Mediation during divorce and separation can save heartache, cost and time. Family lawyer Philippa Pearson and author of the ‘Separation & DIY Divorce Kit‘ and ‘Living Together – An Essential Legal Guide’, wonders why mediation is still such an underused resource in divorce.

The breakdown of any relationship is a traumatic business. We all invest a great deal, emotionally and materially, in marriage and it’s hard to escape the feelings of bitterness and even betrayal so often associated with its breakdown. Unfortunately, these feelings can be exacerbated by divorce court proceedings.

There can also be an inevitable sense that the divorce lawyers have taken over. Worse still, if disputes have to be settled by a divorce court, the divorce decision may be one which is unacceptable to both of you and the expense of divorce court hearings can be out of proportion to the reality of the dispute.

Mediation can offer you both another way.

Professionally trained mediators are completely neutral and non-directive. You will each be given the time and opportunity to explain your individual problems and you will then be seen together to help you both understand each other’s point of view. It’s astonishing how often a couple are unable to talk to one another at all, let alone listen to what the other is trying to say.

The mediator will help you to realise where there are areas of agreement and encourage each of you to suggest possible ways in which the disputes that have arisen may be resolved. In financial disputes the mediator will help you to identify your assets and needs, and then look at possible ways to arrive at a fair division.

Mediation is completely confidential, except where there is a disclosure of a risk to someone, particularly a child. Both of you are encouraged to report back to your divorce solicitors about the progress of the mediation and any eventual proposals for a divorce agreement. The proposals reached will not be legally binding unless the divorce solicitors take steps to have them made orders of the divorce court.

The process of mediation can empower both of you to reach your own decisions. If you can, this is of enormous benefit not only to yourselves but, even more crucially, to your children. It takes the heat out of disagreement. Mediated agreements are likely to last longer than divorce court orders alone. The fact that you have both been able to agree about what should happen to the children means that you should find it easier to negotiate any changes to the agreement which may become necessary as time passes.

Compared with divorce court proceedings, mediation is extremely cheap. If you do reach agreement, that agreement can be made into a divorce court order by consent, without the necessity of anyone actually going to divorce court to give evidence.

Organisations throughout the country that provide divorce mediation include National Family Mediation and Family Mediation Scotland.

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Published on: November 2, 2009