One of the many regrettable impacts of the pandemic has been on family life. Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, law firms across the world have seen an increase in enquiries regarding divorce and disputes over children and the number of online searches for divorce advice and applications to the court for assistance in resolving child related issues has sky-rocketed. Combined with serious restrictions on the courts, this surge in break-ups has put additional pressure on already stretched UK family courts.

Thankfully, there are alternatives to the traditional court-based dispute resolution route. Family Mediation Week, taking place between January 18 and 22, seeks to highlight one of them: mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process in which an independent mediator helps parties make their own decisions about what the outcome from their separation should be and to come to arrangements which work for them and for their children. Agreements reached in mediation are empowering and can reduce the stress of a separation. They improve communication between a couple, especially as parents, and they greatly benefit the children. If mediation is successful, the cost and time spent on negotiation through solicitors and the delay and cost of court proceedings and having an outcome imposed by a judge is avoided. 

How does it work?

The mediation process starts with an initial one-to-one meeting during which the mediator considers with each party whether they would be comfortable engaging in the process and whether mediation is for them. If both parties want to go ahead, a number of meetings take place between the couple and the mediator during which the issues between the couple are identified, any relevant financial information is exchanged and the options for resolving the issues are explored.

As the mediator is independent, they cannot give legal advice or draw up any formal legal documentation. However, if the parties agree on what the arrangements should be, the mediator will prepare a summary of those arrangements for the couple to show to their respective solicitors for the purpose of obtaining legal advice and having those arrangements legally documented. In practice, it is helpful for each party to have a solicitor advising in the background whilst the mediation is taking place.

One of many options

Mediation is just one of the many non-court dispute resolution options available to a separating couple. Russell-Cooke has a number of experienced family mediators who can mediate all issues arising upon the breakdown of a relationship, whether financial or regarding children and all our mediators currently offer mediation over Zoom. In addition our team of family solicitors can support and advise you if you enter into the mediation process elsewhere and can draw up the legal documentation required to evidence your mediated arrangements.

Whether you are considering mediation, or want to explore one of the other non-court dispute resolution options, our dedicated team of family law specialists can help you.