During mediation, an independent trained mediator helps you and your co-parent to work out an agreement about:
- New or revised arrangements for children;
- Child Maintenance payments and finances;
- Temporary arrangements that can be looked at again when circumstances change.
Many people find that mediation is quicker, less stressful and less expensive than going to court, and in most cases the court will expect you to consider mediation seriously before going to court. A mediator helps you and your co-parent, without being on anyone’s ‘side’.
Mediation is free for people who qualify for legal aid. You can see if you qualify here. You can also search for mediators that offer online services on the Family Mediation Council website.
Where it is safe to take place, a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is usually required before you can go to court. The safety of both parties will be carefully considered before any meeting. Where at least one party is eligible, legal aid will cover the costs of both parties to attend the MIAM.
Many mediators normally offer a service for children to be heard and included in mediation. Some mediation services are offering Child Inclusive Mediation by video link. You can talk this through with your mediator who will advise you whether it is possible.
Family Mediation Voucher Scheme
The family mediation voucher scheme is a time-limited scheme, designed to support parties who may be able to resolve their family law disputes outside of court.
The Government has set up the scheme in response to Covid-19 to support recovery in the family court and to encourage more people to consider mediation as a means of resolving their disputes, where appropriate. Guidance on how you can find out if you are eligible for the family mediation voucher scheme and how to apply is available on gov.uk.
Frequently asked questions about mediation
What is mediation?
During mediation an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and your co-parent work out an agreement about issues such as:
- arrangements for children after you break up – this means where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent;
- child maintenance payments;
- finances (for example, what to do with your house, savings, pensions, debts).
Many people find that mediation is quicker, less stressful and less expensive than going to court (and if you do want to go to court, the judge will usually ask you to consider mediation first). A mediator helps you and your ex-partner come to an agreement without being on anyone’s side, and it’s also possible to ensure that the views of children are heard too.
Find out more about mediation, including where your local mediators are here.
Does family mediation work?
Mediation works best when parents or carers want to find a way forward to put their children first and sort things out. People who use mediation sessions to resolve their disagreements usually come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than those who use solicitors and go to court. Family mediation can also reduce ongoing conflict.
You are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you can start court proceedings. This session can help you decide whether mediation is right for you. Using mediation does not stop you from going to court later if you still feel you need to.
How much does mediation cost and how many meetings will I need?
Prices vary but if you are on a low income you may qualify for legal aid. The number of meetings you will need depends on the complexity of issues that need to be resolved. Issues about arrangements for your children can take one or two meetings but if you need to discuss property and financial issues as well, you may need three to five meetings.
Will the mediator give me legal advice?
Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you legal advice. You can always take legal advice from another source before finalising an agreement you’ve reached in mediation.
I don’t trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it’s not legal. Wouldn’t it be better to go straight to court?
Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. However, experience shows that agreements made voluntarily are more likely than court orders to reflect children’s and parents’ needs and are therefore more likely to last. It also helps to improve understanding, restore communication and build trust. If necessary, agreements made in mediation can be used as the basis of a court order. In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a memorandum of understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a consent order.
What if I feel pressured to agree to something that I may regret later?
Although the mediator will provide encouragement, you will not be pressured into agreeing anything and it is up to you to make the final decision. If you are discussing property and financial issues, you are advised to obtain legal advice on your proposals before finalising them.
Who else will be at the meeting?
Usually, only the mediator and the parents are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have a supporter or a legal advisor present at a meeting but both parents would need to agree to this.
Can the children be included?
Some mediation services offer children the opportunity to be included in the process. Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them.
What if I don’t think we’ll ever agree?
It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible, especially if your previous attempts have failed. However, mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. Mediation may work where other methods have failed.
What if my partner is better at negotiating than I am? How will I get my point across?
Mediators are trained to make sure both parents’ views are heard and understood. They do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other.
What if my co-parent doesn’t show up?
Mediation is voluntary, so people can’t be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your co-parent explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet them alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using the service.
For further information and advice about family mediation, visit Family Mediation Council (FMC).
How can I prepare for the mediation process?
Approach mediation with an open mind and be willing to listen. Parents who are open and listen to their ex-partner are more able to reach a settlement.
Do your homework before mediation and come prepared with several options. Write down a few ideas and proposals so you can refer to them in the mediation session.
What children need is often different from what parents need. Make sure you understand your children’s needs, so you can stay focused on them and not on each other.
Family mediation is not the place to focus on the other parent. The process is likely to break down if you and your ex-partner get into an argument about who said what. This is not a place to rehash old conflicts but rather to solve parenting problems after divorce or separation.
Be open to different ideas, and willing to compromise so you can reach a peaceful solution on behalf of your children.
What might help me while I am mediating?
Focus on your children’s needs rather than your own.
- Acknowledging that children have different needs depending their age, temperament, and development.
- Acknowledging the other parent’s strengths.
- Accepting that children need time with both parents.
What should I take to the mediation meeting?
- A proposal for where the children will live and a time-sharing plan.
- A calendar of school holidays, work schedules, and a schedule for your child’s activities.
- A flexible attitude.
- A positive attitude that you will be able to sort things out between yourselves.
If you want some help with making arrangements, try our Parenting Plan. You can do it all online, including reviewing each other’s suggestions so you don’t need to meet up with your ex-partner when you want to make changes.
What can I do to further explore mediation?
There is a network of approved Family Mediators across England who are there to help you to reach decisions about things that are important to you and your family. Mediators can help you to find a way to plan for the future and to agree what will work best for you without having to go to court.
Mediation provides you with the space and time to think about what is important for your children and the whole family. You can work out how arrangements for your children will work best and think what is going to be important for your children as they grow up.
You could also read more about Mediation here and here.
If you would like to talk to a mediator local to you, and to find out more, you will find your local services here.