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Frequently Asked Questions 

Please find answers to frequently asked questions here:

What if my partner is not willing to attend family mediation?


Mediation cannot be imposed or enforced. It is a voluntary process. Your partner can be directed to attend a MIAM but cannot be forced to mediate. If mediation is assessed as suitable and you both agree to take part it can be stopped by either you, your ex-partner or the mediator. If we believe that one of you is unable to take part freely and fully in the process, then this will be raised as a concern. We may suspend or end the mediation at any stage if doubts arise as to the ongoing suitability of mediation. In cases where mediation is not suitable, we will explain to you and your ex-partner the other options open to you both to sort out your disputes. We will complete and send out relevant forms that you will need to bring to your lawyers' attention, providing evidence that you have attended a MIAM to allow you to continue your case through the traditional court route or other dispute resolution options with the advice and support of your lawyers. We will also recommend other professional services that may be helpful to you both.




How much will an initial assessment meeting/MIAM and mediation cost?


There is a fixed fee of £125.00 (no VAT) for the MIAM/initial assessment for each party. This will include the signed form(s) that you may need for a court application, if you decide you want to go to court and/or if mediation is unsuccessful. Mediation sessions are usually booked for 90 minutes. The cost to each party will be £187.50 based on an hourly rate of £250.00. The cost of mediation is usually shared equally or as per the agreement with your ex-partner and will need to be paid in advance. There is the option to book half day or a full day session where it is considered necessary and appropriate. There are additional charges applied for preparing interim outcome summaries, reviewing financial disclosure and preparing final outcome documents, if needed i.e. open financial summary, memorandum of understanding and parenting plan. This will be based on the hourly rate of £250.00. See our services page for fixed fee prices depending on the complexity and net value of your case. This may appear expensive, but the cost of family mediation is a lot cheaper than both you and your ex-partner paying lawyers to negotiate mutually acceptable terms or going to court. The hourly cost to each party for an experienced senior lawyer will be on average £225.00 to £300.00 plus VAT. The cost estimate from a law firm for an all-issues case will be circa £25,000.00 to £30,000.00 plus VAT each (possibly more, for a complex matter with significant assets). Mediation costs for an all issues case will be no more than around £2,000.00 to £2,250.00 each based on 5 to 6 mediation sessions including the additional work that will need to be undertaken pre and post sessions. Charges are always fully discussed before meditation starts and you will be given an estimate of costs based on your circumstances. This could save you up to 90% in legal costs.




How many sessions will we need?


A lot will depend on the number of issues that you need to resolve. If the issues are limited to say, discussing and agreeing the children’s arrangements then this can be sorted out in as little as one or two mediation sessions. If the issues are more complex, mediation could take longer to help you resolve all or most of the issues. For an all issues case, you may need five or six mediation sessions. Discrete unresolved issues can be referred onto other forms of dispute resolution like arbitration, if both parties agree.




What will we talk about during the family mediation?


The agenda is set by you and your ex-partner. This is one of the major benefits of mediation. We can discuss any issues about your separation, divorce, children, finances and property. Often issues about communication, boundary setting or incidents relating to the breakup of the relationship/marriage are key issues that you may wish to discuss and agree upon before moving on to substantive issues on the children’s arrangements/sharing and dividing of property and finance. We can prioritise the issues according to your needs and requirements.




Is family mediation legally binding /do I need a court order?


No. Any agreements reached through the help of the mediation service is not legally binding. If both parties agree, a without prejudice document can be prepared known as a 'memorandum of understanding' (‘MOU’) based on the outcome of mediation. An application can be made to the court to convert the MOU into a court order, which would then be legally binding. This would be undertaken by your lawyers who will give legal advice on the tentative terms agreed in mediation.

Please note that is not usual for couples reaching resolutions on child/ren arrangements to seek a legally binding court order once agreement is reached in mediation as the Children Act 1989 is governed by the 'no order' principle. The parties may choose to formalise agreements reached in mediation with the prepartion of a parenting plan.

It is however, very important to work closely with your lawyers to help you convert any financial tentative agreements into a legally binding court order to ensure that the term are enforceable and to provide a clean break/pension sharing order where this has been agreed.




Is family mediation aimed at trying to save our marriage, like counselling?


