Mediating over Children and Finances
Family Mediation To Help Deal With Property And Financial Disputes And Family Disputes Involving Children
Family Mediation is a quicker, cheaper and more amicable, alternative route to going through the Family Courts to sort out family disputes, a family argument about the division of property, the division of pensions, or the custody of a child, child maintenance support, or child contact after a separation, or a divorce. According to Government figures over 300,000 families in the UK separate every year and it is estimated that 1 in 3 children will experience their family splitting up before they reach the age of 16!
Family Mediation is the family courts preferred way of dealing with family matters and family legal cases including Divorce, disputes over money, debts, the family home, finances, property, pensions and arrangements for the children, including residency of a child, child maintenance, overnight stays and contact with a child. The UK Government want people involved in family disputes to attend family mediation and to try to sort matters out between themselves. In many cases family court judges will order people to attend family mediation when they reach the first hearing in court. From 22 April 2014 anyone who wants to go to court or take someone to court over a family legal matter must first attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting) before they can apply to go to court, make an application to court, or issue family court proceedings.
Click here to see the 10 Good Reasons Why You Should Consider Family Mediation
Currently anyone who wants to claim Legal Aid (for free legal help and free family mediation), will only be able to get access to Legal Aid if they attend a MIAM (mediation information and assessment meeting), with an accredited family mediator, unless there are exceptional cases of evidenced domestic violence.
Couple or family mediation can include:
- Division of property, finance & pensions
- Child related issues including:
- Parental Responsibility
- Residency or custody of children
- Child Support Maintenance or Spousal Maintenance
- Health, general well-being & education
- Or all issues mediation, which is combination of property, finance, pension and family mediation over children, the family home, payment of child maintenance, sorting out who pays the debts after a relationship split, or pensions.
Who Can Use Family Mediation?
Family Mediation can be used to reach an amicable divorce, by ex-partners, spouses, grandparents or extended family members, to discuss and reach amicable and fair agreements on matters relating to children, property and/or finances. People who are still living in the same house but who want to separate can use family mediation to help them discuss and look at ways of working out finances and the house that they live in. Couples and parents who are still in a relationship can use family mediation to help them discuss how to tell the children they are separating, or to draw up pre-cohabitation and pre nuptial (prenup) agreements. Separated parents can use family mediation to help them discuss ways of introducing a new partner to their children.
Family Mediation can be used by anyone, whether they are gay or straight, a parent, a grandparent or other family member providing that they were in some kind of relationship and that the argument, or legal dispute, happened because that relationship is ending or is now over. Read some of our family mediation case studies to find out how family mediation can help.
Can children take part in family mediation?
Yes, children can take part in family mediation, providing the child, or the children involved, both parents and the family mediator give their consent and are happy for this to happen.
Can we talk about the payment of child maintenance during family mediation?
Yes, any issue to do with children can be discussed in family mediation. This includes when, where and how often the child may see the parent who doesn’t live with them, arrangements for overnight stays, the school holidays, who the child will live with and whether it will be with one parent, or with both parents in a shared parenting (joint custody) role. The subject of child support maintenance can also be discussed in the mediation meeting.
There are new changes that now apply to parents who wish to use the new Government Child Maintenance Service. These new changes have affected the application, collection and payment of child support maintenance.
There is now a £20 application fee for new applicants who apply for child maintenance to be paid by an ex-partner or spouse. The new system already uses information held by the HMRC to access incomes for working out levels of child maintenance payments. This fee will be paid by any parent that makes an application to the service to request child support maintenance payments on their behalf from an absent parent.
There are also collection charges if the Child Maintenance Service has to collect and pay the child maintenance. The paying parent will have to pay an additional 20% on top of the usual child maintenance amount and the receiving parent will have their maintenance amount reduced by 4% to cover the cost of using the collection service. It is thought that this will not apply to current CSA cases.
It is therefore beneficial to both parents if they use mediation to negotiate and agree upon the payment of child maintenance. If parents arrange the payment of child maintenance between themselves, they will be saving valuable money, by avoiding paying unnecessary charges to the Child Maintenance Service.
Family Disputes Involving Children
There are a number of ways in which family mediation can help separated parents, grandparents and guardians to discuss and reach agreements over children. Below are some of the subjects that can be talked about during the mediation session which can be used to form part of a mediation agreement over cases involving children.
There are many aspects of parenthood. One of the roles of a parent is to make many important decisions about your child; this includes decisions that will have an effect on your child’s health, education, general wellbeing, their social activities and their welfare. Both parents usually make these important decisions together. For separated parents, there can be obstacles to overcome which may make it more difficult to make joint decisions. Poor communication between parents is one of the most common obstacles faced by separated parents when it comes to making important decisions about their child or children. Family mediation can help to improve communication and strengthen the parenting roles. During mediation, a family mediator will help the parents discuss, agree, and make important decisions together about their children’s daily lives and their futures.
A Parenting Plan is an agreement made together by both parents. With the help of a family mediator, the parents are able to sit down without the children being present and discuss important aspects of their children’s lives.
The type of things that can be discussed between parents include:
- Residence; will the children live with both parents (shared parenting) or with one parent
- Schooling i.e. which school the child will attend, access for the other parent to information about performance, parent’s evenings, attendance etc.
- Health i.e. access for the other parent to medical information
- Special dates e.g. Christmas and Easter
- Day to day arrangements including bedtime , homework, how much time they spend on the computer
- Contact times with the other parent, access (supervised access or unsupervised access), pick-ups and drop off locations, days and times
- Overnight Stays
- Communication e.g. agreed times that, the other parent can call the child etc.
