In this resource we look at the second mediation stage after you and your ex-partner have attended your MIAMs and you are entering into joint mediation sessions. If you would like to read more about Mediation Information Assessment Meetings (MIAMs), please click here.
How does a joint family mediation session work?
In the first joint mediation session, the mediator will provide you with a summary of information (rules) that was provided in the MIAM, which includes confidentiality, safeguarding, respect, taking breaks etc. Prior to mediation taking place, you are required to sign an agreement to mediate in order to carry on with the process. In signing, you are acknowledging the process of mediation, information around confidentiality, data protection, the costs, and how you can make a complaint. After this, the mediator will then ask each party if they have any questions before then asking each party to explain why they are in mediation. Once each party has spoken, the Mediator and the parties will then work together to set the agenda. The aim of setting the agenda is to ensure that both parties are being heard and that topics they feel need to be discussed are being discussed and to prioritise issues and ensure a structure for each mediation session. From the agenda, you and your ex-partner, with the facilitation of the mediator, will then explore the agenda items.
The family mediator will support parties by generating ideas (with the parties’ permission), provide information relevant to the case, challenge statements put forward by parties, provide tried and tested solutions, and enable parties to reach robust and sustainable agreements.
If more than one session is required, the subsequent meetings will be slightly different in that the mediator will re-establish the rules and then ask whether you have any questions before continuing to work through the agenda.
Joint mediation sessions can take place as often as the parties require. Usually, they can last anything from a month to several months, depending on how quickly the parties are reaching agreements.
Most mediations with Access Mediation Services are concluded in 1-3 mediation sessions.
What happens where there are Children’s Arrangement Issues Only?
When mediation is required to deal with issues surrounding children, the mediator’s role is to help you successfully move forward as separated parents. Although generally speaking, mediation is usually between ex-partners or legal guardians, it is also available for family members and grandparents who wish to see their grandchildren.
The mediator will help you discuss and acknowledge what is in your children’s best interests, removing the emotions and differences experienced between the adults involved in the separation and could cloud your judgments on what issues need to be addressed in relation to your children. Generally, parents want what will be best for their children, but this can get lost in separation, so helping you focus on the children’s interests and recognising their needs ensures that their needs continue to be met even if you are no longer a couple. The mediator can also help you to find ways to show any children involved that, despite the separation, you are both working together to do what is best for them and how to co-parent effectively. Through mediation, you can ensure as parents that any decisions taken in relation to your children are made by you as parents rather than an outside authority who will not know your children or the situation as well as you both do, for example, the family court.
Joint mediation sessions will address these issues and concerns that either of you may have regarding the parenting of any children and help you both to come up with a workable plan for the two of you. Once points have been agreed upon by both you and your ex-partner and a plan established, the mediator produces a Parenting Plan. This is a comprehensive document detailing a summary of discussions that have taken place throughout the mediation process and decisions that have been reached regarding your children and how you will both co-parent in the future. The Parenting Plan is legally binding and, where applicable, can be used to support court applications. However, evidence shows that parties are more likely to stick to an arrangement where it has been mutually decided upon. If you want to make your parenting plan enforceable by the family courts, you can discuss with the mediator the possibility of a consent order where the parenting plan is taken to a solicitor, and they transfer it into a consent order.
Keynote – If you are attending mediation because of child maintenance issues, then this would still be classified as child arrangements issues, not finances.
What happens in a joint family mediation session where finances are involved?
Where finances and/or property are involved, the mediator will help to clarify exactly what assets are involved. This includes details of both your and your ex-partner’s property, income, future pensions, things of value and full expenditure etc. In order to establish these things, a process called Disclosure is required. This is the name given to the process whereby each party must give a full and honest breakdown of every asset, joint and individual. It also includes anything that may effectively belong to someone else but is still in your name, e.g. children’s savings accounts etc. Disclosure and listing all assets does not necessarily mean that all assets will automatically be split in a certain way, as there may be certain things that you or your ex have already decided upon or that you feel are yours and should not be shared. But cataloguing absolutely everything in this way means that you are both fully informed of all the figures before making any decisions that then cannot be changed.
Disclosure ensures that the issues important to you are prioritised and that areas of both agreement and disagreement can be highlighted so that a mutually equitable outcome can be reached. It ensures that nothing is missing, and where documents or information appear to be missing, the mediation process can identify those areas and signpost you to services or advice that you may require so that things remain equally fair for both parties. The mediator will help you decide upon things and find a solution to your situation. They can help you come up with proposals that are acceptable to you and your ex-partner rather than remaining in a stalemate.
What is Shuttle Mediation?
In cases where the mediator has assessed and decided that it is not an option for you to be in the same call/video call with your ex-partner, they may discuss the option of shuttle mediation with you. This is where parties are in separate calls/virtual spaces with the mediator. Sometimes the duration of a shuttle mediation is extended. The mediator would go back and forth from party to party, relaying messages between each party. Shuttle mediation usually helps parties to feel safe as well as giving them the confidence to speak openly.
We hope you have enjoyed this resource and that it has been beneficial to you. Just a gentle reminder that all of the content on this website, including resources, blogs, articles and content on web pages, is prohibited from being used or copied in any public domain unless stated otherwise. Access Mediation Services is also not responsible for the accuracy of these resources nor responsible for how people use the information we provide.
Before a mediation session can take place, all parties must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, also known as a MIAM, first. If you would like to find out more information please click here.