Divorce Mediation

Mediating The Way Through Divorce

It has long been known that disputes are solved quicker and more easily through mediation: the Greeks were doing it over 1500 years ago, and the Government actively encourages mediation between separating parties.

The Children and Families Bill 2013 states that couples must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before any court case, and it is now the only option to receive legal aid in private family disputes.

Mediation can bring great benefits to a client, and every solicitor knows that disputes are generally solved quicker through mediation. According to statistics, disputes are settled in an average of 110 days when through mediation, compared to 435 days in non-mediated cases.  Clients also state they feel empowered when resolving disputes through mediation, giving them resolutions to problems unique to their case.  By coming to a resolution outside of court, clients are more likely to adhere to any agreements than those where a court has decided the outcome of any orders.

So, with less stress, quicker resolutions and seemingly happier clients, why aren’t all private family lawyers advocating mediation between couples from the first meeting?

The Law Society has as its main protocol in family law, to work in the client’s best interests with:

“a commitment to resolve a dispute in a non-confrontational and constructive way to preserve people’s dignity and to encourage agreements.”

When speaking about his divorce, one member of the public David Thomas, stated:

“Myself and my solicitor kept asking if mediation was a possibility, but we were shot down each time.  They kept stating it was not in their client’s best interest to have us discuss the finances face to face.  I have since found out my ex was actively told by her solicitor that it was never a good idea.  It was not a surprise that her solicitor’s firm is not a member of Resolution.  I personally think the final bill at over £5,000 was a reason they prefer to not recommend mediation.”

As a solicitor, your reputation is of upmost importance.  The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) feels that public confidence is key, so surely helping your clients to have more peaceful separation will not only benefit them and any children involved, but also your firm. After all, happy clients will return for other matters if they feel they can trust you and the firm, and they will also be more likely to recommend you.

Solicitors will always have a place in mediation. Independent mediators are there to facilitate the discussion; they will not be able to advise on legal matters regarding the finances or child custody, as each party should seek independent legal advice.  Lawyers are also able to conduct mediation themselves.

The Law Society for example runs an accreditation scheme, allowing members to carry out and conduct legal aid funded mediation.  Not only does this add credentials; it will also enable further understanding of the process, and confidence from your clients that you are experienced in the process of mediation, hopefully dissipating any worries that their solicitor will push towards more expensive litigation.

Is mediation something you offer your clients? 

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