A Parenting Plan is not legally binding, but it does set out in writing the agreement that is made by both parents and this can be adjusted at any time as the child gets older to enable it to take into account the child’s changing needs.
Some parents decide to equally share the role of bringing up their children in a ‘shared parenting’ role. The benefits of shared parenting children are that the children get to spend equal and significant amounts of their time with each parent i.e. the children live between the homes of both parents. Another example is the children stay in the family home and the parents each take it in turns to stay with them (birds nest parenting). Shared parenting arrangements are most effective when both parents are able to cooperate and communicate fully and effectively with each other for the benefit of the children.
The Benefits of Shared Parenting
- The child is reassured that although their parents are separated, they have a home with both of them even if this is in two different places
- Both parents will have reassurance in knowing that they share an equal role in their child’s life
- It ensures the continuation of family life for the child with the benefit that both parents take an active role in their life
- It gives both parents the opportunity to have a loving and meaningful relationship with their child
- It enables both parents to provide a loving, safe home environment for their child
- The child is given the opportunity to get to know each parent individually on a one to one basis
- The parents do not have to worry about childcare arrangements, as they are able to arrange appointments and social engagements at the time the other parent has the children
- The child is able to fully experience any social or cultural differences between both parents
- The parents could do away with the payment of any child maintenance if they shared the care of the child equally
The Challenges of Shared Parenting
- The child’s daily routine may be disrupted by constantly moving in between two homes
- The child may be confused with differing house rules and different levels of discipline
- It may take time for the child to settle each time they get to live with the other parent
- It may be difficult for one parent to fully let go of the child and be able give their full trust to the other parent
- ·Some parents might find it difficult to continue to communicate often enough with each other for shared parenting to be effective
- If the parents live in different areas of the country, it can be time consuming, costly and tiring for the child to have to travel back and forth between both parents homes
- The parents will need to work out who will collect any child benefit or tax allowances for the child
Supervised or Supported Contact
If there are concerns for the child’s wellbeing or safety when they spend time with the non-resident parent, there are two types of child contact that are available to help support the non-resident parent-
- Supervised contact or
- Supported contact
- Supervised contact can be through a child contact centre or at the home of another person, or under the supervision of another person.
Official ‘supervised’ contact is done by a Social worker. The Social Worker will monitor the contact and make a report.
A child contact centre is one option for separated parents who agree on supervised contact between the child and the non-resident parent. Child contact centres are a safe, neutral and informal place where non-resident parents can spend quality ‘one on one’ time playing games or reading with their children in relaxed and comfortable surroundings. The child contact centre will ensure the physical safety and emotional well-being of the child. This involves a member of the child contact centre staff being present to provide assistance if necessary. Some child contact centres will accept referrals from parents directly, but others may only accept a referral from a solicitor, through Cafcass or a family court, a family support worker, or a social worker.
Supported contact can occur in circumstances where there is no risk of harm to the child from the non-resident parent and there are no risks to child’s safety. Supported contact can take place at a community centre or other communal place where there are toys to play with and where there may be activities taking place with other families. This type of child contact is unsupervised.
I want to try mediation, how do I make a referral for mediation?
Why choose Kent Family Mediation Service?
You will have peace of mind and confidence by knowing that if you choose Kent Family Mediation Service you will be working with a highly trained, accredited and qualified family mediator, who has the ability, knowledge and skills that will help you to decide the best outcome for you.
Mediation with Kent Family Mediation Services costs less than £1,000 in comparison to solicitors costs which can range between £2,000 and £10,000. In children’s issues, legal costs could be as much as £20,000.
- Family Mediation can be free for those who are eligible for Legal Aid. This will entitle clients to free legal help from a Family Solicitor or Divorce Solicitor, in addition to having an agreement written up free of charge.
- Last year 70% of Kent Family Mediation Service clients received free (Legally Aided) mediation.
- There will be no pay-back of Legal Aid if you reach an agreement with Kent Family Mediation Service.
It is important to know the difference between a ‘family mediator’ and a ‘Legal Aid Agency (LAA) accredited family mediator’.
We know from experience that when you choose a family mediator you need to feel sure that you will receive a professional service in every respect. Kent Family Mediation Service Mediators are fully qualified and accredited by the Legal Aid Agency, which is the only recognised ‘gold standard’ mark of quality for family mediation. Only firms that hold a Legal Aid Agency contract will have this mark of quality. Before you start attending family mediation, you should first ask the mediation service whether they have this accreditation.
What experience do Kent Family Mediation Service Mediators have?
Kent Family Mediation Service mediators have had experience in a number of professions, including law, social work, therapy, human relations, education or counselling, prior to training as a mediator. Some Kent Family Mediators are legally qualified though cannot give legal advice in mediation.
What training do Kent Family Mediation Service Mediators have?
- Traineeship and observing experienced family mediators
- Attending a nine day core training programme
- Co-working as a trainee with experienced family mediators
- Regular monthly supervision with a Professional Practice Consultant (PPC)
- Leading cases, supported by, and co-worked with an experienced family mediator
- Documenting casework in a portfolio, with recommendations from Practice Consultant and co-workers.
Are You Still Unsure About Whether To Mediate?
If you have not found the answer to your questions here, you might find the answer on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
What other alternative dispute resolution options are there for settling a Family Dispute
If you are considering making an application to go to issue family court proceedings, issue divorce proceedings, or you want to get a divorce, it may be helpful to know in advance that before you can go to the family court, you will first need to attend a MIAM with an accredited family mediator.
“The Family Courts are completely in favour of using family mediation as the best means of resolving a family dispute”.
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