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Do I need a Solicitor for Family Mediation?

View profile for Sam Miles
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Family Mediation is an alternative way to resolve disputes with your former partner if you are divorcing or separating; however, there is often some confusion over the roles of a Solicitor and Family Mediator, and whether a Solicitor should be appointed to coincide with Mediation. While a Solicitor is there to advise you legally throughout your divorce or separation, a Family Mediator will work with both you and your former partner to help you to make joint decisions involving your children or finances. Sam Miles, Family Partner and accredited Family Mediator, here explains the difference between a Solicitor and a Mediator and the roles they have to play.

What is the difference between a Family Solicitor and Family Mediator?

One of the main differences between a Solicitor and a Mediator is that a Mediator is impartial while a Solicitor will be acting in your best interests to achieve a favourable outcome for you during your divorce. Both you and your former partner will instruct your own Solicitor to conduct your divorce proceedings, while during Mediation there is just one Mediator working with you both to achieve the best outcome for you and any children involved. If you then decide to make the agreements reached in Mediation legally binding through a Court Order, it is at this stage that you would appoint a Solicitor to draw up the necessary paperwork.

A Mediator is not able to provide legal advice. Although some Mediators are legally trained, and often work as Solicitors or barristers as well as mediators, a Mediator's role is not to provide legal advice as to do so could, even if they do have the requisite legal training, place them into a position where they will lose their impartiality. The Mediator will help you both explore options and solutions that you each think are workable and acceptable. The Mediator can provide information and will reality test any proposals you reach to consider how the arrangements might look for each of you and if they are likely to meet with the approval of the Judge if it is your intention to record the terms of the proposal in a binding legal document or Court Order. If legal advice is required on any of the options you are discussing during your Mediation, the Mediator will invite you to take independent legal advice from your Solicitor and then return to Mediation once that advice has been obtained.

What can I discuss in Family Mediation?

When a couple separates, it is understandable that there may be some hostility and, depending on the circumstances, you may be reluctant to compromise on certain matters involving your children or finances. Family Mediation is not marriage counselling, and it is not designed to bring you and your former partner back together. Its aim is to discuss the issues preventing you from moving forward with your life and reach an agreement on matters such as:

  • Where your children will live.
  • When and where you will see your children if they are not living with you.
  • Agreements on financial support that will be provided for your children.
  • What will happen to any property you own together.
  • How any investments or monetary assets, such as pensions, will de divided.

It is important that if you feel that you are not able to resolve your differences yourselves that you do consider Family Mediation. Mediators complete specific training to equip them with the skills to perform successful Mediation, such as listening, identifying potential opportunities for a resolution, remaining impartial and negotiating. As well as these softer skills, you should be looking for a Mediator who has experience in dealing with complex financial matters. 

Sam concludes, “All couples, with some limited exceptions, are now required to consider Mediation before proceeding to Court to discuss their children or financial arrangements, and should look to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting, otherwise known as a MIAM. Mediation has a proven track record of successfully helping separating couples to reach agreements on financial or children issues without the cost and time involved in going to Court. The added benefit of coming to us for your Family Mediation is that we are Solicitors who are also Resolution trained and Law Society Accredited to carry out Mediation. While we cannot advise you legally during your Mediation sessions, we can help you reach decisions that would be able to be turned into a legally binding document if that is the path you wish to take, and can use our many years of family law experience to work with you and your former partner with compassion to ensure you can feel comfortable with the decisions that have been reached.”

To find out more about Family Mediation and how we can support you during the next step in your life, contact Sam or a member of the team on 023 8071 7431 or email mediation@warnergoodman.co.uk. Alternatively you may find the following resources useful:

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.