What are the issues concerning the children?


The major decisions affecting the children are likely to be:
– Where they will live
– What arrangements will be made for them to spend time with each parent and other relatives.
– Special provisions, if any, which might need to be made about such matters as education, religion and health.
– The level of financial support required to meet their needs.
– How can they be appropriately consulted.

Your mediator will also offer you the opportunity for your children to be seen in mediation. For more details about how this works please go to the website section on Giving your Child a Voice.




What about the Child Maintenance Service?


You can make your own agreements about the support and provision for your children. Your mediator can help you do this and also assist you to use the Child Maintenance Calculator as a guide.




How will money and property be tackled?


You will be asked to provide details of expected income and spending (as far as this can reasonably be predicted) and details of the value of your assets and debts.

This means:
– Making a list of all the money you usually earn or receive over a given period of time (weekly, monthly, etc).
– Making a reasonable estimate of what you would expect to have to pay for in the future including housing.
– Providing details of any property, savings, shares, insurance policies, pension rights and other capital assets in which either of you have an interest.
– Identifying loans and debts for which either of you are liable.

Using this information, you will be helped to negotiate on such matters as:

The Family Home – who should live there, should it be sold and, if so, when and how should the money be divided? (In the case of a rented home, should the tenancy be changed or transferred?)
Maintenance and Child Support – how much should each contribute towards the living costs of the children and possibly, of the adults?
Other property – what will happen to investment properties and holiday homes?
Pensions – will these be shared or their value offset against other assets?
Possessions – how should these be shared between you?
Debts – how will these be dealt with?

On all these issues the final outcome will depend very much on your views about:
– What is "fair" (which may not necessarily mean a 50/50 split)
– What is realistic
– What best meets the needs of all members of the family, particularly the children
– How your circumstances might be expected to change in the future

If you both agree to mediation, you will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate which includes a declaration that you agree to be open and honest with each other and not do anything which might prejudice the outcome of the discussions.




Is Mediation Confidential?


Your discussions in mediation are confidential unless you jointly agree that information should be disclosed or unless the mediator is worried that someone will come to harm. They are also legally privileged which means that what you say during mediation cannot later be used in Court as evidence. We will ask each of you to agree that all discussions during mediation take place only to attempt to reach a settlement and are on the basis that they are both confidential and will not be referred to in evidence in any court proceedings or affidavit about the same issue. But facts disclosed during mediation are regarded as open. Any facts provided by either of you during mediation about financial matters will need to be verified with supporting documents. Although these will be strictly confidential they may be used subsequently in court. If an agreement is not reached they can be used by a solicitor as a basis for further discussions. If your children are seen in mediation their session is also private unless the mediator is worried that someone will come to harm and feedback will only be given to you in accordance with their wishes.




Will we have anything in writing?


At the end of every full mediation meeting you will be sent a written summary of your progress, a list of what is outstanding and things to do before your next meeting. Towards the end of the series of meetings (if you are discussing financial settlement), when you have narrowed your choices down to one or two your mediator will suggest that you take some legal advice on your proposals and their consequences for you. After your final meeting a financial "Memorandum of Understanding" and sometimes also a “Parenting Plan” will be drawn up which is a statement of everything you have decided during mediation.

If you have only agreed on some things you may receive a Mediation Outcome Summary which will set out your agreed proposals and will also state any issues you have not been able to agree on which may require further negotiations by your solicitor or perhaps a decision by the Courts.

The written Memorandum and the Parenting Plan are not themselves legally binding, but are intended for your solicitor to use in preparing a legally binding agreement where appropriate.




Can any arrangements we make now be changed later?


Some Court Orders, particularly those of the "clean break" kind, will have a once-and-for-all effect as far as capital assets are concerned. This is one reason why it is important that you take advice from a solicitor. Other Orders, such as those relating to the amount of maintenance paid to spouse/children, may be changed at a later date on further application to the Court. The Court may also be prepared to consider an application to change an Order relating to the children if the original circumstances have altered significantly. Where no Court Order has been made about a particular issue, the arrangement may be changed by agreement between the two of you at some later date.




Can the Court impose arrangements different from those agreed?


The final authority always rests with the Court. However in practice the Court is unlikely to disregard an agreement freely arrived at unless:

It is patently unfair to one of you

It is clearly not in the children’s best interests
or
The facts on which the discussion was based turn out to be incorrect.




What happens if we can't agree on everything?


You may well have reached a certain level of agreement which can be written down and the areas still outstanding can be clarified. You can then have choices, including instructing your solicitor to negotiate a final agreement on your behalf or appointing a private arbitrator or judge. Ultimately if you cannot agree, the Court may be asked to make the decisions for you.





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