Do I have to attend mediation?
The only circumstances where parties will not be required to attend mediation prior to commencing proceedings will be in serious circumstances where there are allegations of domestic violence or child protection. However, even in these circumstances if both parties do want to try mediation rather than issuing court proceedings, special arrangements can be made for what is called ‘shuttle mediation’. This is when both parties attend mediation together but the session takes place in separate rooms. There will usually be two mediators in this circumstance and they will go from room to room to try and reach an agreement. The two parties will not be required to meet face to face unless they both request to do so.
Mediation can take place as often as the parties like and for as long as the parties are willing. It can also be revisited after an agreement has been reached, if necessary. Mediation is also available to parties who are already involved in court proceedings and can be vital for even the narrowest of issues.
If either party feels at any stage that the process is not working, then they have the option to apply to the court. It is imperative that legal advice is sought from a Family Solicitor during the mediation process, as this ensures that the final agreement is legally binding on both parties.
Mediation also has costs advantages. If you are assessed as eligible, mediation can be funded by the Legal Services Commission and would therefore be free of charge. Even if Legal Aid is not an option then it is important to note that mediation rates are usually less than the rates of solicitors and an agreement is usually reached in a shorter period of time.
As a firm it is our intention is to seek resolution for our clients in a way that is best suited to their needs. Every case is different and in some circumstances, mediation will not be suitable. However, due to the new Mediation Protocol under the Family Procedure Rules 2010, mediation must always be considered in every case.
If you need help regarding a family dispute, please contact our Family Solicitor, Stacey Phoenix, for a free no-obligation appointment or discussion via telephone.