There are important differences between mediation and going to court. Mediation is growing in popularity for resolving family issues and certainly has many advantages such as generally being the quicker, cheaper option. There can, however, be downsides.
If you have decided to separate or divorce, familiarising yourself with both mediation and court proceedings will help you make the best choices for your family. In addition, there are other forms of alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve your family law matter. We are happy to support you through the process that works best for you and your family.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process. It is not, as many people believe, marriage counselling. Because it does not need to follow court procedure, the process is much more flexible, and it can lead to a quicker resolution of your family dispute than litigation.
A trained, neutral mediator assists you and your former partner towards a negotiated agreement. Both parties are encouraged to participate in the decision-making and propose workable solutions that best meet the needs of the family. The negotiations are conducted voluntarily and confidentially. This means that either party is free to walk away from the process at any time. Any settlement reached is legally binding, provided it is put into writing and signed by both parties.
Mediation can be used for all kinds of family disputes, for example, problems concerning money, the family home, arrangements for children or division of property and other assets. It should be noted that the settlement reached may be a compromised solution rather than your legal right.
Frank and James are trained mediators and members of the Family Mediation Association and offer mediation services for couples who wish to resolve their family law issues in this way.
Are there advantages in going to court?
When the situation in dispute is complex or involves domestic violence, litigation may seem like the best option. An impartial family judge will decide the matter based on the evidence presented according to the law and legal precedent. The final judgement is a clear and public outcome, which effectively draws a line in the sand.
Often however, it might require giving evidence or being cross-examined in court, which may be emotionally distressing for you and/or your children and aggravate the hostility between you and your former partner.
How do I choose whether to mediate or litigate?
Deciding which course of action will be best to resolve your particular dispute will depend on the facts and your relationship with your ex. A specialised lawyer can help you to understand the likely outcome of each route.
The government actively encourages mediation and from April 2014 anyone applying to the court to resolve family disputes has been obliged to attend an initial information and assessment session.
If it seems impossible to reach an agreement through mediation the dispute will need to be resolved via the court. However, it is worth remembering that mediation is possible at any stage before or during court proceedings and your legal rights remain unaffected. Nothing said in the mediation is admissible as evidence in legal proceedings. Refusal to mediate could mean that if the dispute ends up in court, the judge might award costs against you.
We provide expert advice and guidance to support you and foster a practical, non-adversarial approach wherever possible. If your matter cannot be resolved through mediation or other form of alternative dispute resolution, we have a comprehensive understanding of court processes and can provide strong advocacy on your behalf.
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