Mediation is one of the most popular forms of non-court dispute resolution, with many separating couples achieving a resolution of the issues between them without the acrimony or cost of court proceedings. Nonetheless, there are many misperceptions surrounding it. For National Family Mediation Week, Partner and Head of the Family Non Court Dispute Resolution Group Claire Yorke takes on some of the myths (and truths) surrounding mediation.
Engaging in mediation will delay matters
False – Many people are reluctant to engage in mediation because they feel it is likely to fail and so they want to "get on with" court proceedings, rather than creating delay by engaging in mediation. In fact, mediation can significantly save time (and cost), by helping couples narrow the issues between them, or in many cases, reach a full agreement without needing court proceedings, which can often take many months (and on occasion years). Where a couple is in the midst of proceedings in respect of one aspect of their separation, for example finances, mediation can be helpful in resolving other aspects such as arrangements for their children.
Mediation is not suitable for HNW and UHNW couples
False – While mediation is often seen as a cost-effective option and straightforward cases can be very well suited to mediation, the presence of significant assets and/or complex asset structures does not mean a couple automatically need to issue court proceedings. Many mediators are very accustomed to dealing with highly complex cases and factual matrices. Mediation enables the couple to regain control of the process, reaching a resolution in a private and less confrontational way, with the benefit of expert financial, legal and other advice (as required) to inform their discussions.
Mediation is never appropriate if there has been domestic abuse
False – Although great care needs to be taken in situations where there has been domestic abuse, and face-to face mediation with the couple in the same room is rarely appropriate, there are occasions where mediation may take place even where there has been a history of domestic abuse. A mediator will screen for domestic abuse and will ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place if mediation does go ahead to ensure that discussions progress in a safe, balanced environment where both parties feel supported. A survivor of abuse should never be pressurised to take part in mediation where they do not feel comfortable.
Mediation is a voluntary process
True – Mediation is always a voluntary process and the mediator will make sure at the outset that both parties are attending of their own free will. The couple know that by both choosing to attend they are invested in trying to reach a resolution between them without the acrimony of court proceedings.
True – A survey by the Family Mediation Council showed that of the first 7,214 families to use the Government's mediation voucher scheme (providing up to £500 towards the cost of mediation for eligible couples), 69% were able to reach agreement on some or all issues and as such were able to avoid court. Of the one third of cases where families funded further mediation themselves over and above that provided by the scheme, 76% were successful in reaching a resolution.