A primary concern for any parent divorcing or separating is the effect this has on any children in the relationship.
It’s clearly an unsettling time for all concerned but possibly more so for those witnessing the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. With more than 100,000 couples filing for divorce each year, one in three children is likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16, according to the Family Mediators Association.
Going to court can sometimes polarise parents creating additional tensions. Children inevitably feel these. Mediation is a more informal way to resolve the conflicts and disputes that can arise.
In particular it can be a very useful forum to address issues relating to children. These are so often driven by emotional factors, which the Family Court is unable to resolve.
Due to the communication involved in the mediation process relationships are often better preserved. This gives an opportunity for separating parents to continue to work together in the future for the benefit of their children.
At Merrick, our focus is on resolving disputes as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Most agreements need some give and take from both sides. Even so an agreed outcome is almost always preferable to the imposition of a solution by a judge.
Our job is to empower our clients, so they understand the impact of any compromises and are on an equal footing with their ex, when they need it most.
We strongly recommend that legal advice is obtained before entering mediation to give it the best chance of success.
We certainly would not advise anybody to enter such a difficult and far-reaching process on an uninformed basis. Believing that mediation is a quick-fix, cheap option to end a relationship without understanding the legal ramifications is not helpful and can often have unintended consequences.
Each individual set of circumstances are different. Only after listening and understanding those circumstances will we advise a client whether or not their case is suitable for mediation. If it is, and mediation is their preferred option, we will make the appropriate referral.
Here are some important points about the mediation process:
Mediation is voluntary for both parties.
If both parties agree to it, the impartial mediator facilitates negotiation and has no vested interest in the outcome.
Whilst being flexible to the needs of each party, the mediator is in charge of the process ensuring that sessions have focus and the whole process is going somewhere.
Mediation is confidential, except where there are any concerns of risk of harm to a child or vulnerable adult. Details of the mediation will not be referred to in evidence in any court proceedings about the same issues.
Typically, more than one session is needed to reach an outcome to stand the test of time and deal with underlying issues of conflict.
The decision-making rests with the participants. If an agreement is reached it is presented to the court for approval. This isn’t simply for rubber-stamping. The judge will consider the reasonableness of the terms proposed in all the relevant circumstances.
If, unfortunately, a negotiated settlement does not prove possible, we will support clients through the court process.
Family law is complex and each set of circumstances unique. Whether you are fact finding or have already made a decision, do seek properly informed legal advice.
More from Merrick about children in divorce here. Useful information from the Family Mediation Council here.