06 January 2022

Unfortunately divorce rates have risen since 2019, according to the ONS and Family Court figures, especially amongst older couples. The pandemic has put additional stresses on families, emotionally and economically. Mediation is the better way for most separating couples to sort out their finances and arrangements for their children, as Battens Consultant Solicitor Tracey Parsons explains.

What is Mediation?
Mediation is a series of meetings with an accredited mediator by which a couple can, by discussion and information sharing, resolve the issues arising on their separation. Financial and property settlements together with child care plans are most usually dealt with in mediation.

The national Family Mediation Council survey this year shows that mediation is successful in over 70% of cases. The alternative to mediation is to try to negotiate a settlement using solicitors or, if that fails, for one party to apply to the court for a Financial Remedy Order.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • The mediator is impartial. Their role is to listen and to help establish what needs to be dealt with
  • Mediation is voluntary and confidential
  • It gives both parties the chance to speak and to be heard. It may help improve future communication
  • An accredited mediator gives guidance, with legal information, and suggests when independent specialist advice is needed
  • The mediator ensures the process is fair and that any children are the primary focus
  • The process is flexible to fit around the needs of the family and is tailor made
  • The parties both stay in control of the process and outcome

The Family Court had backlogs before the pandemic and it has worsened since, resulting in a very slow process for clients. It can often take a year to get to a final hearing and during this time, couples often feel that they are unable to move forward. Family mediation is often completed within two or three months.

The Family Courts can often be a toxic environment as well as costly. At the final hearing, the Judge often only has a short time to consider the issues and will impose an outcome. The Justice Secretary has announced that he is considering ways to encourage more couples to mediate to avoid court. If there are children from the relationship, it is especially important to avoid the trauma of their parents in conflict and to improve communication.

Mediation is quicker than court and can take place at the pace agreed by the couple. Mediators who are accredited with the Law Society or Resolution can provide helpful legal information and guide clients to reach their own settlement based on their needs and the family circumstances.

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Tracey Parsons is an accredited Family Law solicitor and mediator. For more information, contact Tracey on 01305 216209