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Divorce Mediation: What to Expect

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Divorce is a complex process, the outcome of which is subject to many considerations, agreements and negotiations. Often, it can be hard for a couple going through such an emotionally challenging period to reach an amicable agreement without the help of an impartial third party. When the professional advice of an impartial third party is sought, one option is divorce mediation.

What is a mediator?

A mediator is a skilled communicator who can help divorcing couples reach a fair agreement when discussing matters such as finances, separation of assets and child support arrangements.

How does a mediator work?

A mediator will not take sides but will listen to both parties, understanding their expectations and desires. They will then help them to discuss their preferred outcomes and any compromises that they are willing to agree to. By working together in this way, it is possible to reach an amicable agreement without the need for expensive legal action.

What to expect from divorce mediation

When a couple is unable to agree to a mutually acceptable outcome from their divorce proceedings, they may choose, or be directed by their solicitor or the family law court, to attend divorce mediation to attempt to reach a satisfactory resolution.

Prior to attending mediation, it is useful to write down any agreements that have already been reached, thereby identifying the areas of contention on which the mediation session(s) should focus. Concerning financial issues, it is helpful for the couple to bring along bills and bank statements and to be transparent about their financial position. This is because failure to be upfront about debts, income and assets can often delay the mediation process and make divorce proceedings more complicated than they need to be.

Mediation will start with an introductory meeting in which the mediator will meet with each party separately to understand their concerns, desires and any areas in which they are willing to compromise. They will then hold one or more joint sessions in which they will help the divorcing couple to speak to each other, to find areas of common ground and to agree on a way forward.

The mediator will not give legal advice but will listen to both parties' points of view and help them to listen effectively to each other. They will suggest practical steps and help the couple to focus on the most positive outcome for them and their children.

Everything that is discussed during mediation is completely confidential. Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator will write a memorandum of understanding which records the agreements that have been made. Each party will receive a copy of this report.

Where the memorandum of understanding relates to assets or finances, a solicitor can then use this as the basis for drafting a legally binding consent order.

Donna Goodsell comments that mediation is often a very effective way for a divorcing couple to reach an amicable outcome, while at the same time reducing their court fees and timescales.

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