by Abby Kuman
England is recognised internationally for its highly specialised family law. Meditation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that has been available for approximately 30 years. It is often cited as a cost-effective alternative to going to court in the case of a marriage breakdown or separation, although it is used in other contexts such as in commercial and workplace disputes. With the help of a neutral third party, the parties discuss their disputes and work towards reaching settlement to organise arrangements for children, child maintenance and the division of other assets. Discussions are confidential unless there are concerns such as child protection.
Since 2014, English law requires those going through a relationship breakdown to attend a Mediation Information & Asset Meeting (MIAM) before making an application to court to assess whether mediation is suitable to reaching a settlement instead. A party will not be expected to attend a MIAM in certain cases such as where there is evidence of domestic violence involved for example, or if one of the parties does not regularly live in England or Wales.
The more traditional approach to mediation is known as ‘sole’ mediation where there is one mediator working with the parties. However, ‘co-mediation’ is also an option too. This is where there are two neutral professionals involved, with one of them being a lawyer for instance and can help in facilitating a balance of power between the two parties. Co-mediation may also be appropriate in international cases where the two parties are not in the same country although it is important to consider where children are located, the law which would govern any agreements as well as the location of assets, citizenship, and other proceedings to name a few, before pursuing this route.
Important points to note are that any agreements that come out of the mediation process should be checked by a lawyer and to advise on the possibility and steps to making any agreements legally binding if necessary. Furthermore, in England, your mediator should belong to a professional, approved body and registered with the Family Mediation Council.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.