CHOOSE MEDIATION TO AVOID THE STRESS OF DIVORCE
The beginning of a New Year is a test of every Family Lawyers powers of endurance, patience...
Divorce and separation can be a sad and confusing experience, but can be handled with dignity. Family Mediation is about working together to find the best solution for you and your family.
Mediation is an effective way of resolving a dispute in a calm, respectful, constructive and co-operative manner, with the guidance of a specially trained mediator. It also allows the dispute to remain private and confidential and avoids the costly legal fees and risks and uncertainty that accompany the court process.
At Laceys Mediation we believe that separating couples are the best people to make the decisions that will affect their future and the future of their children. We believe that mutually acceptable solutions can be found even in the most difficult disputes, whether the disagreement is about child-care arrangements or how the family assets should be divided.
If you are trying to resolve a dispute in relation to child-care or finance, in most cases the Family Court legally requires you to have attended a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to making a court application. Our mediators are accredited to conduct MIAM appointments and sign court forms to show compliance with these pre proceeding requirements.
As mediators our goal is to give you the highest level of expertise, but delivered with compassion and empathy to meet your individual fears, concerns and needs. We combine effective use of conflict resolution methods with a skilled lawyer’s understanding of the relevant law.
Every one of our clients brings to mediation a unique background of experiences and values, however they are all treated with the same respect and empathy. Our mediators spend all of their working time mediating which has enabled them to nurture the skills and methods required to adapt to the changing needs of our individual clients.
Legal Aid is available for Family Mediation for those who qualify financially, and in some cases this can benefit both parties even if only one meets the eligibility criteria. Our mediators are approved by the Legal Aid Agency to offer Legal Aid for mediation and can assess whether you would qualify.
We also offer Child Inclusive Mediation where the child is given a voice and a chance to feel listened to and understood. Our mediators are qualified to see children for a Direct Child Consultation, if it is felt that this might assist parents in their decision making.
With offices spanning Poole, Bournemouth and Southampton, evening appointments where necessary, and a dedicated team of mediators and support staff, we offer an efficient and friendly mediation service at an understandably difficult and sometimes confusing time.
Please contact one of the team below to see how we can help.
Firstly, we need to check we have not previously given legal advice to either party in relation to the issues that are to be mediated, as we would not be able to act for you if we had.
You can make a mediation referral yourself or through your solicitor/other professional by either completing the referral forms on this website, or contacting us by telephone.
If you have any specific questions about mediation we can answer these for you prior to doing anything else if you wish.
Assuming there is no conflict of interest, you can then decide whether you want to meet the mediator before we contact the other party, or whether you would prefer that we contact the other party first to see if they are willing to mediate. We can do both alongside each other if you wish.
Family mediation begins with a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). The assessment meeting can be a joint or separate meeting.
In this meeting we will:
We will ask you to bring to the first session your signed Agreement to Mediate, which we will send you in advance.
We start out by reading our ground rules to ensure a level playing field for both parties in the mediation process.
In this meeting we will:
In these meetings we will:
We will meet with you either until the issues are resolved or one of you decides that mediation cannot help further. If it becomes clear that agreement cannot be reached, your mediator will be able to give you information on your next steps.
On average our clients need between 2 and 4 mediation sessions to resolve their issues and reach a settlement, but as every case is different this is only a guide.
If an agreement has been reached it is recommended a Mediation Summary is drafted, which details the proposal reached and acts as a written record for each of you and for your legal advisors if you have one.
The Mediation Summary is not a legally binding document and cannot be used as evidence in court. You would need to show your Mediation Summary to your legal advisor if you wanted them to put it into a legal framework.
In financial cases, your Mediation Summary may be accompanied by an Open Financial Statement. This document brings together your financial disclosure and sets out the figures you have given for the assets and income on both sides, and lists the supporting documents provided. This information will be needed by your solicitor if they are to give you any detailed legal advice.
Am I eligible for legal aid for family mediation?
We will carry out the legal aid assessment at the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
Eligibility for Legal Aid is based upon the income and capital of you and any partner that you live with (but not the person with whom you will be mediating). To be eligible for Legal Aid the mediator needs to know what capital you have (savings, equity in property, investments etc) and also your income. In some cases certain fixed amounts of capital can be disregarded but we would go through this in detail with you when we carry out the assessment. Once we work out what capital we must take into account, if that capital exceeds £8,000, you will not be eligible for Legal Aid.
Your income is assessed for the month prior to the date of your assessment and is based on monthly not four weekly figures. As an example, if we assessed you on 4th December we would need to take into account income from 3rd November to 3rd December.
It includes all income from all sources, for example:
Salary/wages or drawings, benefits such as child benefit, tax credits, Universal Credit, JSA or ESA, rental income, maintenance, investment income, money from family and friends.
From this total we can only deduct tax & NI, rental or mortgage (not necessarily all of it), child care costs, maintenance you pay out and set allowance based on the number of children you have living with you and any new partner living with you.
