This week (21-25 January 2019) is Family Mediation Week. Its purpose is to increase awareness of the benefits of mediation for separating families. Thea Hughes, one of the directors at family law firm Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, says:
“In a lot of cases mediation is still under-used and its benefits are not fully appreciated. Although we don’t provide mediation as part of our offering, we always advise our clients to carefully consider using the services of a mediator because it means they will feel more in control, rather than at the mercy of a judge who they may feel has a limited understanding of the ins and outs of their situation.
“We find it can often be a positive thing to do. It is certainly a less confrontational approach and can ultimately result in significant cost savings as well.”
The purpose of family mediation is to get separating couples in a room together and discuss how they can resolve the financial and family-based issues that form part of their separation or divorce agreement. The ideal outcome is for both sides to feel they have had the chance to say what they want and to come to an amicable agreement which satisfies everyone involved, avoiding the costs – literally and figuratively – of bitter battles in court.
Here we look at the top five benefits of mediation …
- Mediation can be quicker
A separation which has involved mediation can take a quarter of the time to finalise when compared to non-mediated separations. When the courts are reserved for the big issues, such as safeguarding children, rather than every tiny detail of a divorce, everything is more efficient and less drawn out. Divorcing couples can argue for years in court and still not be satisfied with the outcomes.
- Mediation can cost less
It can also be a great deal cheaper: Ministry of Justice figures from 2013 suggest the average overall cost of mediation is £535, as opposed to up to £7,000 for court-based cases.
- Mediation can reduce the emotional fallout
Mediation is by its nature a collaborative process, which means people are encouraged to communicate, listen to each other, work together to reach decisions and take the emotion out of it, as much as is possible. At the end, this hopefully means no one is left feeling aggrieved or as if they had no control over the outcome, which leads to a lot less bitterness. It also means that children are less likely to suffer the emotional side effects of a bitter confrontation and will instead see their family taking a more respectful and less hostile approach. Importantly, new guidelines have also been announced which are intended to ensure that all specialist family mediators actively promote listening to the voice of the child as part of the family mediation process, which can only be a positive thing.
- There is government funding
Extra budget has been allocated by the government bringing the total annual funding for mediation to around £25m, while legal aid is only available in very limited circumstances for court proceedings for child contact arrangements, and any private family law cases.
- There is more control
When a family has been through mediation together, they tend to come to more realistic and workable long terms solutions with every party feeling as if their views have been considered and the best possible compromises have been reached for everyone involved. When judgments are handed down from the courts, it can lead to an outcome which satisfies no-one. However, when things are sorted out within the family as much as possible, there is less of a chance that the issues will need to be revisited. This means that proper closure can be reached and everyone can move on with their lives.
Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice’s director Thea Hughes, sums up by saying;
“we are big supporters of Family Mediation Week and its aims to raise awareness of the benefits enjoyed by separating couples who seek mediation. The potential for them to save themselves and their families a lot of heartache, unnecessary cost and emotional trauma is huge”.