What is Mediation?
Mediation is a way of sorting any differences between you and your ex-partner, with the help of a third person who won’t take sides. The third person is called a mediator. They can help you reach an agreement about issues with money, property or children.
You can try mediation before going to a solicitor. If you go to a solicitor first, they’ll probably talk to you about whether using mediation first could help.
You don’t have to go to mediation, but if you end up having to go to court to sort out your differences, you normally need to prove you’ve been to a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM). This is an introductory meeting to explain what mediation is and how it might help you.
How much mediation costs
Mediation isn't free, but it's quicker and cheaper than going to court. If the differences between you and your ex-partner are about a child, you might be able to get a free voucher worth up to £500 for mediation. Check if you qualify for the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme on GOV.UK.
If you’re on a low income you might also be able to get legal aid to pay for:
the introductory meeting - this covers both of you, even if only one of you qualifies for legal aid
one mediation session - that covers both of you
more mediation sessions - only the person who qualifies for legal aid will be covered
help from a solicitor after mediation, for example to make your agreement legally binding
Legally binding means you have to stick to the terms of the agreement by law.
Before you go to mediation
Think about what you want to get out of mediation before you start. Mediation is more likely to succeed if you can spend the sessions focusing on things you really disagree on.
If you’re trying to reach an agreement about money or property, you’ll need to fill out a financial disclosure form when you go to mediation. You'll have to include all your financial information, for example:
your income - for example, from work or benefits
what you spend on living costs - such as transport, utilities and food
how much money you have in bank accounts
debts you owe
property you own
Start gathering bills and bank statements together to take to the first mediation meeting. Some mediators will send you a form like this to fill in before your first appointment.
It’s important that you and your ex-partner are honest when you talk about your finances. If your ex-partner later finds out you tried to hide something from them, any agreement you make might not be valid. Your ex-partner could also take you to court for a larger share of your money.
What happens in mediation
In the introductory meeting, you and your ex-partner will usually meet separately with a trained mediator. After this, you’ll have mediation sessions where you, your ex-partner and the mediator will sit together to discuss your differences.
You and your ex-partner can sit in different rooms if you feel unable to sit together and ask the mediator to go back and forwards between you. This kind of mediation takes longer, so it's usually more expensive.
The mediator can’t give legal advice, but they will:
listen to both your points of view - they won’t take sides
help to create a calm atmosphere where you can reach an agreement you’re both happy with
suggest practical steps to help you agree on things
Everything you say in mediation is confidential.
If you have children, your mediator will normally focus on what’s best for them and their needs. The mediator might even talk to your children if they think it’s appropriate and you agree to it.