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Mediation - what it is, and why to go down this route

Family mediation - you've likely heard the term, but what does it mean? It's not a magic fix, but it's a valuable tool that can make a world of difference for families facing legal conflicts.

At its core, family mediation is a process where an independent, trained professional – the mediator – helps families work out agreements about important issues such as arrangements for children or finances. This can be especially beneficial during divorce or separation, where tensions may be high and the path forward may seem unclear. Mediation isn't limited to these scenarios, however. Any family dispute, from disagreements about elderly care to conflicts over family businesses, may be suitable for mediation.

The mediator in family mediation has a unique and significant role. They are not there to make decisions or impose solutions. Instead, their job is to guide and facilitate discussions, ensuring everyone has a chance to speak and every concern is acknowledged. The mediator is a neutral party, which means they don't take sides or decide who is right or wrong. Instead, they support all parties involved to reach a mutual agreement.

Family mediation comes with numerous advantages. It can be faster, less stressful and cheaper than going to court. It allows the parties involved to maintain control over the decisions that will impact their lives, rather than handing that control over to a judge. Most importantly, family mediation can help preserve relationships. By fostering constructive, respectful communication, mediation can help family members resolve their current dispute and also provide them with the tools to handle future conflicts more effectively.

However, there are some common misconceptions about family mediation that are important to clarify. Mediation is not an easy way out and it requires active participation from all parties. The process can be challenging and sometimes emotionally intense, but it offers a more harmonious path to resolution. Another common myth is that mediators can provide legal advice. While mediators are knowledgeable about the law, they do not provide legal advice during the mediation process. Instead, their role is to provide legal information and facilitate the conversation, helping the parties to find their own solutions.

While the process of family mediation can seem daunting, preparation can go a long way in ensuring its success. Before entering mediation, it's important to gather all the necessary documents, be clear about your wants and needs, and prepare yourself emotionally for the discussions. It's also advisable to seek legal advice. A solicitor can help you understand your rights and obligations, and help you prepare for the mediation process. Remember, a solicitor can provide you with legal advice that a mediator cannot, so it's crucial to seek legal advice either before or during the mediation process.

Family mediation is a practical and effective tool for resolving family disputes. It's not without its challenges, but the potential benefits – preserved relationships, improved communication, and fair agreements – make it worth considering.

There is also a Mediation Voucher Scheme available, if eligible. This scheme is designed to support parties who may be able to resolve their disputes outside of court. At your MIAM, your mediator will discuss the voucher scheme with you, and confirm whether your case may be eligible. If eligible, this scheme can be up to a £500 contribution towards your mediation fees. To find out more, please see link for the government website

As with any legal process, it's important to be well-prepared and well-informed, so don't hesitate to seek legal advice and educate yourself about the process.

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