No. Family mediation is not about saving marriages/relationships. It is about dealing with issues that arise out of the breakup in the least self-destructive way possible, allowing for ongoing communication between the parties. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution. It empowers the separating couple to make their own informed decisions about the various issues that may arise as a result of the marriage/relationship breakup. It is future-focused.




Do I need a lawyer to attend with me?


No. However there are different models of mediation and where both parties agree that their respective solicitors should be involved in the mediation process then this may be acceptable in more complex cases. Usually, parties do not invite their lawyers to join the session as this will increase costs substantially as payment will need to be made to the lawyers’ for their time in attending mediation sessions. This option would only be available where both parties have lawyers and both agree to the lawyers attending mediation sessions.




What if I have any concerns or complaints?


We hope that you will be happy with the service and that you will have no cause to complain. High standards of services are very important and we appreciate feedback to make improvements. Please see our Feedback, Concerns & Complaints Policy. Our practice is governed by Resolution and we comply with the Family Mediation Council (FMC) Code of Practice. This Code can be found on the FMC website as can more information about mediation generally. Any concern regarding our services should be raised with us in the first instance and thereafter, if unresolved, in writing to Resolution, my governing body. In the event of a written complaint, you agree to the release of your file to any complaints handler.




How does online mediation work in practice?


Our preferred way of conducting the MIAM/Mediation is via the free online video conferencing platform, Zoom. You can access Zoom on a laptop, computer, tablet, IPad or even a phone. It will be free for you to use. In advance of the meeting, you will receive an e-mail inviting you to a scheduled meeting. This can be saved onto your virtual calendar. You click on the ‘join meeting’ link. If you have not used Zoom before on the device, you will be prompted to download the Zoom app. If you have problems, the following link will take you to the Zoom website where more guidance around this can be found here. If you join the meeting early, you will wait in a virtual waiting room until the mediator admits you into the meeting. If you are not already in the waiting room, you will receive a further e-mail to let you know the meeting is about to start and you can just click the link to join. You must make sure that you join the meeting with both audio and video. Preparation for your virtual meeting and tips for a productive mediation session

  1. Make sure your device has sufficient battery, data and/or internet connection for the duration of the call.

  2. Join the remote meeting 5 mins in advance to be on time and make a list of the issues that need to be discussed - preparation is key.

  3. If you are not using your phone for the meeting, have it by you, but set it to silent, in case we need to speak to you if there are technical issues.

  4. Remember you are attending a professional meeting and dress and act accordingly.

  5. Make sure you have everything that you might need to hand – pen, paperwork, blank paper to make notes, water etc.

  6. Think carefully about where you will sit for the meeting, and if you are using your phone, find somewhere to rest it so that you are relaxed and comfortable and can make notes if required.

  7. Do not interrupt or talk over the other person - listen carefully, often you can both be worrying about the same things.

  8. Be respectful to one another and remember that saying sorry can be helpful.

  9. There is no need to tell stories about the other party to put yourself in a good light; the mediator will not take sides.

  10. If you find yourself in an emotionally charged state, it may be good to take a break; decisions made when angry, in the heat of the moment or when you are overly emotional may not serve you (or your child/ren).

  11. Think in terms of what can be done as opposed to what cannot be done; focus on the positive and be future/solution focused.

  12. Make sure you undertake any tasks and share any information/documents requested by the mediator in advance of the next session to make the progress you planned and agreed to. This is especially important for full and frank financial disclosure, where financial issues need to be resolved.

  13. The mediator will not have any individual discussions with you to remain impartial about issues in mediation unless it relates to logistics about the online process.

  14. Any email communication for substantive mediation must be undertaken with all three parties copied in (you, your ex-partner and the mediator) at all times, as information must always be shared. Any breach of this rule may lead to the mediator terminating mediation.




What are the drawbacks of online mediation?


All parties need to have the capacity to mediate online i.e. have the hardware and software and be a little tech savvy as well as have a good internet connection / wifi capabilities. There may be concerns on privacy and confidentiality of the process as well as concerns regarding the mediator’s capacity to pick up on non-verbal cues. Potential concerns of ‘rudeness of cyberspace’ and mediator’s ability to manage emotions and conflict. Please rest assured that we have put in to place measures to protect your data/privacy and that we are confident that we have the experience and capacity to manage emotions and conflict in remote mediation sesssions.




