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Mediation: how it works and what it’s for

The divorce process is extremely upsetting and enervating for everyone. It can often be filled with hostility.

For many, it is vital that these factors don’t draw the process out and drive up legal fees they simply can’t afford to pay. Mediation is often an effective way of overcoming the obstacles that hostility and upset can create in the divorce process, and thus of keeping legal fees down.

It regularly settles divorce disputes before they even reach court.

Mediation and the UK Government

Cost is also a key consideration for the UK Government and in an attempt to keep court expenses down, the Coalition has taken measures to strongly encourage mediation.

Since April 2011, all divorcing couples must be referred to mediation before taking proceedings to court. 

What is mediation?

Mediation involves couples meeting in the presence of an independent and neutral professional who will attempt to maintain a balance in discussions and prevent hostility from damaging communications. Mediators tend to be lawyers who have taken special training in mediation and divorce lawyers like Birketts specialist divorce solicitors in Ipswich can offer mediation among their legal services.

It should be noted that mediation is nota means of reconciling couples and restoring marriages. It is a way of facilitating civil and productive discussions to settle divorce matters such as finances and custody of children.

It can be seen as more effective than the court process in such matters because people are generally more likely to abide by considered agreements than court decisions that are forced on them.                                                   

What can mediators do and who are they?

While many professional mediators are lawyers, the mediator of a dispute can only give impartial legal information to the two sides: they cannot give personal legal advice to either.

A solicitor will generally be needed at the end of mediated discussions in order to draw up agreements and many people also take advice from personal lawyers during the period of mediation.

What are the benefits and disadvantages?

Even with these separate costs, however, the process of mediation is generally seen as much faster and more cost-effective than taking divorce proceedings directly to court; except in extremely hostile situations.

It can also be discouraged in situations involving domestic abuse, and people in such situations are encouraged to seek advice from personal solicitors before employing mediation.

On average, mediation will occur over two to four one-and-a-half hour sessions. Mediators charge varying fees for their time but many people are able to claim Community Legal Service funding (formerly ‘Legal Aid’) for these.

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