What is mediation?

Mediation is a place for parents to talk about the children, property and finances during and after separation. It is a form of dispute resolution that provides parents a safe place to have an honest and open discussion about the things that concern them and the decisions that need to be made for the future.

How do I book an initial meeting?

It is usually possible to offer an appointment within a matter of days. This is normally at our office in Reading but meetings can be arranged in Newbury if this is more convenient. You can contact us by telephone on 0118 957 1159 or by email at info@berksfm.co.uk. Click here for maps.

How does mediation work?

The mediator(s) help each person clarify what needs to be sorted out and what they hope to achieve. From there, we'll explore options and weigh up which will work in practice. The mediator can help each person to speak and to be heard. If firm proposals are reached these are drawn up into a document. This document is not legally binding but you can subsequently choose to turn the proposals into a legally binding agreement if you wish.

Is mediation the same as counselling? Will it get us back together?

No, it is different from couple counselling. Mediation is here to help you sort out the practical issues once a relationship has broken down.

If I use mediation do I give up my legal rights?

No, you retain all your legal rights in mediation. If you use mediation it does not stop you using court later if it does not work out. If you are thinking of using court to settle issues, however, you must usually have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) first. Find out more about MIAM's here.

Is mediation successful?

Mediation works best when both of you want to find a way forward and sort things out. Research has found that people who use mediation to resolve their disagreements come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than if they use solicitors and go to court. What's more, mediation has the potential to reduce on-going conflict.

Will the mediator give me legal advice?

Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you individual legal advice. Alternatively, you may choose to seek legal advice on an agreement you've reached in mediation before you make it final. Berkshire Family Mediation has negotiated special fixed legal fees for financial cases with local family solicitors to help reduce costs.

I don't trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it's not legal. Wouldn't it be better to go straight to court?

Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. Experience shows, however, that agreements voluntarily made are more likely to reflect what everybody wants than court orders and are, therefore, are more likely to stick. Mediation can also help to improve understanding and to restore communication.

In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a Memorandum of Understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a Consent Order.

Before you start court proceedings over money, property or arrangements for children, the court will expect you to have considered using mediation.

I feel intimidated by my ex

In mediation you both need to feel free to negotiate. The mediator will help you to decide if mediation is a safe and sensible option. You will also be told about the alternatives to mediation so that you can choose what is best for you. For more information on feeling safe in mediation click here.

What if I feel pressured to agree to something that I'll later regret?

Although the mediator will provide encouragement you will not be pressured into agreeing anything. You are in charge of decision making. If you are discussing property and financial issues it is recommended that you obtain legal advice on your proposals before you finalise them.

Who else will be in the meeting?

Apart from the mediator, only you and you ex partner are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have support present at a meeting but both parties would need to agree to this.

Can the children be included?

Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them. At Berkshire Family Mediation, provided that all the circumstances are right, children can be included in the mediation process by letting them have their say. Read about child consultation here.

There's no point - we'll never agree.

It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible if your previous attempts have failed. Mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. There is nothing to lose in trying.

He/she's better at negotiating than I am, I'm not sure I'll be able to put my point across.

Mediators are trained to make sure that both parties' views are heard and understood. Mediators do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other.

I don't think my ex partner will come.

Mediation is voluntary so people can't be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your ex partner explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet him or her alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using mediation.

Is it confidential?

Yes. The service is independent and discussions are confidential. Where the Legal Services Commission pay the cost of mediation on behalf of either client the mediation case file may be subject to audit by the Legal Services Commission. The Legal Services Commission are also are bound by confidentiality.

Although mediators may make notes during the mediation meeting these notes remain confidential. It is only the decisions reached together and issues raised at each meeting that are written down in the form of an outcome statement and given to the clients. At the conclusion of the mediation process the final decisions reached are recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding. The contents of the outcome statements and the memorandum are not binding unless the couple choose together to convert the Memorandum into a legally binding agreement.

Do I have to give full disclosure of my financial situation?

Yes. Although not within the court structure mediation is conducted within the framework of the law and one of the key components of that framework is for both parties to give full and frank disclosure of their circumstances.