Family mediation services continue to be a popular method of resolving family law disputes. Going to court should be a last resort and the court tries to ensure this, by asking for proof that you have either attended a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) or you don’t need to attend a MIAM because of your circumstances. Mediation is therefore key to any route you go down.
Often people are worried that mediation might not be as vigorous as the court system in finding out what assets people have. However, to many people’s surprise, the financial disclosure required is the same as for the court process and, indeed, is often relied upon by the court in any future involvement by them.
To support Family Mediation Week, we have set out what financial documentation is required during the mediation process.
If the parties have solicitors instructed at the commencement of mediation then, it may be that their solicitors help them in gathering the relevant information before it is released to the mediator (who is independent to each of the parties solicitors). In other situations the couple amass the information themselves, following guidance from the mediator. It is likely to consist of:
- property valuations
- bank statements
- evidence of investments
- pension valuations
- loan agreements
- documents relating to any businesses interests
It may be that the mediator needs to sign post the parties to take advice from solicitors about the appropriateness of experts’ reports – they are independent witnesses who provide a valuable opinion on many issues, such as the accurate value of a property or the best division of a pension. If these are obtained the findings will also form part of the open financial information used in the mediation sessions or court submissions.
How disclosure information is used to mediate
Once all the disclosure is finalised, we prepare schedules so that the complex financial information can be easily digested by the parties and their mediator in the mediation sessions. Using electronic schedules mean that the net effect of offers (the outcome in figures) negotiated during the mediation, can be demonstrated to the parties with relative ease, both for the parties to consider in the mediation room and with their legal advisers.
Once negotiations are underway or if a proposal in principle has been reached, the completed schedules will then form part of the mediation documentation that the mediator will provide to the solicitors who are advising each of the clients independently. The accuracy or completeness of the documentation is not assessed by the mediator and so this task passes to the clients or their solicitors before a final proposal can be reached.
In mediations carried out by Blake Morgan the collation of the financial documents is carried out outside the mediation room by a paralegal in order to keep costs down and she liaises with the clients to ensure that a complete schedule of assets is produced. It is very much the Cinderella part of the mediation process and yet is a vital one if there is to be confidence by the clients in the process because a proposal reached in mediation is only as good as the information upon which it relies.
Blake Morgan is supporting Family Mediation Week, which runs from 21st – 25th January 2019. Family Mediation Week aims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively.
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