Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. Take the first step and BREAK THE ICE!
Separation is an emotional and upsetting time for families and many disputes/issues need to be resolved.
Family Mediation is a bright approach to resolving those family disputes/issues by way of agreement between parties and without the Court making decisions about you and your children. Mediation ensures that each party maintains control throughout the mediation process as both you and your partner/ex-partner determine the decisions jointly instead of a Judge. Mediation therefore ensures that parties reach an agreement and work out a solution to their problems which is acceptable and tailor made to suit the needs of those in dispute.
Manjit Kaur Gill is a Family Resolution Mediator and can help separating couples to:
- Resolve all issues following separation more quickly than going through the Court process
- Keep the costs of separation to a minimum
- Separate with minimum distress
- Focus on what is important to each of them and their family
- Keep control of their family decision making
- Focus on keeping their children’s needs at the heart of the decision making process
- Minimise conflict wherever possible
- Put in place workable long lasting arrangements for their children
- Resolve financial and property issues following separation
What is Family Mediation?
Mediation takes place by way of agreement and is a voluntary process in a safe, confidential environment which is informal, yet professional. It enables those taking part to reach their own informed decisions following meaningful discussions and negotiation, managed with sensitivity and professionalism. The mediator, who is strictly neutral, assists the couple or other family members to reach decisions that are workable both in the short and the long term. The discussions in mediation are confidential (save for concerns about child protection). Mediation often produces creative, tailored solutions which are likely to lead to more satisfactory arrangements for all concerned.
The Government has recently acknowledged that in comparison to the court process, family mediation is generally cheaper, quicker and less acrimonious. And also helps parties to maintain the power to make their own decisions regarding the finances and children upon a relationship breakdown.
At what point in the separation process can Family Mediation be useful?
Mediation can take place at any time during the dispute:
- Before the issue of Court proceedings;
- During Court Proceedings;
- Before a Final Hearing; or even
- After the Final Hearing if an Appeal is pending
Mediation can prove to be equally as useful no matter which stage it is commenced at.
Important points to note about Family Mediation
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution and negotiation. Family Mediation is not a counselling service as Family Mediators do not try to get the parties to get back together. Instead, we help the parties to iron out misunderstandings and to resolve feelings of anger and stress.
Mediation is a voluntary process and the mediator cannot impose an agreement. Any resolution or settlement is therefore by the consent of the parties only. The Mediator acts as an impartial and independent person who attempts to facilitate negotiations between the parties and assist them to achieve a settlement.
Types of Family Mediation work undertaken
- Mediation resolving disputes relating to the arrangements for children including parenting plans, finance and property,communication and any other matters that are important following the breakdown of the relationship
- Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings
- Mediation with solicitors or other relevant professionals in attendance
How does Family Mediation work?
A separate, confidential meeting will take place with each of you to explain in more detail what mediation is and how it works. This meeting enables you to ask questions freely about the process and ensure that you understand what it is before you decide whether to proceed. In some cases it may be more convenient to have these meetings on the phone, in which case you would then be seen briefly before the first mediation.
You will have the opportunity to explain what the issues are for each of you and your family so that a view can be taken as to whether mediation is the most appropriate way forward. If you are not eligible for Free Mediation, the costs of mediation will be explained to you. Provided mediation is suitable and you both wish to proceed, a mediation session will then be arranged at a time that suits you both.
First and subsequent Mediation sessions
You will both need to attend this meeting and generally you will be sitting together in the same room. If you prefer to sit in separate rooms, suitable arrangements will be made so that this is possible. During the first session, you both decide what issues you would like to resolve in mediation. This becomes your agenda. During the first and subsequent mediation sessions relevant information will be gathered to enable you both to make informed decisions, whether relating to finances, your children or other issues.
You will explore options together, to enable you both to decide which options would give you and your family the most satisfactory and long lasting solutions.
With regards to your children, it is not unusual to struggle with parenting after a relationship has broken down. Parenting is challenging at the best of times. Parenting effectively after separation can present new, sometimes tougher challenges than before. During the Mediation, you will discuss and find positive ways of dealing with these challenges together, to ensure that your children make this transition with you, with the minimum of distress. Any arrangements that are made in respect of children should focus on the children as individuals ensuring whenever possible, that their needs and concerns can be met.
With regards to finances, the process of gathering financial information can feel daunting. You will be helped in doing this as effectively and quickly as possible. Confusion can be clarified, misunderstandings can be explained and legal information can be provided where necessary. Having explored the possible options you will work towards finding a solution that can work for each of you and the family.
Once you have addressed what is important to you both and to your children and reached joint decisions about how you wish to resolve any parenting or financial issues, your decisions will be incorporated into a formal document for you to retain.
As the discussions in Mediation are confidential, they are not legally binding on you.
The formal document will enable you to take further legal advice should it be appropriate or should you wish to do so. In some circumstances, for example, when resolving financial arrangements as part of a divorce, it is recommended that you ask your independent legal advisors to incorporate your decisions into a document that can then be put to the Court to make your decisions legally binding. This will be discussed with you fully during mediation.
How does Family Mediation work? – Children
Receiving the right support following separation can make all the difference to how parents and children cope after separation.
Family Mediation can help parents work together to provide their children the support and secure base that they need, thus maintaining stability and routine in their lives.
What is Child Focused Mediation?
