What Is Family Mediation

What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is the courts preferred way of resolving an argument, or issues that occur after a separation, or the breakdown of a relationship; including sorting out child contact, the custody of a child, child support maintenance and disputes involving money and property e.g. the family home, debts, bills, pensions, shares and savings.

Family Mediation isn't the same as marriage guidance, or relationship counselling. Family Mediation can happen when two people who were in some kind of a relationship, (whether directly or indirectly), or who been part of a family, have had a disagreement over money, the family home (whether owned or rented), property, savings, inheritance, pensions. Disagreements could include arrangements for the children, child support, the residence of children, overnight stays, or contact with the children with the other parent. 

Family Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process where the people involved in a family dispute can communicate and negotiate with the help of a family mediator until an agreement is reached that can be made legally binding.


How can Family Mediation help?

Kent Family Mediation Service can help if you:-

  • Have recently separated, or separated a long time ago from a partner, wife or husband 
  • Are already divorced
  • Want to leave your partner, leave your husband, or leave your wife or common law partner.
  • Want to get a divorce, you want to know how to get a divorce, or you want to dissolve your civil partnership
  • Are a Grandparent, Step parent or other family member who would like to make contact arrangements to see a child / children after parents have separated
  • Have a shared interest in a financial matter, joint assets, debts, a house, pension, savings, or property. Even if you never lived with the other person
  • Want to sort out custody of a child, or you want to arrange collection and payment of child support maintenance from the child's other parent
  • Lived with the other person, you weren't married and you have a family, or a financial matter that you want to resolve
  • Still live together and you want to split up, or you are in a gay, or lesbian relationship and you want to separate
  • Are still married, or you are still in a civil partnership 
  • Have a dissolved civil partnership 
  • Are separated from a partner and you want to discuss issues regarding a child, children, step child, or step children
  • Have a business, or commercial dispute that you want to resolve
  • Are not married and you want to talk about a pre-nuptial agreement - 'prenup'
  • Are not yet living together, but you want to talk about what will happen financially if you own a property together and you separate from the person that you shared a house with
  • Need to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) because you want to  apply to go to court, or take a partner to court. Read on to find out more about attending a MIAM.

Kent Family Mediation Service mediators are Legal Aid Agency accredited. They have professional qualifications and experience in relevant disciplines; including law, social work, human relations, therapy, education, or counselling prior to having trained for two years before becoming qualified family mediators.

Read some family mediation case studies to find out more, or contact Kent Family Mediation Service

Is family mediation the same as marriage guidance or relationship counselling?

No, family mediation is totally different from marriage guidance, or relationship counselling. Marriage guidance and relationship counselling help couples to understand and communicate with each other better, in order to mend the relationship, or to make the relationship work. Family mediation is used when the relationship has irretrievably broken down and each person realises and understands that the relationship is over and for people who want to discuss and reach agreements on the way forward after their relationship has ended.


Good Reasons Why You Should Try Family Mediation For Family, Separation and Divorce Disputes


Are you on a low income, or can't afford to pay for mediation? Legal Aid will pay for Family Mediation

Legal Aid is still available if people use family mediation to sort out their family disputes. Kent Family Mediation Service (Kent FMS) offer Legal Aid assessments to clients; who are on low incomes, are not working, or have minimal capital assets and who are assessed by Kent FMS  as being eligible to claim for Legal Aid. Mediation clients who are eligible to claim Legal Aid will get free family mediation and free legal help from a Family Solicitor. Legal Aid will not have to be paid back, even after a financial settlement has been reached. Find out more about Legal Aid and how it can help to sort out property, financial, or child related disputes with an ex-partner, or another family member. 

If you don't want to claim Legal Aid, you can choose to pay private mediation fees. 


What if I don't qualify for Legal Aid, or if I don't want Legal Aid for family mediation?

If you don't qualify for Legal Aid, or you are not eligible to claim Legal Aid, you can still attend family mediation as a private fee paying client. Private mediation fees will offer you an affordable solution to your family, legal, property, money, or child related dispute. From 03 November 2014, private mediation clients will get their MIAM meeting and their first mediation session fees refunded, providing the other person involved in the dispute has been assessed as being eligible to claim Legal Aid and we have seen documentary evidence of the information that they have provided. (proof of income).


