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Deciding to get divorced is a big step and one that can leave you feeling fearful for the future. While you must go to court to get a divorce, there is no need for the court to become involved in decisions concerning your children or financial affairs if you and your former spouse can work together to agree the arrangements. In this article, Matthew Aves, family law expert at Warners Solicitors in Kent explains how divorce mediation can help to keep the court out of your family affairs.
‘The role of a mediator, where a couple have decided to divorce, is to try to help broker a deal which ensures everyone’s financial needs are met and that the children get to see both parents and any extended family as often as possible’, says Matthew, who himself is a trained mediator.
Mediation is a form of negotiation, facilitated by an independent professional whose role is to help you and your former spouse think about the arrangements you need to make to ensure that you and your family come out of the divorce process as well as you possibly can.
Arrangements agreed during the mediation process are not legally binding unless you want them to be and are subject to review by your own solicitor to ensure that they are fair. Assuming everyone is happy though, the terms of the arrangements can be formalised by submitting them to the court for a judge to ratify. Changes to the arrangements can be agreed as and when circumstances require.
Unlike decisions made by the court – which will be based on a judge’s view of what you and your children need – decisions made in mediation can be tailored to your circumstances. For example, you and your former spouse may feel very strongly that your children ought to be privately educated. If this is the case, you can ensure that the payment of school fees forms part of any agreement concerning your finances. This is something that might not be possible if a judge is asked to become involved, particularly where there is no obvious need for private schooling and money after your divorce will be tight.
The cost of mediation will depend on your circumstances and how many meetings are needed to reach an agreement. However, evidence suggests that using a mediator to help broker a deal is significantly cheaper than going to court. The timings of the mediation sessions can also be arranged to suit you.
There is no obligation on you to use mediation to resolve the issues arising out of your divorce, although it is compulsory in most cases for you and your former spouse to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting to explore whether it might be of help. Attendance at such a meeting will not be required where there is a history of domestic violence or other abuse.
If you decide that mediation is not for you, it may still be possible to try to reach an agreement outside of the court using collaborative law, which is a service we also offer.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.