Amy Rowe explains how family mediation can help separating couples

Amy Rowe explains how family mediation can help separating couples

The process of separating is difficult for any couple, but family mediation can help separating couples to reach mutually agreed solutions in a non-confrontational way.  

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral third person helps a separating couple to reach their own agreed decisions about issues arising from the separation, from arrangements for their children to achieving a financial settlement.

It can be used by any separating couple whether married, unmarried or in a civil partnership.

Mediation is a bespoke process controlled by the participants themselves. They decide what issues they want to mediate, for how long they want to mediate and how often they want to meet.

Each mediation session lasts around an hour and most mediations involve around 6-8 sessions.

What is the role of the mediator?

The mediator is a neutral professional who has been trained to facilitate and evaluate proposals for solutions for participants, using various techniques to improve dialogue and empathy between them. Some mediators are lawyers. Some have therapeutic backgrounds such as family therapists.

The mediators role is to act as a facilitator, and they have no power to force the couple to do anything or to impose any decision upon them. They do not give advice but do give information about legal principles. The mediator will help participants to find a solution which works for them both and will explain what needs to happen to make any agreement reached legally binding.

What are the different kinds of mediation?

Most lawyer mediators operate either co-mediation or sole mediation models.

In co-mediation, a mediator co-mediates with another mediator. The two mediators work in a collaborative way, bringing their different skills to the process. For example, where emotions are running high, a mediator who is a lawyer could co-mediate with a mediator who has a therapeutic background, or where there are financial matters to resolve, a mediator who is a lawyer could co-mediate with a mediator who is a financial adviser or an accountant.

In sole mediation, the lawyer mediator works on their own with the participants.

At Dawson Cornwell LLP we offer both co-mediation and sole mediation.

When can you enter mediation?

Mediation can be entered into at any time; before a couple has separated, immediately after separating, during negotiations, or alongside court proceedings at any stage of litigation. Mediation can also be used during the collaborative process.

Before issuing a court application about children or for a financial remedies order, applicants will normally first be required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

What happens in a typical mediation?

Before the mediation begins, the mediator will speak to each participant separately to make sure that mediation is appropriate.  At the first mediation session, participants will be asked to sign an Agreement to Mediate Form.

Mediations usually take place with the couple in the same room as the mediator, but we can also undertake mediations remotely. Generally speaking, the first session is used to identify what the issues are that the participants want to address and an agenda for doing so.

Where the issue to be mediated is the reaching of a financial settlement, the participants should (unless they agree otherwise) provide disclosure forms and any further documentation and information that either may request of the other, until they are satisfied that they have enough information to make an informed decision.

Mediators are trained to listen and help participants to discuss what the options might be and what might work best for the future. They make sure both participants have the chance to speak and be heard. The mediator will tell participants when they might need further independent advice on matters.

If agreement is reached, it is recorded by the mediator in a Memorandum of Understanding.

Is an agreement reached in mediation legally binding?

Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding.  Legal advice should be sought on any Memorandum of Understanding and a solicitor can advise on how, if appropriate, to have the agreement incorporated into a binding court order.

What if you are uncomfortable about being in the same room?

Shuttle mediation can be used to facilitate mediation without the participants being present in the same room at a mediation meeting.

Hybrid mediation (also known as lawyer assisted mediation) can be used where participants and their lawyers can meet with a hybrid qualified mediator.

Family mediators may not agree to mediate if they have concerns about a person’s safety.  They will not allow the mediation to continue if they feel a participant is being unduly pressurised or if it is being used by one person as a tactic to delay a resolution through the courts.

Mediation is a voluntary process and either participant can withdraw at any time if they no longer wish to participate.

Can I get legal advice?

Mediating doesn’t exclude participants from taking independent legal advice during and/or after the mediation process.

Why choose mediation?

The mediation process is private, confidential and impartial. It is less confrontational than litigation and participants have greater control over what is happening. Participants can agree flexible and tailor-made agreements which better suit a family than an order imposed by the court. The process is usually quicker, cheaper and less stressful than litigating through the courts.

The team at Dawson Cornwell include family law mediators – Amy Rowe, Jessica Reid and Jeremy Abraham. If you are interested in attending family mediation, wish to find out more about the process, or if you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact us on +44 (0)20 7242 2556 or

We work to provide cost-effective and comprehensive arrangements with a focus on reaching an amicable solution wherever possible.

Amy Rowe

Please note that this blog is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content of this blog.

Emergency Line