How Does Family Mediation Work?
Family mediation works by using a qualified, trained family mediator who will conduct the mediation meetings, to help disputing clients to focus objectively on the issues, identify each person's goals and work with both of them, to look at the different options which may resolve their issues in a fair, affordable and impartial way, until a mutual agreement is reached. Agreements made in family mediation can be made legally binding and one of the benefits of mediating over children is that parenting plans can be agreed and that child only agreements that are made during family mediation can be varied as children get older and their needs change.

How many mediation sessions will it take before an agreement is reached?
The number of family mediation meetings needed very much depends on the type of issues that are brought to mediation, whether all of the required information and supporting paperwork is provided by both mediation clients, how willing each of the clients are to explore and resolve the issues and how well each client communicates with each other and the family mediator during the mediation process. The average number of family mediation meetings it takes is two to three. Each family mediation session lasts for up to two hours. Mediating over children can be successful in as little as two family mediation sessions.

What if there is domestic violence and I am worried about seeing my ex partner?
There are two procedures that Kent Family Mediation Service has put in place to screen family mediation clients for domestic violence. At the first point of contact with each client, Kent Family Mediation Service staff will take down the details of any domestic violence concerns; including Court Injunctions, Prohibited Steps Orders, Restraining Orders, Police Convictions, Cautions, Bail Conditions, Arrests or any past, or present Social Services intervention. If Social Services are found to be actively involved, then they will be contacted prior to any mediation taking place, to make sure that family mediation is able to go ahead. 
Staggered family mediation client arrival/ departure times, or separate waiting areas may be used in cases where one client has realistic fears, concerns, or is not able to wait with their ex partner, or the other mediation client. 
The second domestic violence screening takes place at the MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) and is carried out by the Family Mediator. If a family mediation case is deemed unsuitable for mediation, the family mediator will inform both family mediation clients of the fact that family mediation is not suitable. The Family Mediator will explain all of the other dispute resolution options that are available for them. The family mediation case will then be closed and no family mediation will take place. 

Is Family Mediation Confidential?
Yes, family mediation is confidential, what is discussed in the mediation meeting and over the telephone is confidential and anything discussed in family mediation can't be used in the Family Court. (Unless in circumstances where there is a risk to child safety). Many people do not like the adverse publicity that going to court can bring about and instead, they will opt to attend family mediation to avoid this publicity.

Is Family Mediation Helpful?
Mediating through Kent Family Mediation Service can be very helpful as it can 'open up channels of communication' and will greatly assist clients who would like an amicable divorce or a fair, affordable and realistic agreement. This is especially important if there are children involved. Some examples of how family disputes can affect children are shown on our case studies page.  For many people the idea of mediating can seem daunting at first, especially if they have not seen their ex-partner or the opposing side for some time. However, Kent Family Mediation Service mediators are professional and approachable and the family mediation centres used are comfortable, making the setting very neutral, informal and as relaxed an atmosphere as possible. Many mediation clients have said that they wished they they had tried mediation sooner.
 

Do I have to mediate?
No, you don't have to attend family mediation. Attending a family mediation session is completely voluntary and both of you must be willing to mediate. Mediation works, but you won't know whether family mediation will work for you unless you try family mediation. On 22 April 2014 a new law was passed that made attending a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), compulsory before making an application to go to the family court, or issuing family court proceedings. A MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) is not compulsory for anyone who can provide documentary evidence that they suffered domestic abuse from the other person or ex-partner involved in the dispute. If you attend a MIAM and then go to court instead of trying family mediation, you should be aware that some judges may order you to attend mediation once you have got to court and will hold court proceedings until you have attended family mediation. If you have been invited to attend family mediation by an ex partner, or other person, and you have declined or said that you are not willing to attend mediation, this could be looked at unfavourably by a Judge once you get to court. 
If there are existing court orders, prohibited steps orders, restraining orders or bail conditions in place that prevent you from meeting up with an ex partner or other person in family mediation, then you will need to provide the family mediation service with evidence of this. In this event, the family mediation service may deem that mediation is not suitable. If Social Services are involved with your family, the family mediation service will need to have written consent from the Social Worker in the case that they are happy for family mediation to take place, before any family mediation can be arranged.
 

