LAST week was national Family Mediation Week to highlight help available for families experiencing difficulties.

Family Mediation Week was launched early in the new year, because this is often a time when many people are looking for help with their family situations.

As an experienced family lawyer and family mediator, I would urge people experiencing difficulties in their situations to consider using family mediation as a way of making decisions about their future.

All too often, children are caught up in the middle of costly, lengthy and acrimonious court battles.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Research shows that mediation is often a better way for families to resolve conflicts. It can be faster, less costly and – crucially – less adversarial than taking an application through the courts.

Family mediation is a process that helps people sort out the issues that often arise as a result of the breakdown of a relationship.

Couples meet with the mediator, ideally together, and try to resolve the issues, with the mediator acting as a facilitator.

Key things to note about family mediation are that:

* It is voluntary
* It is confidential – subject to usual money laundering and child protection exceptions
* It is impartial. The mediator cannot give either party any legal advice, although they are able to provide information.

Mediation can help you take control of your own family’s future, making constructive decisions together rather than asking someone else to decide what should happen to your children or your finances.

Legal Aid is available for family mediation, subject to means testing, and if you think you might be eligible there is a calculator at the following link

Although family mediation is a voluntary process, anyone wanting to use the courts to resolve family issues will usually be asked to attend a Miam – Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – before they submit an application, in order to show they have considered the option of mediation, or other dispute resolution options.

Even after a court case has begun, a judge may recommend the parties to attend a Miam to find out about mediation, before any further court hearing occurs.

For more information on mediation and other useful information for separating couples please look at the websites: