If you are getting divorced and wonder whether family mediation can help you to sort out issues relating to your children and finances, the Family Mediation Council’s (FMC) recent survey shows that it is highly likely to, with mediation being successful in over seventy percent of cases.
The family mediation survey took place in Autumn 2019. 122 mediators responded to the survey, of which a higher percentage were accredited mediators. These mediators had undertaken 8479 pre-mediation meetings (MIAMs) in the six months prior to responding.
Some of the results of the survey can be seen below.
Number and type of mediations per year
The 122 mediators had undertaken 2161 mediations during the six-month period, so using these statistics, it can be estimated that registered mediators undertook 37,000 mediations over the course of a year. Of the 2161 mediations:
- 46% related to children
- 33% involved children over the age of 10 or still living at home
- Children were consulted in 26% of the above cases
- 25% related to property and finances
- 29% related to both children and property and finances
- 15% involved families where there had been domestic abuse
Is mediation successful?
Mediation is a highly successful method of resolving issues for separating couples. Of the mediations that took place with the respondent mediators:
- 73% of mediations were successful
- 49% agreed proposals on all issues and had them written up
- 8% agreed proposals on some issues and had them written up
- 16% agreed proposals but they were not written up
Whilst only a few respondents to the survey knew what had happened to cases once mediation had concluded and documentation had been produced, those that did know often said that at least 80 percent had gone on to obtain a court order by consent for financial matters. Where the mediation had concerned children, most had not resulted in court orders and had more commonly worked on either an open letter or a parenting plan.
Mediation doesn’t always have to revolve around the breakdown of a relationship. About one third of mediators responding to the survey had carried out mediation that had involved grandparents and in-laws, as well as family relationship mediation between children and their parents.
John Taylor, chair of the Family Mediation Council, said:
“It is not surprising that so many people who attend a first meeting with a mediator choose to go on to mediate. The meeting (sometimes called a “Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting”, or “MIAM”) provides people with an opportunity to find out what family mediation is, how it might work for them and the practicalities and costs involved, as well as the alternatives if they choose not to mediate. Once people realise that family mediation is less expensive than being represented in court proceedings, as well as being less stressful and quicker than the court process, most realise it is a conversation worth having.”
Can mediation go ahead where there is domestic abuse?
Of the MIAMs undertaken by respondents, only three percent were judged to be unsuitable for mediation due to domestic abuse, and of those that were suitable, 39 percent went on to mediation. Of the respondent mediators:
- 140 said they had had some training relating to carrying out mediation in cases where they had been domestic violence in the family
- Over 90 percent said they felt confident in assessing whether cases in which there had been domestic violence in the family were suitable for mediation
- Almost 80 percent said they felt comfortable facilitating mediation where there had been domestic violence in the family
How is mediation funded?
Fifty one percent of respondents to the survey didn’t have a legal aid contract so could only offer privately funded mediation; 49 percent of respondents offered legal aid.
Those that offered legal aid said that approximately 44 percent of the mediation they carried out had public funding – either for one or both parties.
Seventy five percent of the 45 respondents who were qualified to consult children directly and had a legal aid contract said they did carry out publicly funded child mediation, but few had done so in the last few months, citing either that:
- there were no children over 10 involved, or
- the client didn’t agree to the children being consulted
Most respondent mediators offered 45 or 60-minute MIAMs. The average time taken was 54 minutes. Fixed fees of an average of £107 per person was charged by 71 percent of respondent mediators for MIAMs.
Eighty percent of respondent mediators did not charge an extra fee to sign a court form following a MIAM. Of those that did, the average fee was £58.
On average, private funded mediation was charged at £140 per person. Some mediators offered fixed fee packages, and some had a sliding scale of charges that related to income. Sessions usually lasted for around one and a half hours but could be between 45 minutes and two and a half hours.
The average total cost for both participants to attend a MIAM, a successful mediation (where agreed proposals on some or all issues were reached), and any relevant outcome documentation was £1641.
When is a MIAM successfully converted into mediation?
Respondents said that key features of successfully turning a MIAM into mediation were:
- the client being able to fund the mediation
- trust between the mediator and the client
- a willingness to listen, engage and provide information
Key issues cited that resulted in MIAMs not being converted to mediation included:
- adverse influence of a client’s solicitor
- ‘tick-box’ approach to a MIAM by some mediators
- mental health issues
- fear of the ex-partner
- fear of participation in the mediation process
How do mediators receive their clients?
Respondents said that clients came as a result of referrals from:
- Their own website
- A friend or relative
- FMC website
- An advice organisation such as CAB
- Other websites
- Other referrals
Many said that they thought that the FMC and the government should do more to promote mediation and enforce the MIAM rules.
What about mediators’ experience?
Over 50 percent of respondent mediators have a legal background as either a solicitor or barrister. Amongst the others, mediators have backgrounds as counsellors, CAFCASS officers, social workers and other professions.
Around 70 percent of respondents practiced mediation part time and around one fifth practiced mediation other than family, such as workplace and commercial mediation. The majority of respondent mediators work as sole practitioners, followed by those working for legal practices: these two totalling almost 75 percent of respondents.
Forty respondents have over 20 years’ experience as a mediator, with over 50 having more than seven years, but less than 20 years: the rest have less than seven years’ experience as a mediator.
Juliette Dalrymple, managing director at Family Matters, says:
“It is good news to hear that, around the country, over seventy percent of MIAMs are converted to mediation when both parties have attended a MIAM. This broadly reflects our experience at Family Matters. We also find that an increasing number of people return to mediation after a period of time. Usually, this is to review a previous agreement and improve their communication, or where they previously attended mediation when emotions were running high and they have now calmed. We are noticing an increase in the number of financial mediations where people recognise the charges to reach agreement about finances in mediation are more cost effective than going to court.”