What Happens In a MIAM
If you want to make an application to take an ex-partner to court about an argument over children, the family home or a dispute involving money,(including the mortgage, debts, pensions, the payment of child maintenance or any other assets), then you will first need to attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) with an accredited family mediator. The aim of the MIAM is to see if you qualify for legal aid, to find out your case would be suitable for mediation, whether mediation could help resolve your dispute and to find out about the other types of options that are available to resolve your dispute; including going down the legal route. Mediating after the MIAM is voluntary. If you and your ex-partner are willing to try mediation, you can then go on to have your first mediation session. If one or neither of you is willing to mediate, or if you opt to go to court, you can then ask for the mediation service to supply you with a court document (the type of document will depend on whether you have a child, financial, or an all issues dispute). This document is signed by a mediator and confirms that you have attended a MIAM. This document is valid for 4 months and can be sent off to the court with your completed court application, which you can download from the court website. If you have attended a MIAM, then the mediator signed document will be free. If you haven’t attended a MIAM, then there will be a charge for this document. Make a referral for a MIAM

 
If after reading the above information you are still undecided about whether family mediation is right for you, why not see what Kent Family Mediation clients have said about using family mediation to sort out their issues, or follow some  case studies to find out how mediation has helped others in similar situations to your own.
 

The benefits of mediating with Kent Family Mediation Service:-
  • Kent Family Mediation is able to help with a number of types of legal family and individual disputes including all issues mediation, property, finances and children cases.
  • The process is conducted by an impartial and highly qualified Kent Family Service Mediator.
  • The service is a member of the College of Mediators
  • Kent Family Mediation have many family mediation centres in Kent.
  • Kent Family Mediators are accredited family mediators. Kent Family Mediators can carry out MIAMS (mediation information and assessment meetings in Kent and can sign the appropriate family court forms before going to family court over a family matter, or before family court proceedings are issued.
  • Kent Family Mediation service is a registered charity and Kent Family Mediation makes no profit from providing family mediation to family mediation clients
  • 89% of family mediation cases result in some level of agreement, marking the resolution of the family dispute.
  • A family mediation agreement may be reached in an average of 2-3 family mediation sessions.
  • Family mediation empowers all parties involved in the family, property, financial or child related dispute, enabling them to remain in control of any decisions which may affect their future.
  •  Family mediation can be a more amicable way of resolving issues and getting an amicable divorce.
  • Stress, frustration, resentment, anger and emotions can be greatly reduced through talking during family mediation. 
  • Family mediation enables family mediation clients to stay focussed and to see both sides of the disagreement.
  • Family mediation can open up important channels of communication and build on this.
  • Family mediation brings together opposing sides to achieve one communal goal.
  • Family Mediation will take into account the needs of any children of the family and puts children first in all discussions during the family mediation sessions.
  • Family mediation can take into account the views of any children of the family, which is important in family mediation cases over custody of children
  • Family mediation is confidential (except in mediation cases where a risk is identified in relation to child safety).
  • Any agreement reached during the family mediation meetings can be made legally binding without the mediation clients having to appear in court.
  • Time can be saved if you attend family mediation before applying to go to family court as attending a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) is mandatory before attending or applying to go to court. 
  • If you are fee paying, family mediation is cheaper than going via family solicitors, divorce solicitors, the family courts, or through legal channels
  • If you are on a low income, or are not working and Kent Family Mediation Service assess you as being eligible to claim legal aid, your family mediation will be free and you will get free legal help from a family solicitor. This won't have to be paid back at any point, even after a financial settlement is reached!

Find out more about family mediation and the benefits of mediating with Kent Family Mediation Service. If you are not sure about family mediation and you have a family dispute that needs resolving, then before you do anything else, find out what your options are so that you can then make an informed decision about the way forward.


