22nd January 2024
Avoiding confrontation in the courtroom has the power to reduce the impact of divorce and separation on families, but how do you start the process amicably?
This week (22-26 January) marks Family Mediation Week, which helps to raise awareness of the benefits of the more collaborative approach. Here’s what you need to know:
What is family mediation?
An alternative to litigation, family mediation is a process where a trained independent mediator helps couples work out arrangements concerning children, finance or property. By going through the process, it can provide couples with an opportunity to avoid the stress and costs of the court process.
Whilst the mediator is unable to provide legal advice during the proceedings, they can provide a neutral voice to help work through disagreements and explain how agreements that are reached can be made legally binding.
Avoiding the courtroom
With the UK’s courts facing significant pressures, mediation is being promoted nationally as the first step towards a successful divorce.
The law is currently firmer around costs for other forms of civil cases where mitigation is not prioritised over litigation but, owing to the nature of divorce proceedings and the impact it can have on family relationships, it has traditionally not been treated the same. That, however, could soon change and couples should be aware of this if they are looking to separate.
Financial incentives are also being offered with the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme providing up to £500 in financial support to families going through mediation and for those that qualify, Legal Aid remains available to support people through the process.
Are there any alternatives to mediation?
The most common form of divorce and separation has long been the traditional solicitor-led approach with an agreement decided either through correspondence with lawyers or the courts. Alternative amicable routes, akin to mediation are, however, becoming more commonplace.
Couples can now also consider options such as the One Couple One Lawyer (OCOL) process in which the couple are represented by a single solicitor who acts in their collective interests to secure a mutually beneficial resolution.
For many, OCOL can be a suitable next step to mediation where the couple can get legal advice from a single lawyer on the proposed agreement reached through mediation, helping to bring down the legal costs. Kate Barber, Partner in the Thrings Family team is able to provide this service to couples and is already seeing a significant interest and uptake from couples of this new approach. To find out more, visit our One Couple One Lawyer page.
Sally Pike, Accredited Family Mediator and Partner in the Thrings Family team, said: “Many parents emerge from the festive period feeling defeated by the pressures on relationships and finances that have been highlighted during the holiday period. They don’t know which way to turn and are faced with so many questions around the impact such a life changing decision could have.
“Family Mediation Week shines a helpful spotlight on these tricky issues, offering separating parents the support they need from an independent, professionally trained and sympathetic mediator who can give them the information they need to create long-term solutions that can avoid costly and damaging court processes.”
Thrings Family lawyers are experienced in all areas of the law that are close to home. Whether it is marriages and pre-nuptial agreements, or divorces and separations, they will put your best interests first, taking the time to get to know you so that you are supported with sound advice tailored to your needs. To find out more, get in contact.