Do I need a family lawyer or a family mediator?

There is a misconception that people need to choose between mediation or legal advice. Sorting out a financial agreement and the arrangements for your children may be best achieved if you have a solicitor and a mediator who work together in one way or another. For example:

  • Solicitors advising in the wings – this is the most common sort of collaboration in family mediation and the advice is normally given between mediation meetings. The solicitor supports the mediation discussions by giving legal advice and acting as a sounding board, and may help with financial disclosure, instructing experts and, for example, initiating divorce proceedings.

  • Lawyer assisted (or hybrid) mediation – commonly used in commercial cases with a high success rate, this is a very good option as an alternative to a settlement meeting or “financial dispute resolution” hearing in court proceedings, or just when time is tight. It is usually a one day meeting, and the mediator meets with everyone together if possible and then with each person and their lawyer in a series of separate meetings, holding confidences between the rooms and helping to craft a compromise. It can be particularly beneficial when the legal issues are complex and legal input is needed, and when creative outcomes are needed.

  • Giving children a voice – some mediators are trained to meet with children, so that their views may be heard, and if appropriate shared with their parents/carers. The parents still make the decisions, although with their children’s views and feelings firmly in mind. Generally children aged 10 or over should be offered the opportunity to meet with a mediator, and younger children may also be offered that opportunity if appropriate.

  • Are agreements reached in mediation binding? – the majority of cases in mediation lead to an agreed outcome. That agreement can then be documented in an order to be sent to the court for approval; about financial matters or children. Often solicitors help with this, although some mediators will do too.

  • Legal aid – don’t forget legal aid is still quite widely available for mediation and many people are eligible. Plus you don’t have to have a lawyer as well as a mediator.

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