FAQ's

Frequently asked questions about mediation:

Is mediation only suitable if you’ve just recently separated?

Family mediation can help at any time: while a separation is being planned; soon after the break-up; even months or years later, when people want resolution for new or outstanding issues.

Will mediation work if conflict is really high, or goodwill really low, or if one party has all the control?

The answer to this depends on the individuals involved. Mediation may not work for everyone, but Mediators are skilled at helping people discuss important issues where there is high conflict and strong emotion.

The most important thing is to ensure that both sides have been heard; if people are not heard and taken seriously they cannot think creatively about how to solve problems. Our adversarial legal system often increases conflict, whereas mediation offers a way of having both points of view included in the discussion, and addressed in the solutions.

Do I have to mediate?

After an introductory meeting, a joint mediation session will only go ahead if both of you make the decision to participate.

With a few exceptions, the law requires people to consider mediation before making an application to court in most family proceedings. This is because the government recognises the value in allowing people to have sufficient time to be heard and gain a full understanding of the situation as an important step in reaching workable arrangements. However, no-one can force you to mediate; joint mediation sessions between you and another person are entirely voluntary

Is mediation legally binding?

Mediation is an entirely voluntary process involving two private citizens negotiating how they would like to resolve practical issues between themselves. The decisions made in mediation are not legally binding, and the success of your agreements will depend on your commitment to the agreements and your desire to make them work. You can take agreements that you have reached forward to the legl system.

Is mediation suitable for me?

In most cases mediation will be suitable. However, in some situations (e.g. in cases of domestic violence) mediation may not be appropriate and would need to be discussed at an individual introductory meeting. We would also suggest you might seek legal advice if you are concerned that mediation may not be suitable for you.

Who can attend mediation? Will you see people who aren’t separated parents?

We usually mediate between the birth parents of a child, or two people who have separated. We do appreciate that others may become involved in the lives of children after their parents have separated, however, and that people have new partners who they may wish to involve in their mediation. We will address any individual requests regarding either the inclusion or exclusion of others in the mediation process, and will take on any case where everyone agrees to mediate.

We frequently receive requests from grandparents and other relatives who wish to mediate regarding contact with children, or other financial matters. We welcome these enquiries and will treat you as any other case. (The Legal Aid Agency only awards funding where the case relates to a family matter which could otherwise go to court).

Can my child express their views in mediation?

Children like to be informed and they appreciate having their views and opinions heard. Oxfordshire Family Mediation offers children and young people (from age 6 upward) a chance to express their views and hopes to the Mediator, without giving them responsibility for making critical family decisions. Many children have practical suggestions to make. 

A Mediator trained to discuss these issues with children would meet with your child for a one hour session. After this meeting, the Mediator holds a separate mediation session with the parents and feeds back the child’s views, as agreed with the child or young person.

We take this step very seriously, and will only include a child within mediation if both parents and the child agree to it. Before we speak to a child, both parents will have attendedat least one mediation session, and they will be fully prepared for whatever feedback may result from the child consultation. We will only consult a child once during the mediation process, as we wish to maintain the focus on agreements being made between parents.

We also have a separate service for children aged 6+ called Children's Voice that gives them a confidential space to talk about any difficulties they are having as a result of the separation. 

How do you handle financial or property-based mediation?

Separation causes financial challenges as well as parenting challenges. Mediation helps you collect and understand all your financial information before looking at options for settlement. The process involves completing a full financial disclosure from each party, with supporting documentation. (This is similar to the Form E which is completed for divorce proceedings).

Once all relevant information has been gathered, the Mediator will help you test all the options against your objectives. The Mediator will help you take a practical view, for the immediate future and for the longer term. If required, we may ask you to seek information from outside experts - for example legal advisers, financial advisers, pension experts, mortgage brokers, etc.

It is very important that you protect your legitimate self-interest. We strongly recommend that you seek some legal advice during the mediation process, which will help inform the mediation meeting.

At the end of the process, the Mediator will prepare a bound book and bound spreadsheet of your finances, and a schedule of your proposals for settlement. You will each receive a copy of these documents to take to your solicitors.

Should I seek legal advice, and if so, when?

We always recommend that people should be aware of their legal position. This enables you to understand what a solicitor would advise so that you can take full account of this in your mediaton discussions. If you have urgent legal matters to deal with, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If there are no legal matters outstanding, we recommend that you consider mediation first, as this ensures that your negotiations are managed directly by you, with the support of the mediation process. However, we also recommend that you involve a family lawyer at some point in the process to ensure that you have fully identified your own needs, even if you are trying to be fair to your ex-partner. Using mediation does not always remove the need for a solicitor, but it nearly always reduces the costs involved in reaching agreements.

Collaborative Law is another option for legal advice where mediation may not be appropriate. This offers an opportunity for you to meet together, each with your own collaborative lawyer, to find a way to settle the finances, which works for you both. If mediation doesn’t work out for you, or if you choose not to use it, you may wish to consider taking matters forward using this model. See www.resolution.org.uk for more information and advice on seeking a qualified collaborative lawyer.

Can we ask the Mediator what is fair, or how we should proceed?

Mediators are entirely impartial. They can give information to help you make decisions, but will not give legal advice or tell you what is best for you. A Mediator is there to help you decide on a way forward, but will not take responsibility for decisions made in the meetings. The choices about how to proceed are up to you and the other person to agree.

Can I mediate on my own? Do I have to see the other person?

The first introductory meeting is held on your own, and this is where you can describe your case to the Mediator. However, mediation is a process of negotiation between two people, so both need to be involved if you want mediation to proceed. We generally use face to face meetings, as the purpose of mediation is communicating in a way that can lead to agreement, and understanding is more likely to be achieved with both people in the same room.

However, we are aware that in some extreme cases it can be better if clients are not in the same room. If you have concerns about being in the same room as the other person, please mention this to your Mediator at your individual meeting. The Mediator will then discuss whether your case would be suitable for face to face mediation, or whether we would use a shuttle basis. This means that each person is in a separate room, and the Mediator moves between the two.

We can arrange to seat people in separate waiting areas when they arrive. If you wish, you may also leave separately at the end of a meeting. Please let us know your requireents when you book your meetings.

Will I have to pay for mediation?

We will not know whether you are eligible for free mediation or not until we have had the chance to meet you and conduct a funding assessment at your information meeting. Please see our costs page for more information. Unfortunately we are unable to conduct funding assessments over the phone.

If you have any questions or concerns which have not been addressed here, please contact our main office on 0844 8476658 or email admin@ofm.org.uk, and someone will respond to you as soon as possible.