Below are some of the most frequently asked questions Kent Family Mediation Service are being asked. We are constantly updating this page. If you can't find an answer below to your question, please email us and we will try to help you.

I have been told by my solicitor that I need to attend a MIAM before I can do anything else, what is a MIAM and how can I arrange an appointment for a MIAM?

A MIAM is a mediation information and assessment meeting and a MIAM meeting is something that you will need to attend before you can start Court proceedings over a family matter. A MIAM meeting is a 45 minute meeting with an accredited family mediator. At this meeting, the family mediator will talk to you and the other person involved in the dispute. The family mediator will explain what family mediation is and how mediation can help you. The aim of the MIAM meeting is to see whether your family case is suitable for mediation, to find out if you are eligible to claim Legal Aid and to help you both to find out about family mediation, to explore the possibility of you both mediating and for you both to find out about all of the other options that are available to resolve your dispute; including going to Court. If you are both willing to mediate after attending the MIAM, you may go either go straight into a mediation session, or you can book an appointment to attend mediation at a later date. If one or neither of you wish to mediate after you have attended the MIAM meeting, then your case will be closed and you will be able to ask the mediator to sign your court form to say you have attended a MIAM. When you have attended your MIAM and you are considering whether to mediate or not, it is worth remembering that if you have attended a MIAM meeting and you have then gone on to try mediation, then you might not be instructed by the Judge to do this again if the matter does go to Court. Make an appointment to attend a MIAM in Kent.

Do I have to attend a MIAM before I go to Court?

Yes you do have to attend a MIAM if you want to apply to go to Court, unless there are exceptional and evidenced circumstances of domestic violence.

I am still living with my husband but we have split up. Can we still attend family mediation?

Yes you can still attend family mediation if you are still living with your husband, because you have separated from him. Please contact us and we will arrange a mediation appointment for you.

My girlfriend has left me. My girlfriend is pregnant, but she says that I might not be the baby's Dad. Do you do Paternity Testing?

No, we don't carry out Paternity Testing at Kent Family Mediation. We can contact your ex-girlfriend on your behalf and ask her if she is willing to attend family mediation with you. Family mediation can help you both to discuss making arrangements for her to have a Paternity Test when the baby is born.

I live in Kent and my ex-partner lives in Surrey. I want to mediate with him; will he have to come down to Kent to attend family mediation?

If you made a referral to us at Kent Family Mediation Service, we would contact your ex-partner and see whether he is willing to attend family mediation in Kent with you. If he is willing to travel down to Kent for the mediation appointment, we can see you both together. If he is willing to mediate, but he isn't willing to travel to Kent, then we may contact another National Family Mediation Service in his area and they will ask him to attend his initial first meeting, or mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM) with them. Kent Family Mediation Service will see you for your mediation information and assessment meeting and after this first meeting, if you are both still willing to mediate, we will liaise with the other family mediation service to arrange for you both to be seen together, either in Kent or in Surrey.

Can you arrange for an interpreter to help clients who speak very little English or where English isn't their first spoken language?

Yes Kent Family Mediation Service can arrange for an independent interpreter or translator for clients who speak little English. We can also arrange for sign language assistance for clients who are deaf. Please contact the office to discuss this.

Can I take a family member to my mediation appointment?

No, you can't take a family member into mediation with you. There are circumstances when a family member might be the person that you want to mediate with over a financial or child related matter and if this is the case, then we can contact them on your behalf to see if they want to mediate with you after you have made your referral for a mediation appointment.

If I am claiming benefits will I get free family mediation?

There are certain benefits which will automatically entitle you to Legal Aid, which will give you free family mediation. after you have made your referral for family mediation we will discuss this with you.

Can you refer yourself to mediation? 

Yes, you can refer yourself to mediation by filling in this online form. Kent Family Mediation Service will contact you when you have submitted your referral to mediation. Mediation referrals can also come from your solicitor or another organisation can make the referral to mediation on your behalf.

I live in Kent where is my nearest family mediation centre?

