January 22, 2024

Family Mediation Week 2024

Clare Woodhouse

CLARE WOODHOUSE

This week marks the annual Family Mediation Week where mediation in family law is promoted. In fact, it is promoted in most of our initial meetings and thereafter by family lawyers.

So, what is mediation?

Mediation is a valuable option for clients wanting to obtain resolution on numerous issues from children matters to financial matters without recourse to the courts. It helps parties take control of their situation with the aim of reducing conflict and cost. The mediator’s role is to facilitate agreement by helping parties to make difficult decisions about their futures. So why would lawyers want to encourage mediation?

At Benest & Syvret we understand that lawyers are only instructed for a period of time and that after our role is finished families need to adapt to their new normal. Sometimes parties will never be able to communicate in a healthy way but those occasions are a rarity. Mediation allows parties to resolve matters in a collaborative way which may enable them to move on with their lives more quickly than might happen if engaged in legal warfare. This means that their future lives are less stressful and moving on less painful.

How does Mediation work?

You can refer yourself to mediation. In Jersey we have a number of options. We have Family Foundation which is a forum for mediation run by the Family Court. It is a free service and can involve other professionals including psychologists and Jersey Family Court Advisory Service (JFCAS) officers where necessary. We also have Family Mediation Jersey which is a means tested service but provides qualified mediators who can offer all different types of mediation including shuttle mediation (where the parties sit in different rooms if emotions are running too high) and also mediation that includes other family members such as grandparents (e.g. if they are seeking contact with their grandchildren after a fall out with the parents). Finally, there is Resolution which is also means tested and provides qualified mediators for all kinds of issues. 

The initial mediation meeting can involve parties individually or together. The mediator considers the issues that need to be resolved and assists the parties to come to an agreement through discussion and negotiation. Lawyers may step away when mediation is taking place. So, do you still need a lawyer?

Mediators are skilled individuals with common sense and an ability to find solutions however, they may not have all the information needed to consider the legal implications of an agreement. That is where your family lawyer comes in again. Once you have reached agreement it is best to seek advice from your lawyer about whether the agreement is sensible legally and also whether it needs to be put into an order for registration with the court so it is binding on both parties. 

Sometimes, sadly, mediation fails. It may be because the emotions are too raw or because one party is willing to compromise and one person is not. Mediation may be something to attempt again in the future when this happens. If we think it is the wrong timing, we will always advise you to try again in the future if there is a chance it will resolve matters at a later date. 

Mediation is not the enemy of family law. Quite the opposite! It is a valuable service for us and one which we continue to support. It goes to the heart of family law which is always resolution in the best interests of the family as a whole. 

If you would like more information about how we can assist you to bring about resolution after separation using all options available to us, please contact Nina or Clare for an initial chat on 875875 or email us – info@benestsyvret.com

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