Top 5 Reasons to Mediate
In this blog and in recognition of Family Mediation Week 2024, FLiP Director David Allison shares the top five reasons as to why you might want to choose mediation as a process to resolve your family issues.
- To create the best environment for your children.
We know that parental conflict damages children – there have been numerous studies that tell us about the significant harm suffered by children who are exposed to the fall out of their parents’ divorce or separation. They can suffer from mental health issues as children, and this may give rise to behavioural, social and academic problems later. It does not stop there – studies have shown that the mental health and wellbeing of adults who have been exposed to parental conflict as children is significantly impaired.
Conversely, where separated parents have managed the process well, studies show that the short-term distress felt by children regarding the separation of their parents is usually quickly ameliorated.
Of course, many separating parents manage to agree arrangements for their children without help. It can though be difficult for many and finding a safe and child-focused environment to discuss arrangements can be crucial. Mediation provides that.
- You (and your partner) make the decisions.
Whilst making an application to the court is sometimes necessary, if the issues are not compromised before final hearing the decision is firmly in the hands of a stranger – the judge. Outcomes are rarely what either party wants and whilst decisions follow legal principle, they totally ignore what is important to you as an individual.
Mediation offers a process that takes place ‘in the shadow of the law’ meaning that couples’ have the benefit of the legal information from the mediator or, ideally the benefit of individual legal advice from their solicitors, but the focus of discussions is about what the individuals want to achieve. When the discussion is about money this is important. When it is about children it is crucial.
- You keep more of your money for your family.
The costs of taking a case to final hearing in court can easily cost many tens or even hundreds of thousands. If the stakes are high in a money case, the cost may be worth it but for most it simply means that the ‘pot’ is diminished leaving less for you. At a time when the resources that provided one household are stretched to two, this may be ruinous. Even where the issues are settled before final hearing this is often because the couple feel that they have no option – agree a bad deal or face the high costs of a final hearing.
Whilst mediation is not cheap and separate legal advice is usually helpful, the mediator’s costs are shared. More importantly, because you retain control over the process, and decide on each step together including the timetable costs are contained and do not spiral as they so often do in a court process.
- You minimise anxiety and preserve your mental health.
The latest annual report from CAFCASS published in December 2023 shows that the average length of a private law case concerning children (that is an application for a child arrangements order or similar) is 61 weeks.
Claims for a financial remedy on divorce take even longer. 12-18 months is not at all unusual and some cases, particularly at High Court Judge level take much longer.
Court cases typically have periods where there is little activity and other periods where deadlines need to be met and substantial amount of work is necessary. This means that the parties are required to devote a lot of time to the case when they will have the usual pressures of their work and home lives. In the most contentious cases, there are no fallow periods as there are additional applications and court hearings. All of this can be an enormous toll on the parties.
In mediation, most cases are resolved in 2-3 months and at a pace that enables the participants to carry on with their lives. Whilst not free from pressure, mediation does offer a process that enables the couple to agree outcomes without the very significant pressure of court.
- You preserve your privacy.
Over recent years there has been an increasing drive to open up the family courts. Journalists have been able to attend family court hearings for some years but as what could be reported was quite limited, there was little interest from journalists. However, things changed earlier this year when a pilot scheme that presently operates in Leeds, Carlisle and Cardiff was implemented. It began with public law cases and was later extended to private law hearings concerning children, i.e. disputes concerning child arrangements. Reporting must preserve the anonymity of children and the parties. None the less, for those involved in these cases this may feel like a significant invasion of their privacy. It has recently been announced that this will be extended to 16 more courts, initially for public law cases.
A similar scheme is being considered for financial claims with the expectation that it will soon follow.
We have all seen reporting of family cases, usually for high profile individuals. This may be because a party has leaked information to the press but sometimes it has been because the judge has determined that reporting of details of the case can be published. Indeed, a recently retired High Court judge, Sir Nicholas Mostyn decided in a case that FLiP dealt with during 2022 that the existing law allows reporting provided children are not identified. Whilst that judgement has not yet been followed by other judges, the law is unclear and there cannot be any guarantees that another judge might not take the same view.
Resolving these cases in mediation means that all of the discussions and information provided is confidential.
David’s mediation work covers all issues although he has particular expertise in financial claims on divorce or separation, particularly those with an international element. David is well known for his expertise in the legal issues affecting cohabitants, same sex couples and civil partners. Contact David below.