Knowing Your Options

Are you separated from your partner, husband or wife? Are you thinking about getting a divorce? Do you know what your options are after separation, or a divorce?

If you are separated, thinking about separation or divorce, or are involved in a family dispute, then you will already know that this can be a traumatic, financially demanding, and emotionally draining journey. Separation and divorce can be a distressing time for anyone, regardless of whether it is as an ex-partner, a spouse, a separated parent, an extended family member e.g. a grandparent, or an ex cohabitee.
Those involved in the argument may even still be living together under the same roof, or still living together as a family. Separation and divorce can have a huge, negative impact on children if they become involved in the family dispute. Click HERE to see how children can be affected by divorce and family separation. 
Many people who are in this position do not often know the first place that they should go to get help, where to start looking for help, or how to go about getting the help that they need.

What options are available for anyone going through a divorce or family separation?
The options that are available to anyone who is going through, or who has gone through a separation, divorce, or family break up and who is involved in a family argument are:-
·     Do nothing and in the future face becoming ‘entrenched’ – a situation where because of an on-going family dispute, opposing sides will not compromise, or try to move forward. Instead they will become ’stuck in a rut’, which results in greater stress, frustration and anxiety for everyone concerned. This could affect:-
 
Personal well-being: 
 

 Health
 Emotions
 Mental state
 Physical state
 Happiness
 Relationships
 Finances
 Hobbies
 Education
 Interest, motivation and pleasure in things
 
Personal relationships:
Family (including children) leading to this affecting their health, happiness, work, hobbies, interests, friendships and school work.   Partners & sexual relationships can also be impacted upon after a relationship split, family break up, divorce or separation.
 
Work:
Attendance
Colleagues
Employers
Customers/ clients
Productivity
Revenue
Own personal development
Future career
 
Do something about the situation and take control of the future, by choosing from one of the following options:-
 
 
 



Option 1. Attend Family Mediation

Contact Kent Family Mediation Service to make a self-referral and attend a MIAM      (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting), to be assessed for Legal Aid and to find out about family mediation. This is now the only way of getting Legal Aid unless there are exceptional circumstances of evidenced domestic violence. Kent Family Mediation Service offers affordable fees for private clients, Legal Aid and free family mediation; which entitles those who are assessed as being eligible to also claim, free time with a participating family solicitor. Click HERE to see the 10 good reasons why you should try family mediation.

Try the Legal Aid checker to see if you are likely to be eligible for free family mediation. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  

 Why Choose A Kent Family Mediation Service Family Mediator?
There are now many providers of family mediation. However, it is very important that you choose your family mediator wisely. You should look for a Family Mediator whose firm has a Legal Aid Agency Contract and holds the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) ‘Gold Standard’ mark of quality, as these are the only family mediators who hold a recognised qualification to practice family mediation. The Family Mediation Council has recently brought in standards and guidelines for Family Mediators. These new guidelines will mean that all Family Mediators and anyone who wants to work as a Family Mediator will have to train for a number of years prior to becoming a Family Mediator and will have to complete a portfolio of mediation cases. Family Mediators who work for Kent Family Mediation Service have already been doing this for some time.

 A MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) is not a qualification and this is not considered as a licence for someone to practice family mediation. Only accredited family mediators can carry out a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) and sign the relevant Court forms, which are needed BEFORE an application to go to court can be made.


          Kent Family Mediation mediators have the following skills, training and experience:-

      Professional qualifications and experience in relevant disciplines, including law, social work, teaching, therapy, human relations, or counselling prior to training as a mediator. Kent Family Mediation Service family mediators are able to carry out MIAM's (mediation information and assessment meetings) and are legal aid accredited family mediators.
Kent Family Mediators are trained by National Family Mediation, the largest family mediation provider in the UK
       Traineeship with a National Family Mediation service, observing experienced family mediators
      Attendance at a 9 day core family mediation training programme
      Co-working as a trainee family mediator with experienced family mediators
       Regular monthly supervision with a Professional Practice Consultant
      Leading cases, supported and co-worked with an experienced family mediator
        Documenting casework in a portfolio, with recommendations from the Professional Practice Consultant and family mediator colleagues
     Undergo continuous, professional development training with National Family Mediation, or other authorised body, as a condition of their training. This usually takes around 2 years from appointment as a trainee family mediator. This training gives Kent Family Mediation Service mediators, the ability, experience and knowledge to help family mediation clients discuss and decide upon a wide range of issues, including children’s arrangements, the residency of a child, the payment of child maintenance, child contact times, how to manage finances and deciding together on the division of any assets, the family home, pensions and debts.
    ""You can have confidence in knowing that by choosing a Kent Family Service Mediator you will be working with a highly trained and qualified family mediator, who has the ability, knowledge and skills to help you decide upon what is best for your future and for the futures of any children of the family."

