In our last blog we talked about Legal Aid being available for Mediation. This blog is going to be looking in more depth at the Mediation process.
What is mediation?
Let's start with the basics. Mediation is one of the many out of court solutions to help a separating couple reach an agreement about their arrangements. The couple would meet with a trained mediator to talk about arrangements they are going to make following their separation. This might concern arrangements that they will make for their children. They can also talk about how they will divide their money or deal with a house sale or pension division. The list is endless and can include anything that is important to the couple to help them resolve the issues fairly and by agreement.
The Mediator acts for both clients. Their role is to facilitate discussions and support the couple in their dialogue to reach an agreed settlement. Lawyers do usually not attend Mediation sessions.
What Mediation will do (not an exhaustive list)
• Provide support and information in a neutral way designed to aid discussions between the couple.
• Deal with the exchange of financial information and work through any further information or documentation that needs to be provided to enable the couple to reach an agreement.
• Help move discussions along if the couple hit a sticking point.
• Act as a note taker and when a couple feel they have found a set of proposals that they both feel comfortable with, the Mediator can prepare a summary for the couple to take back to their respective solicitors.
• Support the couple in defining their own out of court solutions.
What Mediation won’t do (not an exhaustive list)
• Mediation is not the same as couples counseling. The aim is to help the couple make post-separation arrangements – not to help them come to terms with the relationship breakdown or to reconcile.
• Mediators do not give advice. Clients in mediation may be well advised to get some initial legal information before mediation, and at any point to aid the mediation process.
How much will it cost.
Mediators can charge different rates, but as a general rule, mediation rates are typically much less expensive than the combined rate of two lawyers acting for each party. While we appreciate that costs are an issue to every client, we try to encourage our clients to think about the value to the family of using an effective resolution model such as mediation. This forum can produce an agreed outcome in a much more timely and cost effective manner than either relying on solicitors to negotiate for you, or indeed going to court. Critically, Mediation also allows clients to communicate directly with each other, rather than relying on (often expensive) lawyers to communicate for them. We don’t believe you can put a value on that- it’s priceless.
Can I get Legal aid for mediation?
Legal aid is available for mediation provided that you fulfill the eligibility criteria.
In summary you need to have less than £8,000 in savings (you can exclude the first £100,000 worth of equity in a property that you own but need to include any equity over this). If your gross income is less than £2,657, or you are in receipt of certain benefits then you will be eligible for legal aid for mediation.
If Legal Aid is available, are more couples attending Mediation
Legal Aid changes in 2013 mean that, for the most part, this is now the only way of getting legal aid. However since the changes to legal aid came into force referrals to mediation have plummeted substantially. If you compare the number of referrals in April to June of this year with the same period last year, referrals have fallen averagely across the country by 26%. Here in Cambridge they have fallen by 32%.
Why is that?
Firstly, it seems that although the government have placed this emphasis on mediation and the legal aid changes point people towards mediation, this has not been widely publicised. The result is that not only are people not aware that they could get legal aid for mediation, but many legal advisors aren’t aware of this.
Is Mediation for me
As a rule we would say that there are very few cases where mediation is not suitable. Every case is different however and we would always explore this further with you, as well as looking at all the models of resolution available, including collaborative law, and arbitration.
For more information about mediation or to find a mediator in your area, visit