Frequently Asked Questions
Please find answers to frequently asked questions here:
What if my partner is not willing to attend family mediation?
How much will an initial assessment meeting/MIAM and mediation cost?
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.
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.
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.
Make sure your device has sufficient battery, data and/or internet connection for the duration of the call.
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.
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.
Remember you are attending a professional meeting and dress and act accordingly.
Make sure you have everything that you might need to hand – pen, paperwork, blank paper to make notes, water etc.
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.
Do not interrupt or talk over the other person - listen carefully, often you can both be worrying about the same things.
Be respectful to one another and remember that saying sorry can be helpful.
There is no need to tell stories about the other party to put yourself in a good light; the mediator will not take sides.
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).
Think in terms of what can be done as opposed to what cannot be done; focus on the positive and be future/solution focused.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.
What is the Government family mediation voucher scheme?
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.
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.
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.