Mediation and Collaborative Law are two distinct approaches that aim to help you resolve family disputes and/or make arrangements about children, finances and other personal matters after separation or divorce.
Susan Knight is a trained collaborative lawyer, Member of Resolution (First for Family Law), member of Sussex Family Solutions Group and a member of the Worthing Collaborative Law Pod. The collaborative law process involves a series of round table meetings and joint discussions with a shared commitment to avoid court proceedings. The parties and each of their lawyers sign an agreement setting out a mutual aim and commitment to reach a fair settlement outside the court process, and to apply to the court only to obtain approval to the agreement reached.
The collaborative law process enables parties to work at their own pace, focus on what is important to focus on what is important to them and resolve matters quickly. The process is confidential and allows families to find solutions that meet their particular wishes rather than fit into the rigid framework of court outcomes.
Susan is also a trained mediator. Mediation is a process to facilitate discussions between the parties with the mediator as a neutral third party who assists to identify the information needed to make informed decisions and to work through the options available helping you identify the solution which best fits you and your family.
If an agreement is reached in mediation, Susan can draw this up for you into a Memorandum of Understanding, and each party then seeks separate legal advice to convert the agreement into a court order by consent. The goal is to reach agreement whilst negotiating direct and the process is confidential.
Collaborative Law & Mediation Solicitors
Mediation and Collaborative Law are two options to help you resolve family disputes and/or make arrangements about children, finances and other personal matters after separation or divorce. You set the agenda and we will help you to negotiate and agree the outcome between yourselves.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a forum for discussions between you. The mediator is an even-handed, independent, person who assists you to make informed decisions and to work through the options. You decide on the solution which best fits you and your family.
If an agreement is reached in mediation, we can draw this up into a Memorandum of Understanding, and you can then seek separate legal advice to convert the agreement into a court order by consent. The goal is to reach agreement whilst negotiating directly; the process is confidential.
How Can Mediation Resolve Conflict?
The process of mediation builds and improves the relationship between you to reach agreement with the aim of avoiding court proceedings so can reduce costs considerably. It is faster than the court process and is much more flexible, based around your family’s priorities. You decide the outcome.
The mediator will help you address underlying issues so that problems can be identified and resolved. The aim is to enhance communication and confidence which will focus on working towards the future, rather than what has gone wrong in the past. The aim is to reach a solution which is the best fit for you and your family.
What Is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law involves a series of round table meetings and joint discussions with a shared commitment to avoid court proceedings. The parties and each of their solicitors sign an agreement setting out this mutual aim and commitment to reach a fair settlement outside the court process, applying to the court only to obtain approval to the agreement reached.
The collaborative law process enables you to work at your pace, focus on what is important to you and resolve matters quickly. The negotiations are confidential and allow you to find solutions that suit your needs, rather than fit into the rigid framework of court outcomes.
What Is The Difference Between Collaborative Law & Mediation?
Both mediation and collaboration offer you the chance to set your own agenda and aims within the negotiations. The process is much more flexible than court proceedings, and you can set your own timescales and timetables. We can therefore assist you to avoid long delays, offers a more cost effective way to resolve any issues. The negotiations within the collaborative law process are completely confidential.
There are some differences, unlike mediators (who can provide information but not advice), in collaborative law Sue Knight would join you in the collaborative law meeting as your lawyer so that legal issues can be addressed immediately.
What Is MIAM?
MIAM stands for Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting; this describes your first meeting with a mediator. During this meeting, the following will be explained:
- How the process works and whether it is the right option for you.
- How many sessions you will need.
- The mediation fees and whether you qualify for legal aid. We do not offer public funding for MIAMs. You can check eligibility on the Legal Aid Agency online calculator. If you are eligible for public funding then you should follow the link to the Resolution Mediation website which contains information about local lawyers who offer public funding for mediation.
- Who will go to the meetings and the next stage.
Family mediation is an alternative to court proceedings to help you to divide your finances and assets, come to agreements about living arrangements for your children, and decide how to proceed with divorce or any other issues that you would like to discuss.
Mediation has a number of benefits:
- It is less stressful than court as arrangements can be made in a more informal environment.
- It can be cheaper than court, and the appointments can be timetabled around your needs.
- You have control over any agreements made and your mediator will acts as an even-handed, neutral assistant, with an aim to help you reach agreement. In court proceedings the judge imposes a decision, which may not be the option to suit either of you.
Financial Issues Arising From Divorce Or Breakdown Of Relationships
Property and maintenance can be complex and differ for each family. We aim to help you achieve a fair settlement whatever your circumstances, and have many years of Family Law experience to assist in this work.
In mediation, you can work through a number of different financial options to decide which is best for you and your family. These can include:
Mediation can help you reach agreement about property to include whether it should to be sold now on in the future. You can also decide if you want property to be transferred into one of your names.
You will be able to work through maintenance payments in mediation, which can be for you, your ex-partner or the children. The baseline for child support can be calculated via the Child Maintenance Service online calculator and the mediator can help you agree a fair level of maintenance overall based on your income needs and each of your abilities to pay.
