Mediation is a voluntary process which enables couples to explore outstanding issues. Most commonly these issues involve the financial implications of a relationship background or the future arrangements for the children (or both, which is known as All Issues Mediation, or AIM).
These issues may arise as a result of their relationship ending. However mediation can also help couples wishing to enter into cohabitation or pre-nuptial agreements at the beginning of their relationship or families who are facing a dispute following the death of a loved one.
The process involves both sides meeting with an impartial and specifically trained third party, who can help them to come to an agreement and to draw up a Memorandum of Understanding that is fair and acceptable to all concerned, without the need for court intervention. Any agreement reached is not legally binding without both parties deciding jointly to apply to court for the arrangements to be ratified or formalising it in some other way. The discussions are strictly confidential and either person is free to leave the mediation process at any point.
Mediation can be especially beneficial where children are involved as it allows arrangements for their future to be agreed (both in relation to their care and financial settlement) at the earliest opportunity with minimal animosity between the parents.
Adults who can reach agreements get less caught up in conflict and are better able to adjust and to co-parent their children in the future.
In addition, since 22nd April 2014 separating couples must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before making most court applications, in order to consider whether mediation would be a better way of resolving their differences.