The use of mediation within family law

The use of mediation within family law

‘A discussion of the benefits of mediation within the family law setting’

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can be used by parties as opposed to the traditional litigation process. It is a voluntary procedure whereby parties to a dispute are assisted by a neutral third party to negotiate a settlement. It can be used in all areas of family disputes including divorce and finance and private children matters.

 The statistics

The Ministry of Justice has released its latest legal aid statistics which include recent figures as to the use of mediation within family law.

The attendance at Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) has increased by 8 per cent in the last quarter compared to the previous year.

Total outcomes in family mediation have increased by 11 per cent, of which 58 per cent resulted in successful agreements.

The law

Section 10 of the Children and Families Act 2014 states that in most types of family cases, parties must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before making an application to the court. The purpose of such is for the parties to be provided with information about the process of mediation and to assess whether particular cases are suitable.

There are some exceptions available, such as the presence of domestic violence. However, the courts are becoming stricter in their approach towards this, and are frequently asking for evidence that shows that domestic violence would make attempting mediation inappropriate. This is also in light of the increased use of ‘shuttle’ mediation which allows parties to be physically separated throughout the entire process.

Mediation v litigation

There has been an increased focus on the use of alternative dispute resolution within family law for a number of reasons. It is a much more cost-effective and fair way of resolving disputes. It also benefits from the principle of confidentiality which is likely to be important within family settings. The process has shorter timescales, continuity of decision-makers and an enhanced party involvement which not only benefits parents, but other wider family members including children. It allows parties to retain control over their disputes and make decisions for themselves, as opposed to handing this over to third parties within the court setting.

These positive impacts can also be compared to some of the negative effects that litigation can potentially have on families. There is evidence to suggest that prolonged parental conflict has harmful consequences on families and children, and this can include emotional disturbances, difficulties in relationships and poorer overall health.

Alternatively, mediation allows for a comprehensive discussion between parties about areas of disagreement. The mere act of participating in such can also be enough to narrow issues significantly, which increases the likelihood of an agreement being reached at some point.

We are able to offer advice and guidance on the use of mediation in family law. For further information please call to speak to one of our team who will be happy to assist you.

To view the recent Ministry of Justice figures see link here:


Elle Macdonald is a solicitor in the family department representing parents and extended family members in care proceedings and private law children proceedings. Elle is contactable on 01268 240400 and .