We can help you to consider the options available to divide any pensions and work through the options available to you. Pensions are very complex and we can assist you in obtaining expert advice as part of the process.
What Happens After Mediation?
Once you have completed the mediation process and come to an agreement, the mediator will draw up a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’. This document will set out everything that has been proposed within your meetings, for example child arrangements and the division of assets.
If you would like to make your agreements legally binding, solicitors will be able to draw up a document to formalise the agreement or obtain a court order.
The Costs Involved In Family Mediation
Mediation can be far more economical than going to court, or standard solicitor led negotiations. Our family solicitors are here to provide a cost-effective fee that works well for you. This can be either an hourly rate or a fixed fee agreed at the start of the matter.
What Is The Collaborative Law Process?
This is a negotiation process. All the negotiations take place at round table meetings where you are each represented by your own collaboratively trained lawyer and we all work together to settle things face to face. Having your lawyer by your side throughout the process means that you have support and legal advice as the process goes along. Sue Knight is a trained collaborative lawyer.
The collaborative law process is very flexible and you set your own agenda and timescales. We also have the opportunity to invite other professionals to work with us in the meetings, for example independent financial advisers, accountants, a family consultant or whichever professional might help us move the negotiations along.
All the participants in the meeting sign an agreement which commits you to try to resolve the issues without going to court. What this means is that if the negotiations breakdown a collaborative lawyer cannot represent you in court proceedings. Whilst people sometimes find this a little off-putting the reality is that the collaborative law process means that everyone involved is absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement because a move into the court process would need a complete change of legal representation.
How Does The Collaborative Process Work?
The process starts by you both meeting, individually, with your lawyers to discuss what you expect in the collaborative meetings. If you are interested in collaborative law Sue Knight would speak to your partner’s lawyer so that we can set a date, and just check that it is a suitable process all round.
The next step is a “four way meeting”, a round table meeting involving both you and your lawyers. An agenda will be planned ahead of the meeting. We also encourage clients to fill in a short form which sets out their hopes and fears for the future so that we can understand what is important for you and your family.
The number of meetings depends on the complexity of the issues, and as with mediation an absolute cornerstone of the collaborative law process is open financial disclosure.
The negotiations within the collaborative process are confidential. In the same way as mediation any financial disclosure you make to each other is open and could be used in the court process if those negotiations breakdown, but the negotiations themselves are without prejudice and cannot be referred to later in court proceedings if you are not able to reach agreement.
Once agreement is reached the collaborative lawyers will draw up a court order and there will be a final meeting to go through the order to agree and sign it before it is sent to court.
How Long Does The Collaborative Process Take?
This depends on your case. Sometimes only a couple of meetings are needed in other cases it can be four or five.
MEDIATION & COLLABORATIVE LAW TEAM
You can bring others to your mediation meetings, such as accountants and solicitors if there is an issue which is better resolved with their presence. However, this must be agreed by both of you.
You will each have an individual meeting to have an explanation about mediation and to decide whether it is suitable for you. If you both wish to go forward with mediation, and it is a suitable process for you, with no safeguarding issues we then move to stage two.
There will be a number of joint sessions where the mediator will help you, in financial cases, to make full disclosure to each other of all of the background finances. The mediator will assist in the negotiations and will work through a variety of options with you on the flipcharts so that you can decide which is the best fit for you and your family. You will remain in control of the agenda and outcome. The mediator’s role is to assist you to negotiate in an even-handed way.
Once agreement is reached your mediator will draw the proposals up into a document setting out the background information and why you have reached your decision along with a set of proposals which can then be taken to independent solicitors to draw up into a court document.
Mediation is voluntary. No one can be forced to attend.
Many cases settle in mediation and avoid court proceedings, primarily because mediation focuses on your children’s needs and your personal financial issue, rather than looking at the past. Our aim is to assist with your negotiations to settle in mediation but it is a voluntary process, and will depend on agreement being reached which may need compromise on both sides. If mediation breaks down then we can point you to alternative methods of dispute resolution.
The sessions tend to be between 1 and 2 hours, but can be longer or shorter depending on what you wish to discuss on the day. Sometimes agreement can be reached in one session if the issues are narrow, but often there will be a series of meetings to allow time for information to be gathered and to consider the options.
Yes – you can refuse mediation as it is a voluntary process where both parties must agree to attend. However, if you wish to issue a court application you will be expected to attend a MIAMs unless there is an exemption for you such as safeguarding.
Claire Parsons and Sue Knight are trained lawyer/mediators with a wide range of experience in Family Law so we are best placed to act as mediators for you.
If mediation is not suitable for you, our team of Family Lawyers can assist you with:
- Converting proposals into a legally binding documents, such as consent orders.
- Advising on any legal matters which have arisen during mediation.
- Preparing divorce papers for court if necessary.
This is dependent on which stage of mediation you are. The first meeting will be you and your mediator; any concerns will be discussed and you can learn more about the process.
You will then have a meeting with the other party, unless they refuse to take part in mediation in which case you may have to consider alternatives. If both parties agree joint mediation will take place. Both parties will need to be present for agreements to occur.
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