Q. My partner and I are going through a divorce. His lawyers have issued proceedings and now I have a court date. I don’t really want to go to court because our relationship is still civil and I think we can sort this out ourselves. I’ve heard of mediation, but is it too late for that now?
No, it is never too late for mediation and you can attend mediation before or in parallel to court proceedings. In fact, before issuing financial remedy proceedings, applicants like your ex-partner are usually required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (known as a MIAM). This is so that they can discuss their situation and issues with a mediator, and the mediator can tell them about the mediation process and alternative options to resolve their dispute before they make the final decision to start court proceedings. The family court is becoming more and more proactive in encouraging the use of mediation, and other forms of dispute resolution, at every part of the court process so it is usually always an option.
You and your ex can use mediation to resolve any of the issues that are before the court or you can just ask the mediator to deal with a particular issue that may arise. It is a flexible process that can be designed around you and your partner. I would suggest you contact a mediator (the Family Mediation Council can help you find one in your area) and have a brief initial discussion about the issues between you and your partner. If you are content with the mediator, pass their details on to your partner and ask him if he would consider the process. If he agrees, a mediation can be arranged to try and help you resolve the issues between you without the need for court hearings or to narrow the issues that the court is being asked to consider. If your partner agrees, you can then adjourn the court proceedings to see if you can resolve the issues through mediation or cancel the proceedings altogether. Once heads of agreement are reached with the mediator, they can then be converted into a consent order by your or your ex’s solicitor and filed at court, generally avoiding any further court hearings.