This total needs to come to less £733 per calendar month to be eligible for Legal Aid.
If you wish us to assess for legal aid please bring the following to your assessment meeting. If you are living with a new partner you must bring all their information too. If you receive Income Support or income based JSA/ESA then the letter stating you are in receipt (and that the JSA is income based) will suffice provided it is dated in the last 6 months.
MEDIATION ON DIVORCE
Rather than heading straight to divorce court, you may want to consider Divorce Mediation first as it can be a quicker and more cost-effective way to settle things.
You do not have to use a court to settle financial or child arrangements, this can be done before divorce proceedings start via Mediation. Mediation can also be used to discuss who will divorce who and on what grounds, and your mediator can give you both information on the grounds for divorce and the divorce procedure itself. They cannot however act for you in the divorce proceedings. Reaching an agreement early on about all of these issues, will help your divorce progress through court more quickly and without the risk of it being contested.
Most solicitors would advise you not to apply for your Decree Absolute (the final part of the divorce) until financial claims are agreed upon and formalised into a legal document called a Consent Order. Frequently people come to mediation to agree on the financial issues so that the terms of what they have agreed can be quickly and easily put into a Consent Order by their solicitor at the end. This avoids the cost and delay often associated with solicitors having to negotiate this for them instead. The Consent Order can only be applied for after you have the Decree Nisi in the divorce, but an early resolution of what the terms of that order will be will avoid delay further down the line.
Mediation forms part of the court process because for certain types of application you would be expected to at least consider mediation before making a court application. Most typically this requirement applies to cases where you wish to make a court application over child arrangements, or where you are applying for financial orders alongside divorce proceedings. In these cases you would usually be required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), and you would not be able to make your court application unless you can show that you have attended one of these meetings. We are able to offer the MIAM and our mediators are accredited to certify your attendance if needed for your court application.
Mediation can also help resolve issues that have arisen after court proceedings, such as where one party wants to vary a child arrangement order, or to consider variation of a maintenance order. Circumstances can change and sometimes past agreements or court orders need to be reviewed. It will save considerable costs if any variation can be agreed in advance of asking the court to make the variation.
It is never too early or too late to Mediate, the process can resolve issues both before, during and after divorce or other court proceedings. Every case is different and it is worth considering the suitability of mediation at every stage of the legal process.
Most of our mediators are family lawyers with years of court experience behind them, having dealt with a wide range of family disputes, ranging from contested children issues, adoption, child abduction, child abuse, domestic violence, plus both simple and complex financial matters. At Laceys Mediation we pride ourselves at being good at what we do and no case is too complex.
In short, no you don’t. What does help is if you come to the mediation with an open mind. If relations have become hostile you do not even have to sit at the same table or be in the same room.
At Laceys Mediation we have resolved long standing disputes where the parties have had to have separate arrival and departure times and be in different rooms because of court injunctions forbidding direct contact between the parties. Interestingly, going through the process can often help to make future relationships more constructive and manageable which can be so very important where young children are involved.
Laceys mediators’ skills and experience are particularly helpful in cases where intimidation or unequal bargaining positions are concerned. Using their years of experience and specialised training, they create a fair, safe and balanced environment where both sides have an equal voice and neither party is allowed to “take over” or force a decision on the other party.
You can choose to mediate in separate rooms, or ask for a break if you need to. If you have concerns, discuss them with your mediator in your individual assessment meeting.
The presence of domestic abuse does not in itself mean that mediation cannot work. In some cases it may make mediation unsuitable, but in others it may still be possible. For these, to ensure your safety, we offer separate waiting areas and separate arrival and departure times. We might also advise shuttle mediation where you would both be in separate rooms throughout the mediation. With the consent of your mediator and the other party to the mediation, you might also be able to bring someone with you to the mediation session as a support. For some people, having all of these safeguards in place might seem to be a better prospect than the alternative of having to face each other in court and give evidence.
In cases where there are injunctions or bail conditions, your mediator will ask to see the terms of the injunction to ensure that no-one is put in breach by coming to mediation with the other party. Where necessary we might ask you to request a variation of those terms to enable mediation if this is not already provided for.
Mediation is not about creating solutions by convincing one side to give in to the other, or that each give 50/50. It is about creating understanding and opportunities that neither party could create independently. Many sensible agreements are reached in mediation that neither party had even contemplated prior to entering the mediation process.
Nearly all of our mediated agreements are ratified and approved by the party’s solicitors at the end of the process, leading to a binding agreement or court order. Furthermore, mediated agreements last longer and parties are less likely to return to conflict because the mediated agreement is made and supported by both parties and is not imposed upon them by a judge.