To enable the best arrangements to be put in place for children post separation, the Mediator will provide general information to both parents about:
- How children cope with parental separation
- What children might need from parents to help them cope
- How parents can protect their children from parental conflict
- How to manage and minimise parental conflict
Additionally, the Mediator will help both parents to:
- Focus on their children’s needs as well as their own
- Assist parents to put in place arrangements and parenting plans that can work for all the family in both the short and the long term
- Consider options from their children’s perspectives as well as their own
- Make the shift from parenting together to parenting apart and to make that transition as smooth as possible for the benefit of their children
How does Family Mediation work? – Finances and Property
It is a difficult decision to divide your property and capital after divorce or separation. It can often feel as though there is no ideal solution, that options are limited and that achieving a fair solution is impossible as both parties may have had an acrimonious separation and may not have had any communication for years. Not knowing how you are each going to manage after divorce or separation increases stress which can in turn increase the conflict between you. This is likely to then have an adverse effect on your children.
Family mediation is a quicker, cheaper and less acrimonious way of resolving financial issues following divorce or separation. Mediation works in the shadow of the law, which means that you will both need to provide full and frank financial disclosure of all your assets before being able to consider productively what your options might be. You would need to provide full financial details whether you resolved matters through mediation, your solicitors or the Court. The difference is that in mediation you both go through this process together which makes the process quicker and more efficient.
The mediator helps you to consider all available options and work through these together so that you reach a solution that you both feel can work. As neither of you can be forced into making any decisions, the end result is that your final decision will be one that you have made together. Consequently you are both more likely to feel that the outcome is fair. When a decision is made by the Court, it often feels like one person is the winner and the other the loser. Sometimes both people can feel that they lose from a Court decision.
In summary, Family Mediation can help you both to:
Work out how to resolve any financial aspects of your separation;
Gather your financial information as quickly and efficiently as possible;
Explore a range of options prior to making decisions;
Test the viability of options to ensure that any final decisions taken are workable for everyone;
Understand the steps that you need to take to make your final decisions legally binding
Mrs Manjit Kaur Gill, who is a qualified and experienced Family Law Solicitor with over 20 years experience, is a member of Resolution and is a Specialist Accredited Family Mediator.
Resolution is an organisation of Solicitors who provide a constructive, non-confrontational approach to Family Law matters and who believe that Family Law disputes should be dealt with in a way designed to preserve people’s dignity and encourage agreement between the parties. These are the principles which Mrs Gill adopts in all aspects of her Family Law work, including Mediation.
Mrs Manjit Kaur Gill is also a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel, which is an accreditation scheme for Lawyers who have demonstrated special knowledge and experience in handling the complexities of divorce and separation. This gives Mrs Gill unrivalled insight and enables her to apply her knowledge to assist in effective mediation.
Mrs Gill can help you to find a way to plan for the future and to agree what will work best for you without having to go to court. That can save you time, money and stress.
Also able to communicate effectively in English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu this means that not only will you save on the costs of an interpreter, but Mrs Gill’s unique position enables her to deal effectively with a diverse range of cultures/nationalities.
If a client is on a low income he/she may be eligible for legal aid mediation. MK Gill does not undertake legal aid Mediation and should a client be eligible for free mediation he/she can contact another Family Mediator who offers this service. This is discussed in the Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Costs will be charged as follows (subject to VAT):
Initial telephone call assessment – free of charge
Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM): £90 per person per hour
Mediation sessions – £150.00 per person per hour
Provision of a signed court form (FM1,C100 or Form A): £60
Paperwork (for example drafting Memorandum of Understanding/ Summary of proposals/Parenting Plan/Open Statement of Financial Information)- £100.00 per person per hour.
At the conclusion of mediation, if finances are involved you will need a summary document of all your financial information. In addition you will need a formal document known as the Memorandum of Understanding which summarises your discussions and the decisions that you reached in mediation. It is this document that your solicitor would use if you wished any decisions to be made legally binding.
By comparison, solicitors costs incurred through negotiation or where applications are made to Court are often in the region of £2,000 – £10,000 per person where all issues are discussed. In some cases they can be considerably more.
Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAM)
Who should attend a MIAM?
Anyone thinking about using mediation as a way of resolving disputes following a relationship breakdown, separation or divorce would benefit from attending a MIAM.
If you are considering making an application to Court in respect of a financial dispute or arrangements for your children it is a requirement that you attend a MIAM before making your application. There are a number of exemptions to this that the mediator, your solicitor or the Court can explain in more detail.
What happens in a MIAM?
The Mediator will explain how mediation works and whether it is appropriate. Other dispute resolution options will also be considered, such as collaborative law or arbitration. You will be asked to provide enough information that will enable an assessment to be made as to whether mediation is suitable in your circumstances.
This assessment is generally made once you have both been seen. In some cases it might be more suitable for you to use one of the other dispute resolution options such as solicitor negotiation or the Court, in which case this will be discussed with you.
What happens next?
If you are the person wishing to make an application to Court and require the requisite Court form, you must first attend a MIAM. The Mediator will then contact your former partner and invite them to a similar information and assessment meeting. If your partner is not willing to attend a MIAM at all, or discuss Mediation or if Mediation is unsuitable in your circumstances, you will be provided with a signed FM1, C100 or Form A which will enable you to proceed to Court should you wish to do so.
If you both wish to attend mediation, a first meeting will be arranged on a date and time to suit you both.