Mediation first not last!
Whilst there is no doubt in my mind that everyone involved in the legal system, ranging from the government to solicitors, should put far more energy than they currently do into encouraging people to mediate rather than litigate when they go through divorce, I have been mediating for long enough to realise that this is very unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Although it would be heartening to see a change that was driven by society rather than mediators, we need to accept as mediators that it is our role to make sure that as many people as possible know about the benefits of mediation.
Perhaps the key is to spread simple but strong messages and, in this spirit, I will offer one such message: “Anyone who is divorcing and who has assets to divide or who has children’s needs to consider should consult a mediator first!”
Mediation can be particularly effective, both from a results perspective and from a costs perspective, when there are significant assets (e.g. houses or pensions) or future needs (e.g. school fees or mortgages to pay) to discuss. The traditional legal system sends out the message that the only way to deal with these issues is to take an adversarial approach via solicitors, with the prevailing wisdom being that the higher the value of the assets then the more important that it is to fight your corner aggressively.
The reality is often quite the reverse. In many ways, the higher the value of the assets and the greater the potential difference in the positions of the respective parties then the more beneficial that mediation can be. I spend far too much time talking to clients who come to see me after spending very large sums of money on the legal process with very little progress to show for it and wishing that they had started mediation far sooner.
In the same way that water finds its own level, the legal system will adjust to the circumstances, with the resulting legal costs increasing in line with the size of the marital assets.
In contrast, mediation costs tend to be very similar, regardless of the scale of finances being discussed, and I frequently work with clients who could easily spends tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds through the contested legal system but who end up spending a tiny proportion of this in mediation whilst still ensuring that everything from financial disclosure to making important financial decisions is handled as sensitively and robustly as required for each individual situation, including encouraging both parties to seek legal or financial advice in parallel with mediation when appropriate.
So, please remember to consult a mediator first (not last) and please feel free to contact me if you would like to know more about the mediation process!
Tel: 01483 339379