What is a mediator?
Jill Trelfa is a family solicitor who has been accredited by Resolution as family mediator. The accreditation is recognised by the Family Mediation Council, which is the body that now regulates mediators.
How can mediation help me?
Mediation helps couples who have decided to separate or divorce to talk about the things that are important to them and to make decisions for the future. It is not counselling, but a way to help couples who are separating decide how to end their relationship. You will be able to talk through any issues, such as children, money and property, pensions or other consequences of the separation, with input from an accredited mediator. The mediator will help you work out what is best for you and your children.
How does the mediation process work?
- First we will speak to you on the telephone to have a brief discussion about your situation and whether or not mediation might be helpful.
- Then we arrange an initial meeting with each of you separately. The meeting lasts about 45 minutes. During the course of this meeting the mediator will gain an understanding of your own situation and the problems and issues that you need to resolve. The mediator will help you to decide if mediation is right for you. She will explain how the mediation process will work in your particular case, provide an estimate of fees and answer your questions. You will receive a copy of the proposed mediation agreement, some information to help you start preparing a parenting plan for any children and a form to start completing to bring together all your financial information.
- We then arrange the first joint mediation session with the two of you and the mediator. At the beginning of the session the mediator will answer any questions you have about the mediation process and both of you and the mediator will sign up to the mediation agreement, which sets out the ground rules for the mediation. After this we will start preparing an agenda of the things that are important to you both that will need to be resolved. We will also take an initial look at the financial forms that you may have started completing. And we will decide what information needs to be brought to the next session. The first session normally takes 1½ hours.
- There will often be a further 3 or more joint mediation sessions. The sessions will normally be 1½ hours each, or less depending on how much there is to discuss. If you have children, we may be looking at the way the children are cared for and your future plans for parenting. There will often be issues around how your finances will be organised. We will need to ensure that all the financial and other information that we need is available. There may be tasks to do outside the mediation. Much of the collation of financial information will be done by you at home and brought in to the sessions. You may need to research local housing options. You may need advice from an accountant on capital gains tax or other tax matters. If there are pensions then we will discuss if a report from a pensions expert, such as a pension actuary or an independent financial advisor, would assist in achieving a fair solution. Pensions are a complex and ever-changing area and a report often makes them better understood.
- The mediator does not give legal or financial advice, but will provide information and impartial guidance to help you understand your options. The mediator will help you reach practical solutions, which feel fair for both of you and your family.
- The mediator will help you look at various options for settlement and what each would mean for you and your family.
- You will need to think about the needs and interests of both of you, but you will not need to prepare formal presentations.
- When there are proposals on the table that both of you feel are fair and workable, then the mediator will prepare paperwork setting out the financial information that you have looked at and setting out your proposals and some of the reasoning behind these. You will then take this information to your individual solicitors for independent legal advice. The mediator will be able to recommend a selection of solicitors who will be sensitive in advising you on the proposals and appreciate that they are the result of many hours discussion and much research. If the proposals are then agreed, the solicitors will work together to produce legal paperwork to present to the court. Proposals reached in mediation are not legally binding, but can be made legally binding by your solicitors working with the court. Paperwork is normally submitted to the court by post and you will not normally need to attend court. It can take a little time for all the legal arrangements to be made, but we can discuss timescales during the mediation. It is sometimes useful to consult solicitors during the course of the mediation process, either for advice or perhaps to start the process to dissolve the marriage if that is what you have agreed.
- You do not need to sign up for a set number of mediation sessions in advance and you can end the process whenever you wish.
Can the children be involved?
The mediator is trained to consult with children during the course of the mediation. This might be, for example, to find out what a child's wishes and feelings are with regard to how they will divide their time between you as parents. However, more often than not the mediator does not meet with children during the process. It sometimes happens that because mediation tends to reduce tension and hostility and helps keep communication channels open, that children see their parents working together and start to feel more relaxed about the future
What will this cost?
- The initial individual meetings cost £120 including VAT for each of you.
- The joint sessions are charged at our normal rate, which is £240 plus VAT per hour (£432 including VAT per 1½ hours) until 31st December 2018. We can discuss in the mediation how the charges are to be paid. We normally bill after each mediation session.
- Preparation of the financial and proposal summaries at the end of the process normally takes around 2 hours, which again is charged at the current hourly rate plus VAT.
- By way of example, if you each have an individual session followed by 4 joint sessions of 1½ hours each and preparation of the final documentation taking say 2 hours, then the total cost for this would be in the order of £2,544 (up to 31 December 2018). In addition to this there would be the cost of any experts, such as to give pension advice, or other payments you might need to make to obtain information. There will also be the cost of your individual solicitors to consider. In this connection, the more detailed the mediator's notes at the end the easier and quicker it is for solicitors to give advice on your proposals.