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Family Mediation Week 2024 - 22-26 January

Family mediation is one of several options that couples have to resolve children or financial issues that may arise on or following separation. 

Mediation involves the participants meeting alongside a mediator to discuss issues and explore options to resolve them. 

Family mediation allows participants to reach their own conclusions formally but importantly together and by agreement. The role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussions, manage the conversations and help participants reach conclusions that are ‘fair’ (i.e. within the scope of what a court might order) and ‘workable’ (i.e. capable of being implemented). 

In addition, certain family mediators are also authorised to speak to children directly within mediation; something called child-inclusive mediation. One of the main benefits of child-inclusive mediation is that it gives the children of separated couples the opportunity to say what they want to happen safely and confidentially to a trained professional. This gives parents the chance to hear from their children, via the mediator about what arrangements they feel are appropriate but also gives the child a voice and to feel as though they are contributing to those discussions about them. 

One of the associated benefits of mediation and indeed other forms of alternative dispute resolution is that each case that is settled out of court reduces the pressure upon the court. As a family lawyer and mediator, I am acutely aware of the pressures the Family Court is under and feel that each case that can avoid court releases judicial time for those cases that require judicial input, for example where there are significant safeguarding or welfare issues or where there are complex legal or factual disputes to determine. 

The Government continues to support separating couples reaching mediating conclusions. As part of its ongoing support, the Government continues to offer its mediation voucher scheme. The scheme, first announced as part of the Government’s Covid-19 recovery support for the Family Court but has since been extended, provides £500 toward the cost of mediation where participants are mediating issues concerning children. 

There have been discussions for mediation to become mandatory. Currently, most applicants are required to attend an initial mediation information meeting before an application to court can proceed but mediation itself remains a voluntary process. 

As a mediator, I would not support such a move. One of the features of mediation is that it is voluntary and as mediators we want participants to want to be there rather than being forced to be. It would be a concern if participants were made to mediate as they may not be willing or able to speak freely or indeed listen to what the other participant had to say. Not being able to speak freely or listen intently would impact the likely success of mediation meaning that cases may be prolonged unnecessarily and result in litigation in any event. 

What we would support, and increasingly are seeing, is more robust and routine referrals from the judiciary for parties to consider mediation once court proceedings are underway. We find that once proceedings are underway and having heard from their solicitors but importantly also the Judge, participants in mediation are motivated to find suitable settlement terms having heard and seen first-hand the implications if they do not.

There is also, unless an application is urgent, a lengthy delay between issuing an application and the first court hearing. This is similar for both children and financial matters. This period of delay could be used for mediation to be explored and either mediation is successful, and a consent order is filed or otherwise, the court is still there as a fallback. Even if mediation continues by the time of the first hearing, I am sure the Family Court would be more than happy to endorse an adjournment to allow mediation to progress. 

Family Mediation Week runs each year in January and seeks to raise awareness of family mediation and the benefits it can bring to separating couples. 

If you would like any more information about our family mediation services please call us on 0121 200 3243 or email


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