In a much to be welcomed change in family court procedures all separating or divorcing couples will soon be referred to mediation to try to settle their disputes.
How to avoid the horrors of hand to hand fighting in the mud
This is a particularly bad way to resolve those marital disputes that can make the whole divorce process totally toxic and life after divorce a wasteland of remorse and recrimination. Now mediation is not a magic wand but it might help avoid the bloodier aspects of the divorce process.
Mediation becomes a must (well, almost)
In April it will be obligatory to consider mediation by attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. As the name implies this is designed to give you information about the process and for you to see how they feel about the idea. It's a great idea and well worth a try but it is not compulsory to actually commit to the process after this session.
So if it's not for you then you can abandon the plan and continue on the traditional route using a solicitor.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of mediation
One possible major disadvantage is that you will have to be in the same room as your soon to be ex partner. Well, not necessarily. Certainly it's possible to have your mediator move between two separate rooms rather in the manner of the shuttle diplomacy of US negotiators in Middle East conflicts. This will avoid the added trauma of a couple who are in no mood for a meeting having to talk directly to each other.
The advantages of the mediation process are numerous and very well worth considering:
It's going to be quicker and easier
It's going to be less stressful
It's going to be much less expensive
So how does it work?
Firstly it's an entirely impartial process and in most cases a couple can agree the choice of mediator before they begin. The couple will need to pay the mediator's fees and it's best to share that cost equally. There is a possibility that the costs can be paid via public funding or Legal Aid. The mediator will know about this.
What aspects of your divorce will the mediator deal with?
The children and the money, that's it. Do not expect mediation to cover any other aspect of your relationship and it's certainly not a way to attempt reconciliation. The Courts are only concerned with the mechanics of dismantling your marriage. If there is a chance of getting back together again then go and talk to the people who can really help.
The mediation process is probably going to take between three to five meetings to be successful. Any agreements that you make will not be legally binding unless you both instruct your solicitors to draw up a Consent Order. This will create a binding legal agreement between you.
What happens next?
The Court will then formalise this agreement and proceed to the Decree Nisi and finally to the Decree Absolute. There is generally no reason for you to attend these court hearings. It's worth remembering that neither partner is allowed to use the content of these sessions as evidence in any legal proceedings if mediation fails and the divorce is then hammered out in Court.
Mediation is definitely worth persevering with. It may make for a quicker, cheaper and less traumatic divorce. Doing it this way is also going to give you a much better life after divorce as well and that's what you are really striving for.