Mediation – An Alternative to Litigation for Child Visitation and Custody
Separating is a stressful, expensive and time-consuming process. Courts and solicitors often suggest an alternative to costly court battles – mediation. It’s a series of sessions with a neutral mediator to sort out matters around separating such as child custody and visitation as well as financial and legal issues. Mediation is neither alternative to divorce nor an attempt to reconcile the couple. A written mediation agreement is a cheaper, faster and simpler way of dealing with the situation.
The couple will attend several mediation sessions. Each session lasts between 1 and 2 hours. The initial meeting can be done with the couple in the same room or individually. They will discuss the issues surrounding the separation or divorce and whether they can meet face to face. The mediator won’t make decisions for either party or take sides in the discussion. They are only mediators in the sessions.
Both parties should provide accurate information about their finances. Keep in mind that mediation doesn’t work for all couples, but it is successful in most cases. Once the mediation starts, the couple can still stop it if they want. Everything they say is confidential except their financial information and anything that might cause harm to anyone, particularly the children. Couples have to try mediation first before looking for legal aid for court settlement.
It is best if both parties will attend all mediation sessions because they can establish ground rules about shouting, interruptions and other matters. Separate rooms might be required for both parties, with the mediator going between the two of them. Both parties should be prepared to give and take. They want the best for their children, and the mediator can help them determine the most practical solution. Common issues that are discussed during mediation sessions include contact and residence order and financial matters like mortgages. Although it is not easy, the mediator will work with the couple to determine a solution that is beneficial to both parties and the children.
Once everything is settled, they will create an agreement called Statement of Outcome or Memorandum of Understanding. Both parties may hire a solicitor to review the agreement before signing it. Once signed, they can also have their solicitors sign the agreement to make it legally binding. Couples may only agree on some issues. The mediator will record the issues they’ve agreed on and the ones that can be settled in court. If the children are old enough, the mediator will recommend including them in the sessions.
You can get legal aid to cover the cost of mediation. In most cases, however, you will pay the cost using your own money. The cost can run between £100 and £1000. The number of issues involved and the complexity of the cases affect the cost of mediation.
Check out their website and the mediator’s contact details. Mediation may not work for all cases, but it does provide a simpler and more affordable solution for separating couples.