Should I Choose A Family Mediator With a Legal Background?
The background of the family mediator is not relevant, because family mediators are skilled and knowledgeable in helping clients identify the information they need, in order to make their own decisions. Family Mediators should not give advice because that would affect their impartiality and this would be compromising their position.  Family mediation clients are encouraged to seek their own separate advice in order to ensure they are making fully informed decisions.

 What happens after my MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)?

If you qualify for Legal Aid you will be entitled to free family mediation and free legal help from a family lawyer, or family solicitor who will assist you to negotiate with the other person and reach an amicable agreement which can be made legally binding.

 

 If you don’t qualify for Legal Aid and you still want to attend Family Mediation, you can either:-

1.  Pay privately for family mediation – Kent Family Mediation Service have affordable, subsidised private fees that are very competitive in comparison to family lawyer mediators and other family mediation service providers in Kent. If your ex-partner receives Legal Aid, then you will get your first mediation session free! Kent Family Mediation Service now offers a tiered fee structure for private clients who are just over the threshold to claim Legal Aid. Please contact us HERE for more information

 
 Frequently Asked Questions About Family Mediation
 Q. What experience and qualifications do Kent Family Mediation Service mediators have?
 
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. 
Many Kent Family Mediation Service mediators are also trained to carry out 'Direct Consultations with Children' where with the consent of the child and both parents, the family mediator will speak to the child about his or her feelings and wishes. The family mediator will only pass on what was discussed with the child to the parents, if the child wishes them to do so. Find out more about Direct Consultations with Children HERE
 

Q. Do I have to see a family solicitor or family lawyer before I attend family mediation?
No, you don't have to see a family solicitor before you attend family mediation. Kent Family Mediation Service mediators will speak to you about using a family solicitor when you come for your first appointment.

Q. If I agree to attend family mediation, is there a Family Mediation Service in k that is local to me?
Yes, we have 13 accessible family mediation venues across Kent including Ashford, Bromley, Canterbury, Chatham, Dartford, Dover, Gillingham, Maidstone, Margate, Sittingbourne, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells.

Q. How will I know when I am ready to attend family mediation?
 You can attend family mediation at any time, whether it is before, during or after any family court proceedings as long as you accept that the relationship is over (this applies to those who were in a relationship), you genuinely want to resolve the dispute and you are ready to put the past behind you and move forward with your life.

 

Option 2 - Consult with a Family Solicitor, or Family Lawyer

 If you want to make an application to go to court, family solicitors and family lawyers are now obliged to instruct you to attend a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment meeting) with a mediation service provider.

This is extremely advantageous to people who are not working, who are on low incomes, or have minimal capital assets, as solicitors are no longer able to apply for Legal Aid on behalf of their clients (except under certain special circumstances of evidenced domestic violence). Kent Family Mediation Service has a number of lawyer mediators and holds a Legal Aid contract. 

  Please click HERE to see a list of the family solicitors in Kent that will work with family mediation clients.


Frequently Asked Questions About Family Solicitors and Family Lawyers

Q. Are agreements made through solicitors and lawyers legally binding?

No, Consent Orders made through solicitors, or lawyers are not legally binding unless they have been signed by both clients prior to being endorsed or approved by the court.


Q. What is the difference between solicitor and agreements made during family mediation?

There is no difference; neither signed consent orders or signed agreements (memorandum of understanding, or summary of outcome) made during family mediation are legally binding, unless they are endorsed/ approved by the court. The only difference is the way that the agreement was reached. In family mediation both mediation clients are present, they are able to give an outline of what they would like from any agreement and both family mediation clients take an active part in the negotiations, before an agreement is reached. The family mediator will give options for consideration and will assist both mediation clients in reaching an agreement that is fair, affordable and realistic. Agreements that are made via a solicitor, without mediation, will be negotiated through two different firms of solicitors until an agreement is reached. This can take considerably longer, will be more costly and may not be in both clients, or in the children's interests.


 Option 3 - Litigating in Person 

  I.e. Self-representing in Court

 With the cuts to the Legal Aid system, the family courts are experiencing a huge increase in the number of ‘litigants in person’, i.e. people representing themselves in court.

Following the Legal Aid changes in April 2013, there are now many people who are on a low income, who have minimal, or no capital assets, but who are just over the earnings threshold to qualify for legal aid via a family mediation service (the only way of now getting Legal Aid, unless there is exceptional circumstances of evidenced domestic violence). Some people are finding that they are not able to afford to pay privately for family mediation, or get legal advice from a family solicitor or family lawyer. As a result of this they are making applications to represent themselves in court.

On 22 April 2014 there were new changes which have made attending a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) compulsory for the majority of people, before they can apply to go to Court.

