Family and divorce

Mediating contact arrangements – Is it for you?

With the government investing over £3 million into family mediation since March 2021 and many families able to claim up to £500 towards the cost of mediation (if they are eligible) it is hoped that more families will be able to reach amicable solutions out of court.



Not only is mediation cost effective for families, but it also reduces the damaging impact that lengthy court proceedings can have on both children and their parents and has consistently been encouraged by the courts.

So what is mediation?

Parents (or other family members) attends sessions with a trained and accredited mediator (either working with the mediator together or separately), some of whom are legally trained, with the aim of reaching confidential solutions and arrangements for their family without a judge deciding for them.

Is mediation right for me?

Many parents are understandably unable to constructively communicate between themselves for a variety of different reasons. Mediation can assist parents in finding a way forward, reaching an agreement and focusing on the needs of their children and their futures.

Almost any issue concerning children can be discussed in mediation, for example contact arrangements, education, where they will live and relocation. Unlike the court process it is flexible and can be adapted around what your family needs.

Mediation is a private process and the confidentiality surrounding it often means that more is discussed than in court proceedings which can lead to longer lasting agreements.

It is never too late to agree to mediate, even if you are in the court process, the judge may look at delaying court proceeding if you both wish to attend mediation.

Although mediation is both quicker and cheaper than the court process it will not work for every family, particularly where there has been significant domestic abuse or controlling behavior. It is a voluntary process so both parties must be willing to engage.

Can i take legal advice?

Yes, while you are going through mediation it is sensible to obtain legal advice. A mediator will act as your guide, providing legal information and helping both parents be cooperative and constructive but they are unable to give you legal advice.

Is mediation binding?

Once you have come to an agreement it is recorded but it is not legally binding, however it can be turned into a court order if you both agree.

How can mediation help settle disputes surrounding contact agreements?

Where parents are in dispute about arrangements for their children, mediation can help focus on the future and help parents understand that they remain parents who need to help and support their children without involving them in any conflict.

Most parents of course want their children to be happy and mediation can help separating couples agree on different aspects of parenting, find solutions and work out detailed parenting plans in a comfortable and safe space even with partners who think that each other are too unreasonable to achieve this. Court proceedings can lead to hostile negotiations leading to an unhealthy parenting relationship in the future and mediation seeks to avoid this.

What about more complex issues?

Mediators are experienced, trained and impartial professionals with experience in complicated family dynamics. Mediation allows for families to have their own timetable. Family circumstances are individual and not all aspects can be discussed in the court process, particularly due to time restraints. Mediation allows families to work through complicated issues at their own pace and discretion.

Some communities, particularly religious communities, are extremely private and public court proceedings can be detrimental to families. Mediating these issues in a safe and private environment that is confidential may be hugely beneficial to the parents, their families and how they may be reviewed or treated in the community.

Can my child be present during mediation?

Mediators have a duty to encourage parents to consider their children’s wishes and feelings. Children aged 10 and above are given the opportunity to attend the mediation with you and if this is what you would like to happen it is important to look for a mediator who can offer child inclusive mediation.

Having your child’s voice involved often improves discussions between parents and a child can discuss with the mediator what information they would like to be confidential or fed back to their parents. Mediators have a huge amount of experience in speaking with children going through stressful situations.

Can solutions be found in mediation?

Alternative dispute resolution can be overlooked when both parties or one party decides to litigate. Mediation is often encouraged both by family solicitors and the courts and it is highly successful in resolving family disputes.

The Family Mediation Counsel carried out a survey showing that mediation is successful in over 70 percent of cases and that three quarters of people who attended a first meeting with a  ]mediator continued to mediate.


First published on EPrivateClient 



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Laura Burrows



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