Family mediation in practice: a case study
We look at a case study where family mediation proved successful as both parties in a separation had control over their own destiny and were able to concentrate on what was important to them.
We recently had a client aged 40 years, who met with us regarding his separation from his Wife, who was aged 44 years. The parties were married for 10 years and they had one child together who was 6 years old.
The family home was jointly owned and worth approximately £430,000 with no mortgage. The parties had joint savings of £3,000. Our client held various investments in his sole name that he had inherited prior to the marriage, totalling £340,000.
Our client's pension assets totalled £130,000, whereas his Wife had one pension with a transfer value of £78,000. In terms of income, the parties had very similar salaries.
The issues they needed to resolve included:
- Co-parenting their son for the future;
- The division of assets and whether our client's inheritance should be treated as matrimonial property.
- The future housing needs of both parties.
One of the key benefits to mediation is that the parties have control over their own destiny and can focus on the issues that are important to them. In this scenario our client was very concerned about retaining his pre-marital assets. Mediation is an environment that can promote negotiation and compromise and can help with keeping the heat out of separation. This is of course particularly important, especially where children are involved.
Following a successful referral to mediation, the parties were able to agree the arrangements for their son. The parties proposed to share their son's time equally between them and therefore neither party felt it reasonable for there to be any form of child maintenance paid by one parent to the other.
With regard to the parties' finances, the parties proposed that the family home would be transferred into our client's sole name and simultaneously with this; a lump sum would be paid to Wife so that she could purchase a new property. It was agreed between the parties, that Wife would not seek a claim against our client's pre-marital assets and that way our client was able to release capital to meet the Wife's interest in the family home and other matrimonial assets, and to offset the pension difference that existed.
Often, people expect separation to be a long drawn out process but mediation can be straight-forward and helps spouses resolve matters efficiently and amicably. Once agreement has been reached, the parties will return to their solicitors who have been advising them through the process and they will provide advice on the terms that have been negotiated. The agreement will then be recorded in a Consent Order and submitted to the Family Court for approval but there is no need for Court attendance.
Mediation is not always appropriate in some cases, such as where there is domestic abuse and coercive control but even in cases where it is appropriate, it may not always be successful. During the mediation process, parties will be discussing highly emotive issues which sometimes mean that negotiations are not successful. In these circumstances, the parties can still try to negotiate a settlement through solicitors or formal court proceedings.
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.
Our family law experts Christine Plews and Flora Grossman are both qualified family mediators and Christine is accredited by the Family Mediation Council. During a mediation they will provide legal and financial information in an impartial way to help you understand the options available to you. The choices and decisions are yours and the mediator will not make judgment about your individual or joint situation, nor provide advice on your ‘best interests’. They will help you both to reality test the options and discuss with you both which solutions might work best for you and your family. They often work with other professionals such as accountants and counsellors to enhance the process.