ABOUT FAMILY MEDIATION
“Family mediation is a voluntary process, that seeks to support the parties in their independent negotiations, giving each the ability and space to control their own agreements, and avoiding the relinquishing of control to lawyers and the civil justice system generally.” – Dr. Sinead Conneely, ‘Family Mediation in Ireland’ Ashgate & Dartmouth 2002
At Arc Mediation we provided a structured approach to mediation where we work towards creating agreements.
- Parenting Agreements
- Separation Agreements
- Deeds of Separation
- Consent Divorce
- Family Disputes
- Elder Mediation
What is Family Mediation?
Where a relationship breaks down the Mediator, who is an impartial third party, meets with two people, married, unmarried or in a civil partnership, who are considering separation or have separated, and wish to formalise the separation or divorce, and/or parents who wish to agree structured parenting arrangements, and assists them to identify problems and explore possible solutions. The mediator’s role is to facilitate and encourage open communication and full-disclosure between the parties, who participate voluntarily and in good faith, in an atmosphere of co-operation and responsibility, to reach agreement that they both find acceptable. The process encourages the parties to reach informed decisions about their children, finances, property, division of assets, and any other relevant issues, and where necessary, includes the assistance of accountants/tax advisors with the consent of the parties. Where parenting agreements are constructed, the mediator encourages feedback from the children, preferably direct feedback where the children are of an age to express an opinion, before the agreement is signed.
Adult Family Mediation and Elder Mediation
Family mediation also includes resolving disputes between adult members of a family, or provides professional assistance with conflict, or difficult decision making involving older family members, where care arrangements need to be made. The interests of all family members are carefully balanced in the process to ensure as balanced an outcome as possible.
How does it work?
Usually both Parties attend an initial session with the Mediator or mediators. This session lasts an hour and a half. Firstly the nature and purpose of mediation is explained, informed consent is given by signing the Mediation Agreement, and the ground rules are set out. The Mediator will then encourage both parties to speak openly about their needs and requirements, with equal time given to both. It is important that the parties understand that mediation is not a counselling service, nor is the Mediator a substitute for independent legal advice. The main purpose is to reach a settlement by concentrating on the issues and to look for practical solutions, through structured negotiations. Mediation is an alternative to the adversarial litigation route which often incurs significant costs, and can result in decisions being made for the Parties by the courts.
At the first session the Mediator will endeavour to identify all the relevant issues, by investigating the perspective of the parties, and will encourage the parties to agree the elements that will form the basis of an Agreement. During the next sessions (usually no more than 4 further sessions should be required, each subsequent session lasting approximately an hour) the Mediator will help the parties to explore options and alternatives and help them to negotiate and make decisions, which will then result in a draft agreement. At this point there will be a “testing” period, agreed by the Parties, after which the Agreement can be reviewed and formalised. Where necessary, “Interim Agreements” may be agreed and activated during the process, particularly in relation to parenting arrangements.
When the Parties settle at mediation, their joint decisions will usually be recorded in a written Agreement drafted by the Mediator, and signed by the parties. This Agreement is a formal contract, and like any contract can be binding and enforceable, therefore it is recommended that the Parties seek independent legal advice before signing. This is particularly important where the Agreement is a formal Separation Agreement or a Formal Consent Divorce Agreement, and may involve seeking legal advice earlier in the mediation process. The mediator can supply names and contact information of solicitors who are willing to engage in this collaborative process. Where the parties have difficulty in coming up with options for any element of the process, the mediator’s role can change to that of conciliator, with the consent of the parties, and options can then be suggested by the mediator.
We provide a helpful guide contrasting private family mediation with ARC against alternative services.