Why take the risk? Nobody goes to court to lose. Everyone who goes to court is “right” in his or her view. But somebody always loses in court. Nobody, including your solicitor, can guarantee that that someone will not be you. How can judges possibly know what’s best for you and your family? Evidence is presented in the adversarial process in a way that blames one party whilst painting the other as perfect. Extreme demands are made. It’s nigh impossible in such an environment to create a mutually acceptable arrangement. That is not the judge’s job. Most Family Judges agree that court is not the place to best resolve family disputes. This is particularly true where children are concerned. You and your spouse/partner are the experts. Stay in control. You lose control in court. Furthermore, you’ll have spent your valuable resources unnecessarily, even if you win. Mediation gives you control of the outcome at a fraction of the cost.
Not all mediators are the same. Every mediator has different skills, training and personal qualities. Furthermore, it is never too late to try to resolve your issues and avoid the time, the expense and the uncertainty of court proceedings. Coming back and trying mediation again after a time lapse can often produce different results because of a change in one or both party’s emotional approach to the dispute. There can often be a right time and a wrong time to mediate.
At Laceys Mediation all our mediators have the education, training and skills, background and experience to help parties resolve disputes that have been unsuccessfully mediated in the past.
Success does not depend on parties being reasonable, friendly, or even on talking terms. If both parties agree to come to mediation they have a great opportunity to achieve success. Using mediation and communication skills developed over years of experience, Laceys Mediation has successfully resolved even the most impossible situations to each party’s satisfaction.
Wherever you are in the litigation process, it is never too late to start mediation.
At Laceys Mediation we encourage parties to obtain legal advice, together with any tax, financial planning and any other professional advice that they may need to make fully informed decisions in the mediation process. Many divorcing couples quickly realise that the court route is expensive, time consuming and destructive, and the outcome not what they expected or had in mind. However, many don’t realise this hard fact until it is too late and they have already expended what are, in many cases, their limited resources.
At Laceys Mediation we have successfully resolved cases that have either been referred to us by the courts, or where the parties have failed to resolve their differences through litigation.
It is worth bearing in mind that the closer you get to a final hearing, the more the financial costs escalate, and so it is always worth trying mediation at any stage in the process.
|Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting||30-40 mins||£80 + VAT*|
|Certification for Court Proceedings (if required)||N/A||£50 + VAT|
|Mediation Session||60-90 mins||£180 + VAT*|
|Child Consultation (if required)||30-45 mins||£80 + VAT*|
|Mediation Summary (setting out agreed proposal)||N/A||£60 + VAT*|
|Open Financial Settlement (for financial cases)||N/A||£60 + VAT*|
|Mediation Summary Session
(Final session if required to approve Mediation Summary)
|30-60 mins||£80 + VAT*|
*Please note all charges are applicable PER PERSON PER SESSION unless you are eligible for Legal Aid.
Payment can be made by either cheque, credit or debit cards.
Late cancellation charges may apply.
Providing us with as much information as possible will help us process the referral quickly – thank you.
“What could have potentially been an extremely upsetting and inflammatory scenario, proved to be a surprisingly smooth and conflict free process through Laceys mediation. With Kenneth’s extensive experience we were able to reach an agreeable outcome without spending our life savings!”
Kenneth is the elder statesman of our mediation team, with forty years’ experience as a family lawyer, and qualified as a mediator in 1996. Kenneth has been a key member of the Laceys mediation team since 2005, specialising in financial and children cases, with a particular interest and specialisation in high conflict cases.
Kenneth is also qualified to consult with children, a growing part of the mediation process. Always looking to expand the boundaries of mediation practice, Kenneth brings a degree of gravitas, humour, understanding and empathy when he mediates with clients, creating a positive environment in which clients work together to resolve their issues quickly and cost-effectively.
Out of office hours, Kenneth’s main passion is writing musical theatre. When he has time Kenneth also enjoys travel, especially cruising.
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“I was very happy with Gemma Burden. She was very clear and to the point. Gemma Burden was very good at staying neutral. This must be very hard sometimes. She is very professional and is very good at explaining all points in mediation. I would recommend Laceys Mediation to all. I would give Gemma Burden top marks in all aspects of mediation and she has my thanks.”
“Gemma was able to help us narrow the issues between us so we could focus on resolution. I feel she treated us both equally and professionally.”
“Gemma seemed to quickly understand our situation and acted accordingly and in what I felt with best interest.”
Gemma is the head of our mediation department and a Family Mediation Council Accredited lawyer mediator. Gemma qualified as a solicitor in 2000 and joined Laceys in 2001. She has specialised in family law since qualifying as a solicitor and has worked full time as a mediator since 2009.
Gemma is qualified in all areas of family mediation, including divorce and financial settlements, child arrangements and property disputes between cohabitees. She is also qualified to see children as part of the mediation process. Gemma is able to draw on her legal expertise when helping couples work out complex financial settlements and new parenting arrangements.
In her spare time Gemma likes to spend time with her family, especially her dog who never answers back. Her chosen stress beaters are running, swimming and the beach.
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