What are the benefits of online services?


Financial savings in costs, time and convenience. Environmentally friendly, neutral environments reduce hostility, and help develop new methods of communication between you and your ex-partner. It’s a safer and more comfortable option where concerns are raised regarding domestic abuse and can help cases where there are power imbalances. In many instances, it can help parties communicate more openly and freely.




How do I use Dropbox/share my financial disclosure documents safely for online mediation?


To exchange documents safely we use Dropbox. This allows us to share documents without risk. Dropbox Basic is free of charge. It can be used on a computer, laptop, IPad or tablet or phone. To Open Dropbox. Click on “Sign up for Free” and follow the instructions.

We will set up a file, which we will share with you and your ex-partner. No-one else can access this file. You will receive an e-mail notification that we have invited you to edit the folder. This will mean you can add documents to the file and view documents already in there.

Please do not to provide any additional documents unless you have been asked to do so. We recommend that you download and save the documents in a secure place for your future records and reference.




What is a MIAM?


This is an Initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with the mediator. We provide you with a detailed explanation of the key principles of mediation and explain how family mediation works in practice at this meeting. We discuss additional dispute resolution options with you such as arbitration, private FDR (financial dispute resolution) meetings and child inclusive mediation and carry out a risk assessment to ensure that it is safe and appropriate to mediate. On the 6th of April 2011, the Government issued a pre action protocol that required anyone wishing to issue an application in the family courts to attend MIAM. There are exceptions where there is evidence of domestic violence or child protection issues/welfare concerns, in which case exemptions will apply. However, you cannot be forced to mediate; it is a voluntary process.




Is family mediation confidential?


Yes, mediation is a confidential process. However, confidentiality and privilege will not apply if it appears that a child or other person is suffering or likely to suffer significant or serious harm. Also, arrangements for confidentiality and privilege will not apply if information is shared with us about any intention to commit an unlawful or criminal act. In such circumstances, disclosure will need to be made to the relevant authorities.




What if mediation breaks down or after starting the process it is considered, no longer fair and suitable?


If one or both of you decide that mediation is counter-productive and not helping you resolve issues than you can opt to end mediation. The mediator will issue the requisite signed form(s) that is needed to start the court process and/or other dispute resolution options can be explored as an alternative to court.

If the mediator has concerns regarding ongoing suitability and fairness of the process after mediation starts, the process will be terminated upon the mediator confirming reasons why mediation can no longer proceed e.g., if one party or both persist on being 'bullish' and/or are continuously disrespectful in the sessions. As above, other dispute resolution options can be explored and if required, the mediator will issue the requisite signed form(s) that is needed to start the court process.




How do I complete my PDF filler form digitally online? (Initial Mediation Information Form / Agreement to Mediate Form)


Please review the video tutorial here on how to complete PDF filler. (Watch from 30 seconds onwards for the most relevant content.) NB: Once the link is opened on one of your devices e.g., your mobile phone or laptop it will lock into that first IP address/device, and you will not be able to view/edit your completed form on any alternative device. We recommend that you open the link when you have 20 to 30 minutes spare to complete and check your form before submitting - ideally, on your desktop/laptop to allow for a better user experience.




Do I have to attend a MIAM/What are the exemptions?


In certain circumstances you may be exempt from attenting a MIAM like (not an exhaustive list) :

  • You are are already in the court system for the matter in dispute;
  • You are in agreement and wish to apply for an order by consent;
  • There is evidence of domestic/financial abuse/violence;
  • There is significant child protection concerns with the engagement of the Local Authority and a care plan in place;
  • Urgent application needs to be made without notice to the other party;
  • You have attended a MIAM within the last 4 months for the same dispute etc.
Please see the Government guidelines here for detailed information on valid reasons not to attend a MIAM. If you have a lawyer, they will let you know if any of the exemptions apply to your case. If so, you can by-pass this step and proceed with a court application.




What is the Government family mediation voucher scheme?


The family mediation voucher scheme is a time-limited scheme, designed to support parties who may be able to resolve their family law disputes outside of court. The Government has set up the scheme in response to Covid-19 to support recovery in the family court and to encourage more people to consider mediation as a means of resolving their disputes, where appropriate. To support this, a financial contribution of up to £500 towards the costs of mediation will be provided, if eligible. Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC) are taking part in the voucher scheme. Holistic Family Mediation is authorised.

