So, you’ve made the decision to separate and suddenly the prospect of dealing with divorce, hiring a solicitor, and going to court is feeling utterly overwhelming. This is totally normal, and rest assured – it will pass – but you should also know that you don’t have to go it alone, and court divorce is not the only way.
If you’re not sure if going to court is for you, particularly if you and your ex are willing to try to work together to come to a resolution, then you may want to consider an out-of-court solution. There are several out-of-court options for separating couples, including mediation, which allows you and your ex to sit down and come to a practical solution to your relationship disputes with the support and objective perspective of a trained mediator.
Once you and your ex have come to a mutually-agreed decision, your mediator will draw up a ‘memorandum of understanding’ which can then be taken to a solicitor to turn it into a ‘consent order’ which provides you with a legally-binding contract to adhere to the terms you have agreed upon.
To find out if mediation might be for you, take a look at the questions below – if the answer is ‘yes’, then mediation could be a useful approach:
Do you need help communicating effectively with your ex?
Talking about divorce and separation with your partner is always tough, even if you’ve come to a mutual decision, and it can be useful to have some help to clear the lines of communication. A mediator works with both of you – separately or together – to work out a mutually beneficial resolution. It’s important to note, however, that mediation is not a form of relationship counselling. Your mediator is there to help you find a practical solution in terms of children’s arrangements, the division of assets, and financial issues, not provide couples therapy. If you feel the need for further support in this area then it may be worth contacting Relate.
Do you want to resolve your relationship disputes out of court and have a say in decisions regarding your children, finances and property?
One of the main benefits of mediation is that it allows you to resolve your differences privately and out of court. In most cases this means the process is generally cheaper, faster, and less stressful. In addition, mediation is a collaborative method of dispute resolution, meaning you are in control of decisions made regarding children’s arrangements, finances, property, and assets. If you take your case to court, many of these issues may be taken out of your hands.
Do you want to reduce the cost, duration and stress of the separation process?
Mediation is generally significantly faster and cheaper than court divorce, usually comprising three to four sessions over a period of four to six weeks. You can be flexible about these appointments to a certain degree, choosing whether to attend individually or as a couple, as opposed to court divorce which dictates your schedule more strictly. The collaborative nature of mediation also helps to make the process less stressful, encouraging productive communication, cooperation and compromise. During each session you will be supported by a trained mediator who is there to provide advice and guidance, and you may also consult your own solicitor for further help. Mediation can be used for some or all aspects of separation, helping you to resolve any issues you are unable to agree on between yourselves.
Do you want to minimise animosity between you and your ex?
Mediation offers you the chance to reduce antagonism and work collaboratively with your ex – something that is particularly important if you have children together. Many couples who choose mediation find that it creates a better long-term outcome for everyone involved. Because you have worked together to come to each decision, you’re more likely to stick to them, rather than re-opening old wounds and bringing up new disputes at a later date. Above all, mediation allows your voice to be heard, and gives you a chance to move forward in a positive way rather than ending your relationship with a court battle.
For more information on mediation and other out-of-court options such as arbitration and collaborative family law – or for advice on any other aspect of divorce and separation – get in touch with us at Frances Lindsay & Co.