Kent Family Mediation Service has family mediation centres all across Kent. Find your closest mediation centre.

Can I take a solicitor into mediation?

No, you can't take a solicitor into mediation. The only people that can go to the mediation appointment are the two people that are involved in the family dispute and the family mediator. Under special circumstances a third person may attend a future family mediation session, but this is only if the family mediator feels that it is helpful to mediation and providing that both mediation clients are happy for this to happen.

We have been to Court and my ex-partner has broken the Court order. What happens after someone has breached a Court Order?

If you have been to Court and the Court Order has been broken or the Court Order has been breached, then you will need to go back to Court. You will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment meeting (MIAM) before you can reapply to go to Court. 

I want to try mediation but I am worried that the other person in my dispute will talk over me and try to control the meeting. I am worried that I won't be able to put my point across.

It is natural to be worried about attending a mediation meeting with an ex-partner, or some one you have been involved in an argument with, especially if they are more confident about speaking up for themselves than you are, or if you haven't seen them for a while. However to put you at ease, the Kent Family Mediator will see you both in a safe, neutral environment and will speak to you separately and together before any mediation starts. It is the Family Mediators job to make sure that you both stick to the facts, give each other time to speak, do not speak over each other and that you are able to put your point across during the mediation appointment.  The Family Mediator will guide the discussions to identify what you each want to achieve from mediation with regards to your goals and they will help you both to explore different options with the aim of helping you to reach an agreement that is workable, affordable and fair for both of you. It is also worth remembering that if you reach an agreement in family mediation, then you won't have the worry or the stress of having to appear in Court. Agreements that are reached in mediation can be made legally binding without you having to go to Court, because the agreement can be made into a Consent Order which will be sent off to Court on your behalf. Once the Consent Order has been endorsed or rubber stamped by a Judge it will be legally binding.

My partner is due to move in with me soon. I own the house but I want to put something in place to protect the house and to avoid a financial dispute over the house for if we ever split up. Is this something that family mediation can help us with?

Yes you may use family mediation to help you and your partner to talk about getting a prenuptial or precohabition agreement, if you are planning on gettting married or moving in together. A pre-cohabitation or pre-nuptial agreement can be put in place to safeguard your house, your tenancy or any other assets that each of you may have. Contact us to discuss this further.

What should I expect at a first joint mediation meeting?

What happens at a first joint mediation meeting will vary depending on what the particular issues and circumstances of your case are. Every mediation case is different. The mediator will usually speak to you and the other person alone and then together. The mediator will want to find out what yours and the other persons issues are and what you both want to achieve from the mediation in terms of your goals. Your goals may be different from those of the other person you are mediating with. Once the family mediator has established what the issues are and what you both want to achieve from family mediation, they will work with you both to see whether there is any middle ground between you and to see whether you are both able to reach an agreement. Depending on the exact issues, the mediator may look at different options and will help you to both understand what the options would mean to each of you i.e. how they would affect each of you. You may not reach an agreement with the other person in that first meeting and if this is the case, another mediation appointment will be arranged to enable you both to continue your discussions and negotiations with the mediator.

Where can I get free family mediation Services in Kent?

Kent Family Mediation Service offers free family mediation to mediation clients who have been assessed by the mediation service and who are eligible to claim Legal Aid. If a family mediation client is assessed as being eligible to claim Legal Aid they will then be entitled to free family mediation. If you are eligible for Legal Aid you can receive your free family mediation at any Kent Family Mediation location.

Where can I find out the prices for family mediation or how much I will have to pay for family mediation?

If you qualify for Legal Aid you will get free family mediation. Kent Family Mediation Service offers affordable private fees to clients who don't automatically qualify for Legal Aid and for clients who want to pay privately for their mediation. Please contact the Kent Family Mediation Main Office for more information about private mediation costs.

Where can I find out more about how my children feel about our Divorce

What is an FM1 form?

A form FM1 or FM1 form (family mediation 1) is a form that you need to show to the court to prove that you have been to a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) before you can start court proceedings.

How long does a Form FM1 last?