"There are many people who feel that they have no other alternative but to represent themselves in Court and ‘litigate in person"


 Frequently Asked Questions about Self Litigation

Q. What does ‘Litigants in Person’ mean?

A ‘litigant in person’ is an individual (a person or a company) who goes to court, without the representation of a solicitor, lawyer or barrister but who still has the ‘rights of audience’; the right to address the court in person. They are able to present their own evidence and speak up for themselves in the court room. This also includes cross examining the other person involved in the dispute.


Q. Why would people choose to go to court without a solicitor?

There are a number of reasons why someone would choose to go to court without a solicitor, including:-

Possible bad past experience with a legal representative, or firm of solicitors

They cannot afford to pay private legal costs/ fees

They have attended a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) and they, or the other person in the dispute don't want to mediate

They believe that they know their own case better than anyone else could

They might want to try to intimidate, or confront the other person in the dispute by representing themselves

They may want to have more of a personal input into the decisions about their future


Q. What are the benefits of going to court without a solicitor?

It can be more cost effective than going via legal channels; the approximate cost for litigating in person is approximately £12,000

It can give the litigant in person a feeling of ‘empowerment’

The litigant in person will know their own case better than anyone else


Q. What are the disadvantages of going to Court without a Solicitor?

There are a number of disadvantages that litigants in person face by going to court without a solicitor, or a lawyer:-

The odds are stacked against them in court, legal knowledge = power!

They could end up being ordered to pay between 60% and 90% of their opponent’s legal costs if they don't win the case.

Self-litigating slows up the court process. Complicated legal jargon often needs to be explained which takes up precious time in an already over worked court system

Court cases often overrun as a result of the above

Information provided by the self-litigant can be lengthy, lacking in evidence, not factual and lacking in clarity

Lack of experience in completing complicated legal documentation can cause confusion

Being cross examined by an over-zealous and angry ex-partner can often make things more stressful and traumatic for the other person in the case than it needs to be.

Communications from the self-litigant can often be based on raw emotion, which results in them not sticking to the matter in hand

Litigants in person may feel intimidated by the other party'slegal representative, the legal jargon and the court protocols, including the rules of behaviour and the means of addressing the Judge

Litigants in person may be overwhelmed by the vast amount of complicated legal paperwork and evidence that is required by the court

It can be extremely stressful representing yourself in court


Q. How much does it cost to go to court for a family matter?

If you go to a court over a family matter; for example getting access to your child, increasing, or varying a Contact Order, sorting out parental responsibility, agreeing the level of child maintenance, for divorce or separation, sorting out finances or claiming money that you may be owed by an ex-partner, then there will be additional court fees to pay. Court fees are different from paying legal costs through a solicitor or lawyer.

Click HERE to read more about Family Court Fees

Q. What is a Family Court?

A family court is a court that deals only with family legal cases. This can include:-

Claims and Orders for child support maintenance
Spousal support
Divorce
Disputes over money, property, pensions or finances following a separation, breakdown of a relationship, or divorce
Child custody and access to see a child for parents, grandparents, husband, wife, common law spouse and same sex partners
Cases involving children, or adults who need protection

Q. What is the difference between a Barrister, Solicitor or Lawyer?

The solicitor’s or lawyer's duty is to look after and act in the best interests of their client at all times (unless this was in some way breaking the law).

The barrister’s obligations are to both their client (unless the instructions from their client would mean undermining the court or the legal process) and the court.
 
All solicitors, lawyers and barristers have to work to a ‘Code of Conduct’ and they must retain their integrity at all times.
 
Click HERE to find out more about what a Barrister does.
 

 Q. What do family court Judges think about family mediation?

We recently interviewed Judge Polden the Designated Judge for the Family Courts in Kent. Click HERE to find out what Judge Polden thinks about family mediation and what his advice is to people who are going to court regarding a divorce or a family case.


Q. Do the family courts want people to represent themselves in court?

 No, neither the court staff, nor the Judges want people to represent themselves in court. The court system is already over worked. With the recent and ongoing cuts in public funding (legal aid) there are now more people making court applications than ever before, which takes up precious court time.

Family mediation is the Government, the family courts and many Family Court Judges preferred way of resolving a dispute or a divorce. When opposing sides get to court, Judges are often making orders for them to attend Family Mediation to resolve their dispute.

If you would like to know more about your options in Divorce or family separation, please download the Kent Family Mediation Service leaflet HERE

 If you would like to make a referral to family mediation, or contact the Kent Family Mediation Service please click HERE 

Legal aid and private family mediation service in Kent. Legal Aid in Kent. Kent Family Mediation centres in Ashford, Bromley, Chatham, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Gillingham, Medway, Ramsgate, Thanet, Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Gillingham.