The start of a new year is often a tricky time for families – has this been a stressful Christmas period? Has spending too much put pressure on family finances and inevitably on relationships? Has the extra time off work meant there’s been time to reflect on the reality of marital issues? In the new year, couples often make new year’s resolutions and one of those could be that they should face up to their difficulties and get professional help to resolve them. Before they rush off to Court, specialist family lawyers always recommend looking at mediation. Amanda Thurston, Head of the Family Law Team at Curwens Solicitors explains :
“A recent “fly on the wall” documentary followed a family mediator helping couples agree the terms of their separation or divorce. From whether to sell the family home, to how much maintenance to pay, or how often one of them can take the children on holiday, splitting up a family can be a minefield.
So how does Mediation Work?
The first thing to remember is that mediation is voluntary, so both parties need to agree to try it out and also which mediator to approach. The Mediator will then usually want to speak to each party individually before setting up meetings for everyone to attend. Each party gets the chance to raise the issues or concerns they have and the Mediator will try to get the other party to listen to them before expressing their own views. The Mediator will also help the parties discuss the family finances and agree on what information and documentation they each need to provide to help with the negotiations.
These meetings can be stressful if agreement is not easily reached on a point, but the Mediator is specially trained to deal with those situations. They can even do “shuttle mediation” with each party in a separate room if the parties’ relationship has got to the stage where they can’t even be in the same room as each other.
Between the mediation meetings each party should ideally obtain independent legal advice so they know what terms would be reasonable to propose or accept.
If terms can be agreed between the parties, the Mediator will provide a written Memorandum of Understanding. This is not yet legally binding – but is evidence of what you have discussed and agreed. You can then take it to family solicitors to be made legally binding if you wish.
If the mediation breaks down, the Mediator can sign a form for the Court, to allow one of the parties to start Court proceedings.
Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS)
There is currently a requirement in place that you must at least attend a MIAMS before starting most Court proceedings regarding children and/or finances, to find out whether Mediation would be suitable for you. (There are certain exemptions in place – for example if it is an urgent case) The MIAMS is a one to one meeting with a Family Mediator who explains all the alternative routes available to you to try and resolve the dispute without starting Court proceedings. The aim is to ensure you are fully informed about all your options and you understand what would work best for your situation.”
If you would like more information on Mediation, please contact
the Curwens Family Law Team:
Royston Amanda Thurston 01763 241 261
Hoddesdon Kristina Nickoli 01992 463 727
Enfield Vijaya Sumputh 0208 363 4444
Curwens have offices in Royston, Hoddesdon and Enfield.