Family mediation is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without going to Court.
Generally, it is now compulsory to attend family mediation before issuing Court proceedings in family matters. You attend the first session known as a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) on your own so you can find out from the mediator more about mediation, and discuss with the mediator whether you believe attending with your ex would be suitable. There are certain exemptions such as domestic abuse where you are not required to attend but you will need to produce documentary evidence to support the exemption.
At family mediation you can mediate on all matters relating to relationship breakdown whether you are married or living together. Going to mediation is not the same as going to marriage or relationship counselling. The purpose of mediation is to discuss arrangements for your children, your property, your finances and any other matters which concern you regarding your split.
Usually, attending mediation means you will be in the same room, with a mediator present, as your ex to resolve matters. If you would prefer not to be in the same room, you can ask the mediator if you can be in a separate room from your ex. This is known as “shuttle mediation”, and the mediator would move between rooms to speak to both of you.
Sometimes you will be prepared to try mediation but your ex won’t attend. Unfortunately, you cannot force your ex to attend. If, however, you need to issue a Court application, the Court is able to direct that you and your ex are referred to mediation before the Court proceedings continue.
Many people do not realise that legal aid is available for mediation if you are financially eligible. This is the case even though legal aid may not be available to see a solicitor on the same matter. Also, if you reach an agreement with your ex at mediation there is legal aid available to solicitors to advise on that agreement provided, again, you are financially eligible.