You will be asked to confirm that you have:

  • asked the mediator to apply for the voucher
  • not already applied for another voucher as part of the same scheme
  • given consent to your mediator providing your necessary information to the Family Mediation Council. This includes your name, the bill for mediation services you receive from the mediator and some basic information about your case.

We will provide you with the forms to complete and sign.

Data collection

You will be requested to complete a short monitoring questionnaire. This is optional.
We will be required to provide some information about your case, such as if you reach an agreement and if you asked the court to formalise an agreement. The data will be anonymised before being used to give information about the way the voucher scheme and the mediation services were used.




What is Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM)?


Child Inclusive Mediation can give the children a voice. It involves a family mediator, who is trained as a child consultant, talking with a child or children as part of the mediation process.

During mediation the mediator, parents, or indeed the child/ren may suggest that they be involved in the mediation process. It is important that parents understand the wishes and feelings of their child/ren and involving them in direct consultation may be the appropriate way forward. Children like to be informed and appreciate having options identified for them and their views heard but not to be responsible for the overall decision making.

Involving children in mediation can be complex. A lot of preparation is needed before a mediator speaks to a child. Different considerations apply according to the age and maturity of the child. It is only possible with the consent of both parents and the child or children in question and where the mediator feels it is appropriate considering all the circumstances.

Direct consultation means the child will talk with a mediator in person (or maybe by virtual platform) separately and in complete confidence from anyone else including the parents (subject of course to the usual safeguarding exceptions).

The mediator may be the same mediator who is dealing with the parents or a different mediator. Sushma is not currently qualified to carry out CIM so will co-work with another mediator who is qualified for CIM. There will be additional costs for this service, usually around £500.00. In many cases, children wish some of their views to be shared with their parents to aid the decision-making process and this will be relayed with the child's permission.

These consultations last approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Usually, CIM is appropriate for children aged 10 and above.




Can we have a joint initial assessment meeting/MIAM?


Holistic Family Mediation does not offer joint initial assessment meetings (MIAM). Each party is required to book and pay for a separate MIAM online to allow for a full assessment as to suitability.




What is the refund and cancellation policy?


For MIAM bookings If you cancel your MIAM within 3 business days of your scheduled appointment, please note you will not be entitled to a refund. If you cancel at least 3 business days before your scheduled appointment, we will provide a 50% refund less costs associated with the use of our online payment service, Stripe currently £1.95 per transaction. For substabtive mediation bookings we are unable to honour refund requests made within 3 working days of booked appointments. If cancellations are requested with at least 3 working days’ notice, we will provide a 50% refund. Any balance funds on account will be returned to you upon the case concluding and preparation of the final bill, within 7 days. We will request confirmation of your bank details for the refund or balance funds on account to be transferred into.




Can a mediator do a separation agreement?


A mediator cannot prepare a separation agreement but can prepare a document setting out the tentative terms agreed in mediation known as a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MOU).

The MOU is a ‘without prejudice’ document that summarises the understandings reached in mediation. The outcomes are not legally binding on the parties until each party has had time to reflect and opportunity to seek independent legal advice on the tentative terms agreed. It is the lawyers’ job to help convert tentative agreements into legal binding court orders if this is considered necessary and appropriate.




Can you get a divorce with just a mediator?


Yes, you can get a divorce with just a mediator but please note that the mediator will not complete and submit the divorce application on your behalf; Sushma will be able to guide you on the process and law applicable to support you in submitting your own divorce application. There is guidance on how to do get a divorce without hiring a lawyer here.

With the new ‘no fault divorce’ coming into place in April 2022, it is likely that most divorcing couples will deal with the divorce application themselves on a joint or sole basis via the online divorce platform without the aid of a family lawyer




What is the role and purpose of a mediator?


The mediator’s purpose and role is to facilitate, support and provide a safe space within which the separating and/or divorcing couple can discuss and explore issues arising out of their separation/divorce. The mediator empowers participants to make their own informed decisions and to stay in control of the outcomes as opposed to giving up the decision-making power to a judge or bench of magistrates.

During the mediation process Sushma will help:

  • Define the issues
  • Identify areas of agreement
  • Clarify areas of disagreement
  • Explore options
  • Provide pragmatic guidance and legal/other relevant information
  • Evaluate options to help you reach agreement upon them and to understand the net impact of the proposals made




What should I expect at a MIAM?


