For over 7 years, ARC has offered a private family mediation service to clients within Ireland. While the majority of the more than 700 clients who have used our service have been based in the South East of Ireland, we have also worked with clients in Galway, Athlone, Longford, Kerry, Tipperary, Meath, Louth, Wicklow, Dublin and Cork. We also mediate in cases where there are international families, so long as one party resides within the Irish State.
Private mediation has, in our experience, a number of advantages over the alternatives such as litigation and the state-funded family mediation service. We can’t guarantee an outcome but we can guarantee we’ll put in the time and effort to give your case the very best chance of success.
ARC has a team of mediators and has, to-date, been able to offer appointments to all clients within 10 days of their first call to the service. While District Court cases for access and maintenance can be heard within months, it may take 2 years or more for a hearing on the matters of Judicial Separation or Divorce. Many of our divorce and separation cases reach a final settlement within 4 months from the date of client enquiry.
Private Mediation is significantly cheaper than litigation. While you will need to pay other experts such as solicitors, accountants and professional valuers to get legal and financial advice on the settlement terms under discussion, the total costs for many clients to conclude separation or divorce agreements with ARC are generally less than 20%, and often less than 15%, of the typical legal costs for equivalent litigation. We’d be happy to discuss comparisons with any prospective client. We believe this is excellent value given the level of support and engagement our clients receive.
Unlike the mediated agreements from the state-funded family mediation service, ARC’s private clients can and, in practice almost always do, decide their agreements are legally-binding. This is permitted under Section 11 of the Mediation Act.
Our agreements have stood the test of time as many of our mediated agreements for separation and divorce have been ruled on consent in the Circuit Court.
Our understanding is that clients who come to family mediation want to be taken step-by-step through a structured process by mediators who have significant knowledge of family law. Our mediators help clients understand and manage the process, while making sure they get independent legal advice at the appropriate junctures. This is intended to produce legally-sound agreements from the mediation process, rather than reaching a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) which needs to be redrafted, and often renegotiated, by clients’ legal advisors.
This is in contrast to ARC-founder Dr Roisin O’Shea’s experience of improperly-drafted mediation agreements as referenced in her PhD thesis – Judicial Separation and Divorce in the Circuit Court (see pgs 55-56). Such agreements were often discarded by the courts.
We can’t take the pain from relationship breakdown, but we can ensure a less painful process for separation or divorce.
Careful iterative process
ARC doesn’t favour the “single-day settlement talks” approach to family mediation as we believe this is too pressured for decisions that will have a lasting impact on your and your family’s lives. Instead, your agreements will be negotiated over several sessions (typically around 4), both individual and joint (when appropriate) with enough time for you both to consider options, suggest improvements and contrast the mediated terms with likely outcomes in court with your legal advisors. We call this an “iterative mediation process” whereby interim agreements may be put in place to understand how well terms of compromise deal with real-world situations. We manage the process, send checklists to both of you so you understand what the next steps are and keep your legal advisors informed as to progress.
We insist that all financial documents used to vouch affidavits of means will be exchanged between the parties and their solicitors. This information is exchanged outside of the mediation process to disincentivise mediation being used to mislead a party into agreeing to terms that are less than equitable.
Under the Mediation Act 2017, mediators can, with the permission of the parties, suggest options when the parties are finding it difficult to agree terms of compromise. Mediators cannot impose terms and they are merely talking points for further discussion and refinement. They are however very useful, in our experience, in assisting clients to broaden their thinking beyond the classic win/lose arguments in litigation. ARC’s mediators have extensive experience in hundreds of family mediation cases and can draw on that experience when assisting the parties in option-development.
An aim of mediation is to improve communications and understanding between the parties even if they can’t reach terms of compromise. Mediation is a non-adversarial process and parties are encouraged to be open and honest with each-other regarding their reasons for proposing or rejecting options. Respect and fairness is emphasised, safe in the knowledge that they can consider settlement terms in their own time and that the content of their negotiations remains private and won’t be used against them in future litigation.
Where one or both parties feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe, to negotiate in the same room as each other, they can opt for Shuttle or Separate Mediation in separate rooms or negotiations at different times and/or locations.
Flexibility of Time, Location & Online Dispute Resolution
ARC’s offices are based in Waterford but we can also meet clients in comfortable meeting rooms in Kilkenny, Dublin and Cork. Parties are often met outside of office hours to facilitate their working schedules. Where parties are too busy with work, traveling or reside too far away from each other for face-to-face meetings, we use video conferencing facilities to assist individual and joint discussions.
Every family mediation case we undertake uses co-mediation with expertise and gender-balancing where possible. We aim to assign a male and female mediator to your case, where appropriate, and will balance the expertise of the co-mediation team such that at least one mediator has legal training (generally a law degree) and that one mediator will be numerically-skilled such that they can assist with calculations for maintenance, division of assets etc. Our mediators include accountants, business owners, solicitors, barristers, psychologists and other professionals with significant skills, expertise and life experience to help you get the best results.
We have a rigorous quality control procedure to ensure that each case has the best chance of reaching agreement. The “lead mediator” assigned to your case will have several years experience of family mediation and will participate in confidential “sharing and learning” sessions with other ARC mediators to constantly refine their skills.
Every service provider claims this but ARC mediators have from the very start offered their services for reduced rates and indeed, pro-bono, for cases involving financial hardship. We are engaged in active research as to how to improve the effectiveness of family mediation via our partnership with Waterford Institute of Technology, the FRC in Newpark Close and Dublin Community Mediation under the “Family Mediation Project” banner. We are passionate about conflict resolution and see our role as improving communities one case at a time.
ARC was founded to provide a cost-effective, timely, expert and professional mediation service. We believe we’ve delivered on those aims. If you need professional assistance in resolving a family, commercial, workplace or community dispute, we’re here to help.