An FM1 form lasts for 4 months from the date that the family mediator signed the form. If you wish to make an application to court, you will need to do this within 4 months, otherwise your FM1 form will expire and you will need to re-start the mediaton process again in order to get a new FM1 form.

I have an FM1 form that is more than 4 months old. How can I get an up to date FM1 form?

If your haven't used your FM1 form and it has expired you will need to contact us about this. We can then explain to you the process for getting an up to date FM1 form for court.

I want to claim Legal Aid, can I still apply for Legal Aid if I live with a new partner?

Yes, you can make a claim for Legal Aid if you live with a new partner. Information about your new partners income and capital assets will be needed and this information will be added to your Legal Aid assessment calculation. Proof of your new partners income and capital assets will need to be sent in with proof of your own income and capital assets.

Where can I get Free Family Mediation in Kent?

Kent Family Mediation Service offer all mediation clients Legal Aid Assessments after they have made a referral. If a client is assessed by the service as being eligible to claim Legal Aid, then that client will automatically be entitled to free family mediation. This money does not have to be paid back, even if a financial settlement is achieved as a result of the mediation. If one client in a case is assessed as being eligible to claim Legal Aid, then the other client in the same case will automatically be entitled to a free MIAM meeting (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), and a free first family mediation session, even if they are not eligible for legal Aid, or they have agreed to be a private, fee paying client.

Find out more about Legal Aid.

Do Mediators Talk to Children During Family Mediation?

Family Mediators who have received special training in 'Direct Child Consultations' will talk to children during family mediation, providing that the child is at an age where they are able to communicate with the mediator, the child is willing to talk to the mediator without his, or her parents being present, and providing that both the childs parents and the child have given their written permission for this to happen. Direct Child Consultations can be very helpful in cases where both parents wish  to take their childrens wishes into account when they make a Parenting Agreement.

Find out more about Direct Child Consultations

Can Mediation be used to sort out a dispute over payment of Student University fees?

Yes, Family Mediation can be used for disputes over the payment of Student University fees. If the child is an adult, or aged 18 or over, then they will need to make the referral, putting themselves as the applicant. The parent that they wish to mediate with, will need to be being listed as the other client in the case. Unfortunately, in this type of case, Legal Aid will not be made available and both clients would need to pay privately.

What happens at Family Court?

What happens at the Family Court depends on whether your family dispute involves children, property, finances and pensions, or your case is a combination of children, property and finances. Below are flow charts showing the different family court procedures for children and financial dispues. Please note that in both instances, before an application can be submitted to the family courts, a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) will need to have been attended with an accredited Mediator. This applies in all cases except for cases where an exception has made because of domestic violence. 

Family Court Procedure - Child Only Cases

Family Court Procedure - Financial Cases

How does the Court decides who gets what in a Divorce?

The Court has a very wide exercise of discretion with regards to who gets what in a Divorce case, however there is also a very complex law that the Court will follow and this is both the Law in England and previous case law. These laws provide a list of what can be taken into account. Also the decisions of previous cases with similar circumstances may be used as general guidance, although each and every case is considered uinique and taken on its own merits. The Court retains a great amount of flexibility to enable it to make whatever order it deems as being fair, given the particular facts of each case.

The Court will always start with an equal 50:50 division of the assets, however it does also use several guiding principles taken from established case law and statute when making a decision, this includes the Section 25 Factors.

What are the Section 25 Factors of fairness that the Courts can consider when dividing assets in a Divorce case?

1. The welfare of any children of the family
2. The financial responsibilities, obligations and needs that each person has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
3. The income and the earning capacity, property, or other financial resources that each person has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
4. The standard of living enjoyed before the marriage broke down
5. The age of each person and the length of the marriage
6. The contributions that each person has made to the family, or they are likely to make to the welfare of the family in the foreseeable future; including contributions made towards looking after the home, or caring for the family.
7. Any mental disability or physical disability of either of the persons
8. The value to each of the parties to the marriage, of any benefit which by reason of the dissolution of the marriage that party will lose any chance of acquiring
9. The conduct of each of the parties, if the Court considers it would be inequitable to disregard it.