Even for the most level-headed of families, complex separations, financial issues and child arrangement disputes can turn ugly remarkably quickly. Fuelled by different viewpoints and strong emotions built up over months or years, you may see court as your only solution when you’re dealing with divorce, separation or family issues.
Whilst mediation has always been available as an option, the relatively new approach of hybrid mediation offers you an effective, efficient and less emotive way to resolve disputes without the need for your “day in court”. LGFL Director and Resolution-trained mediator Anne Leiper explains more.
This week is Family Mediation Week , raising awareness of how mediation can help separating couples create mutually-acceptable solutions to divorce and separation issues. If you and your ex can come to a mutual agreement, you can save considerable time, money and stress for your family and children compared to a long and potentially expensive court battle.
The difference between hybrid mediation and standard mediation
- Standard mediation involves you and your ex sitting in the same room with a mediator to work through your differences. The result should be a proposal to resolve your issues, which you each then take to your solicitor for advice. This can cause further delay.
- Hybrid mediation differs from standard mediation in that for the majority of the process, both of you are in separate rooms, each with your solicitor. This gives you instant access to legal advice and support when you need it most, not after the event. Your mediator will shuttle between rooms to meet with both parties and find common grounds. There will probably be short joint meetings at the beginning and at the end of the process unless this is unsafe or undesirable.
Benefits of hybrid mediation
There are many benefits to hybrid mediation for you as the client:
No need to see your ex face to face
Not everyone can sit down with their ex-partner in the same room for any length of time. Indeed, if there a history of uneven power levels between the couple, coercive control or even domestic violence, this would also not be a safe environment. Hybrid mediation avoids face-to-face confrontation, keeping tempers cool and minds focused.
Legal advice on hand throughout
In my experience, the overwhelming benefit of hybrid mediation is having legal advice in the room with you. Unlike standard mediation where the two parties will meet and then go away to consult with their family law solicitor, you can seek specific legal advice as the need comes into play. Clients usually find they have so much more confidence when they have their legal adviser with them.
You may not realise that even if your case goes to court, there is a lot of ‘corridor negotiations’. This is exactly what it sounds like; two legal teams meeting outside the court to negotiate solutions literally outside the courtroom and during any breaks in the proceedings. Hybrid mediation allows that same level of negotiation but with no time constraints or limited court time.
Selective sharing of information
Full disclosure of financial information should be made in hybrid mediation just as you would have to do in court. However, with the two parties in separate rooms, information can be selectively shared. The mediator can be told each party's bottom line position and keep that confidential, or share it if authorised. This is specifically designed to assist and speed up the possible settlement process.
The major benefit of hybrid mediation for many is the speed. Often matters can be resolved in just one day, or for more complex cases, two or three sessions over a couple of months. This is in stark contrast to the 12-18 month timescales of fully contested family law court cases, plus any delays due to the current backlog in family courts. You can also start hybrid mediation as soon as you both want, without needing to wait for a court date.
Hybrid mediation saves time, and in law, time is very definitely money. Apart from reducing the timescales, costs can be saved in ensuring a financial agreement is acceptable to both and won’t be contested. If you and your ex can’t agree on a settlement in court the judge will decide for you, which probably won’t be in anyone’s best interests.
Online, flexible meetings
At a time when even if we wanted to meet in the same room we can’t, hybrid mediation really comes into its own. Zoom seems almost designed for hybrid mediation, allowing you, your ex, your mediator and your legal team to be on the same meeting call. Through careful use of the ‘mute’ feature, information can be given in confidence to the mediator to pass on in the manner they think will work best to the other party.
Specialist advisors to help you
You can also include third parties in the mediation process, such as pensions or financial advisors. They can provide impartial third party viewpoints, and check that financial agreements are sound, viable and advisable, particularly in complex cases.
Even if you are already in the middle of court proceedings, you can still use hybrid mediation. Indeed, the courts actively encourage mediation as it results in agreements created through mutual consent, which are far less likely to be contested in the future.
Seal the deal there and then
In standard mediation, there will inevitably be a delay while your mediator draws up a Memorandum of Understanding or other summary document. This would then need to be scrutinised by your legal team, resulting in further, ongoing discussions and negotiations. Your ex might also change their mind in the meantime, further mudding the legal waters.
Once you have come to an agreement using hybrid mediation, your solicitor and legal team can draw up your agreements / orders straight away. There’s no waiting for a court ruling or other delays. Once the agreement is drawn up, you can sign it, resolve your issues, and both move on with your lives.
Hybrid mediation services from LGFL
As a trained mediator, I firmly believe that hybrid mediation is a positive, dynamic and effective process very much suited to our new virtual age. If you’d like to discuss it and its suitability for your specific requirements and situation, contact us to book your 1-hour initial consultation with 30 minutes free.
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