Mediation: what it means

By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)

Q. I have recently split up with my husband and we do not agree on a number of aspects. My friend has told me to try and sort out matters regarding the children and finances through mediation. I do not really understand what this is. I have tried marriage counselling to no avail, so if is a similar option I would not want to engage in this process. Could you please clarify?

A: Mediation is not a process to attempt to reconcile the marriage, but a series of sessions with a trained, neutral mediator to sort out the issues around splitting up.
Mediation can deal with both the children and finance issues. You will still need to go through the normal procedure to apply for divorce but as long as you are in agreement in relation to the divorce petition there is no need for either of you to attend to court.
In any event prior to making the application to the court they will expect you to have attempted to mediate with a reasonable explanation if not.
You will attend a series of mediation sessions lasting between one and two hours. Both parties will need to work openly and honestly for mediation to work. Mediation does not always work and you can stop the process after it has started if you do not feel it is working.
The mediator will not make decisions for you, but will try to work out the most viable, practical solutions. It's not always easy, but the mediator will work with you both to establish an outcome that is satisfactory to you both.
If successful, it will culminate in an agreement called a Memorandum of Understanding or a Statement of Outcome.
Your solicitor will need to review it before you sign it and if you reach agreement regarding finances your solicitor will also need to reflect this in a consent order which will need to be approved administratively by the court.
It is worth giving effort and commitment to resolving the issues from a relationship breakdown through mediation, as if successful, it is quicker, cheaper and a lot less stressful than attending court.

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