Although it is not compulsory for couples to see a solicitor whilst engaged in the mediation process, there can be distinct benefits to involving them. Not least because having a level of involvement by a solicitor during the process can actually be extremely cost effective. In fact, some of the most successful mediations I have undertaken have been those where the parties’ solicitors have played an active part.
The solicitors have not generally been present during our discussions but have helped shape the dialogue in a number of important ways for instance.
Solicitors guiding clients towards the mediation process
In many cases it was the solicitors who initially suggest to the separating couple that they investigate the option of mediation. Had the solicitors not been open to the idea of their clients finding the process most suited to them they would not have been to see me for anything other than a MIAM.
Clients sharing mediation notes with solicitors can help to resolve contentious issues later on
After joint sessions my general practice is to provide a brief note in which I aim to summarise the key points of our discussions. Most participants agree that they can share these notes with their solicitors and this enables them to take legal advice on specific issues. My experience of this is that it enables both individuals to come ‘back to the drawing board’ with a clearer understanding of what they might be likely to achieve at Court and that this allows them to engage more productively in discussions about the more contentious issues.
Involving relevant professionals in mediation sessions enables obtaining expert advice as discussions progress
On occasion, we schedule mediation sessions that are attended by either the parties’ solicitors or other professionals such as a family therapist or Independent Financial Advisor or accountant. Within the mediation process, as in court proceedings, it is possible to obtain expert advice in terms of the various assets and/or options proposed.
Participants sharing mediation notes with solicitors aids more effective future representation
If the participants conclude mediation sessions with mutually acceptable proposals it is the solicitors acting for them who will give them legal advice on the terms and prepare a Consent Order that can be lodged with the court.
Equally, if it has not been possible to reach an agreed proposal for the way forward then of course solicitors can pick up from where the discussions have concluded. It may be that certain issues have already been narrowed and at the very least there will have been financial disclosure can underpin future discussions or the court process.
In my experience, the solicitors’ role can be identified as beneficial at the beginning, middle and end stages of any mediation process.
Taking legal advice from solicitors along the way and combining it with attending mediation sessions is generally an extremely cost-effective way for separating couples to arrive at agreements in respect of their financial affairs and to resolve any issues about their children.
Becket Mediation offers expert Family and Civil Mediation services. For more information about how Becket Mediation could help to resolve a Family Law situation, contact the mediation clerks.