What are the benefits of family mediation in divorce?

  • Explain how family mediation works for separating couples
  • Describe the role of financial advisers
  • Describe the benefits for clients
What are the benefits of family mediation in divorce?

With January being a time when many individuals make decisions about the future, including to separate or divorce, and with this being Family Mediation Week, we explain the benefits of family mediation and how professional advisers can be involved.  

Family mediation is a non-court based process for resolving disputes, whether purely financial, children-related or a combination of the two. It is a voluntary and confidential process that sees a neutral and professionally trained mediator help a separating couple explore and, hopefully, negotiate a way forward on future arrangements.

Any agreement reached in mediation is not legally binding until the parties have had the opportunity to take independent legal advice on it. Once this has taken place, the parties’ lawyers (if solicitors are instructed) will turn the proposed agreement into an order that can be lodged at court for approval by a judge.

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A mediator facilitates discussion and helps couples find solutions that work for them and their children; they may also act separately as lawyers advising clients. As mediators, we are there to help the couple explore their suggestions for settlement, and to signpost where advice from other professionals would help to aid discussions. 

For example, this could include identifying where tax advice may need to be obtained, where a pension expert needs to be consulted to assess value and/or income of pension funds or where there needs to be financial planning so that the couple can really see what their financial futures will hold.

And where children are involved, we frequently refer clients to child therapists or parenting coaches. 

Discussions that take place with the mediator (save for the disclosure of financial information) cannot be referred to by clients and their lawyers in any court proceedings. This means that clients can accept or concede points without fear of being held to it later if an overall resolution has not been possible. 

Save for some exceptions, such as cases involving domestic abuse, child protection or urgent financial preservation issues, divorcing couples are usually expected to have considered mediation before starting court proceedings.

What kind of cases suit mediation?  

Mediation can be used to deal with financial and/or children issues arising from a separation. It can also be used before a marriage or cohabitation to agree the terms of a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement.

We mediated one ultra high-net-worth couple who were intending to have a child together so that all the possible future financial and parenting arrangements had been considered. Arrangements for children can sometimes inform aspects of financial discussions. 

For example, the couple may wish to ensure there are funds set aside for school fees if private schooling is agreed. An 'all issues' mediation typically covers both finances and children. 

Clients can save significant costs and stress by engaging in mediation, and it can also be suited to complex or high-value financial cases. We have mediated cases where the assets have ranged from £1mn to more than £200m.