Adele and Robert contacted Family Matters three months after the breakdown of their relationship. They each attended an individual mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) and decided to proceed with joint mediation to help resolve matters relating to arrangements about children and finances.
On separation, Adele moved out of the former family house with their two children Eddie and Bo. Robert remained living in the jointly owned property and continued to pay the joint mortgage. Adele and Robert marketed the property for sale and accepted an offer.
When Adele and Robert came to mediation, feelings were running high. They were angry and upset with each other. Whilst they agreed on a regular arrangement for their children to spend time with each parent, the conflict had escalated, and Adele and Robert were finding it hard to keep to the arrangement. They saw no going back in terms of their marriage. Each had very different views on arrangements about children and how a financial settlement might be reached.
Adele and Robert found the process of mediation a challenge. Adele was hurt by Robert’s behaviour and how quickly he had moved on from their 10-year marriage and Robert viewed Adele as being difficult and making things hard on purpose.
Robert worked full time in a senior sales consultant role with a substantial salary and a 20-year pension. Adele worked in a local restaurant on a flexible basis, working around Robert’s work commitments and the children’s schooling. Adele had no pension fund provision.
Adele and Robert spent time discussing arrangements for Eddie and Bo to spend time with each parent, taking into account Robert’s varied work pattern and his work travel. Whilst Adele worked on a flexible basis, she viewed it as important to have set times when the children were in Robert’s care so she was available to commit to additional hours to earn a regular income and afford a mortgage in her sole name.
Before they came to mediation, Adele and Robert were arranging time for the children to spend with Robert on a week by week basis and recognised this did not provide a set routine for the children or enable Adele to commit to additional shifts at work. Whilst Adele hoped they could agree regular days and overnights consistent from one week to the next, Robert viewed this was not possible around his varied rota. With the assistance of the mediator, Adele and Robert explored various options and decided to trial a consistent routine from one week to the next with additional time pre-agreed according to each week of Robert’s four-week rota.
Adele and Robert both shared the view that they would need to sell the former family house as neither could afford the £900 per month mortgage repayments on their own. They recognised there was little equity in the property to provide either person with a deposit to buy a new home. Robert and Adele acknowledged that they would both need to save money in order to fund a deposit to buy a property in their sole names.
Whilst Robert’s income was about £6,000 gross a month compared with Adele’s £400, his disposable income was limited after repaying personal debts in his sole name. Robert acknowledged that whilst he was keen to repay his debts as quickly as possible, this was restricting his monthly affordability. Robert and Adele each explored their borrowing options with an independent mortgage adviser. Whilst Adele was sceptical that she would be accepted or able to afford a mortgage, she was willing to keep an open mind and explore her options with a mortgage adviser. Robert agreed that he would explore his borrowing options after the debts in his sole name were repaid.
Robert and Adele acknowledged the disparity in their incomes and potential earning capacity. They discussed the option of periodic payments and their preference for a clean break.
Adele and Robert discussed the disparity in their pension fund CEVs and the mediator provided them with information about their pension options. They considered the option of pension off-setting and pension sharing. In their conversations, they considered the limited equity in the former family house.
Conclusion and outcome
Over a course of three mediation sessions (one and a half hours each), Adele and Robert agreed a financial settlement and an arrangement for their children to spend time with each parent.
There were heated exchanges and disagreements in mediation. Despite this, Robert and Adele were helped by the mediator to identify their hopes for their children, which meant that both Adele and Robert began to see beyond the present issues between them. Adele and Robert were able to agree a four-week rolling arrangement for their children to spend time with each of them, considering both their work commitments. Whilst the arrangement worked around Robert’s rota, the routine also provided Adele with regular time to plan and take on more work hours. They shared the view that the arrangement would enable the children to be close to each of them on a regular basis, whilst also allowing them both to commit to work and maximise their earning potential.
With regard to their finances, the mediator guided Adele and Robert through a full process of financial disclosure, which brought clarity to their liquid assets, property, pensions, incomes and debt. The mediator signposted both Adele and Robert to financial and legal advisors – Robert to Step Change and Adele to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau – so they could fully explore their individual monthly affordability and options for managing debt.
The mediator assisted Adele and Robert to explore all the possibilities for reaching agreement and to “road test” each to gain a better understanding of their feasibility. Adele and Robert reached a financial settlement with Adele retaining the proceeds from the family house with the intention to use it alongside savings as a small deposit to buy another property.
Adele explored her options with an independent mortgage adviser who identified a number of mortgage options taking into account Adele’s future earnings, benefits, any periodic payments and child maintenance. Adele discussed the advice given to her in mediation and decided she would move to a rented property initially to illustrate her affordability and financial stability.
Adele and Robert agreed to enter into a pension sharing arrangement and made the decision not to use pension off-setting principles based on the limited equity in the former family house. They agreed that Robert would repay his personal debts in full and he would pay Adele periodic payments for five years, based on the disparity in their incomes.
Adele and Robert recognised the financial settlement was an unequal split of their liquid assets in Adele’s favour and made this decision bearing in mind the children’s housing needs, the disparity in their incomes, Robert’s greater earning capacity and their individual affordability.
Adele contacted Family Matters after the mediation, saying that she had thought that mediation definitely would not work for them, and that she was amazed by what they achieved with the help of the mediator and the mediation process.