You must attend as MIAM before issuing a family law application unless you are exempt in line with pre-action protocol under the existing Family Proceedings Rules.

The MIAM is an initial separate assessment meeting to assess if mediation is a safe and suitable option for the parties to resolve their disputes. It takes around 45 – 60 minutes and is conducted by a virtual meeting via Zoom for a fixed price of £125.00.

The participants must complete and submit an initial mediation information form in advance of the meeting confirming key facts and relevant background information for the mediator to consider and review prior to the meeting.

At the MIAM Sushma will find out more about the circumstances of the family breakup and issues that need to be resolved. She will confirm the various dispute resolution options available to resolve family disputes outside the court forum as set out here in a flow chart published by Birkett Long Solicitors.

Sushma will also carry out a safety screening exercise to establish if mediation is a safe and suitable forum to resolve issues. If not suitable for family mediation, the participants can consider and review the other options discussed to enable them to decide how best to proceed with their case.

The requisite signed form (‘MIAM certificate’) will be issued electronically to the participants/their lawyers if not suitable or if mediation breaks down/fails to resolve all issues to attach to any proposed court application to evidence the pre-action protocol has been followed prior to issuing a court application.

If mediation is suitable and both parties are willing to mediate (NB: mediation cannot be imposed; it is a voluntary process) a joint 90-minute Zoom meeting will be scheduled on a mutually convenient date and time upon purchase of the first joint mediation session at a cost of £187.50 per party.




What should I expect on a free discovery call?


A free 15 minutes discovery call provides an opportunity for you to speak to Sushma to ask any questions about the logistics of the family mediation process and how it can help you resolve issues with your ex-partner. Sushma will call you on the date and time selected.

Please note, no legal advice can be given. If you need legal advice, you must engage a lawyer.




What is Mediation - All issues, first joint session?


This is a joint 90-minute online mediation session to commence the mediation process covering all issues relating to your relationship/marriage break up including child arrangements, financial issues and any other 'soft issues' like boundary setting and communication difficulties that you need help and support with. Click here to book.




What is Mediation - Children only, first joint session?


This is a joint 90-minute online mediation session to commence the mediation process relating to child/ren arrangement issues only. Click here to book.




What is Mediation - Finances only, first joint session?


This is a joint 90-minute online mediation session to commence the mediation process relating to financial issues arising out your relationship/marriage break up. Click here to book.




What is Medaition - Follow-up session?


This is a joint 90-minute online mediation session following the first mediation session. Pay as you-go. Buy as many or a few sessions as are needed to help you resolve all or some of the issues arising out of your relationship/marriage break up. Click here to book a follow-up session.




What is an Open Fianacial Summary (OFS) & Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?


The OFS - Open Financial Summary is a document setting out on an open basis, a summary of your respective financial positions as disclosed in your Form Es with a list of the financial documents exchanged between you and your ex-partner. This will need to be signed and dated by both parties once finalised and agreed.


The MOU - Memorandum of Understanding is a privileged document setting out on a ‘without prejudice’ basis, a summary of the terms of agreement reached within the mediation process. This document will be signed and dated by the mediator alone as record of what took place in mediation.


These combined documents prove to be invaluable for the purposes of securing legal advice on the terms agreed and converting agreements into legally binding orders.




What is a Parenting Plan?


This is a statement that sets out your joint commitment and hopes for how you will parent together even though you are now living separtae and apart.

Please note that parenting plans do not hold ‘evidential weight’ in any future court proceedings; it is a voluntary document that records your parental aspirations, plans and arrangements.

CAFCASS have a great toolkit to prepare your own Parenting Plan. Click here for details.




What is a retainer fee/funds on account required for?


On the services page you can pay the retainer/funds on account (either for 30mins, 60 mins or 90 mins of Sushma's time) in advance for any pre or post mediation work that is required and agreed to be undertaken by her in line with your consent and agreement.

Such additional work will allow for productive mediation sessions such as, review of Form Es/finacial disclosure and preparation of draft schedule of assets following the exchange and receipt of Form Es and supporting documents. It may also be helful to have interim without prejudice summaries prepared as a clear record and aid to support you both in between mediation sessions.