Mediation has been around for at least thirty years and is now used by a vast proportion of separating couples. It is actively promoted by the government and the courts as the preferred way for couples to sort out their separation. Oxford judges frequently recommend couples to mediation instead of battling it out in their over-crowded Family Court. They will not start a new case unless the couple has first met with a mediator to find out about mediation. Here is a guide to what is involved when you come to Focus Mediation in Oxford.
You start by coming to a MIAM: a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. This is time spent alone with your Focus mediator, who will want to understand what has happened to you. She then explains the process of mediation. You can come to the MIAM on separate occasions, or you can come as a couple: either way, you get time alone with the mediator and a full explanation of what lies ahead.
Once you had your MIAM, the joint sessions start, spaced to suit you, your timetables and what you can afford. These sessions give you a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your issues: the kids, the money, where you are each going to live.
You might start with a session working out a timetable for sharing caring for the children. Or you might launch straight in to disclosing your finances to each other, so that your mediator can write up your Financial Statement; then, when you can see what you’ve got, your mediator will help you make a plan: sell the house, or transfer it to one of you, or keep the house until the children are older and sell it later; set an appropriate level of maintenance … whatever seems best for your particular case, bearing in mind all your circumstances, including the local problems presented by living in an expensive part of the world like Oxford. Focus Mediators are also family lawyers: they know what the solicitors will be looking for and what the court is likely to approve. They can give you helpful legal information to inform your decision-making. You need not feel lost and frightened.
Once you have agreed all the aspects of your settlement (and preferably taken your solicitor’s advice on the proposals), your mediator will record them, and they will be handed to the solicitors who can turn them into a Consent Order, sealed by the Judge. This makes your agreement binding and makes any pension share happen, if you are divorcing. If you are an unmarried couple splitting up then your solicitor can make the agreement binding in another way, so it cannot be re-opened later.
You might have three, four or five joint sessions, depending on how many issues there are to cover and how co-operative you can both be. Focus mediators work fast and effectively: they are dedicated to helping you reach a settlement as quickly and cheaply as possible. Their reputation depends on it!
Focus charges £100 + VAT for each MIAM or £150 + VAT for a joint MIAM, then £125 + VAT per person per hour, with concessionary rates for people on low incomes. The cost per person of a full mediation is usually between £200 each (single session of 1 ½ hours at concessionary rates, no documents) and £1,300 each (4 sessions and two documents on a fully successful mediation at £125 ph). Legal Aid is also available (unlike solicitors, who can no longer offer it).
If you are separating and live in or around Oxford, it would be sensible to come to meet Caroline Friend, Senior Mediator at Focus Mediation. The office is in Summertown at Prama House on South Parade. Caroline can help you quickly and affordably in a matter of weeks, and avoid the horrendous costs and delays involved in court proceedings. Doesn’t that sound like the sane thing to do?