Do I still need a Lawyer if I decide to mediate?

Do I still need a Lawyer if I decide to mediate?

Date Posted: November 2, 2021

The core principles of family mediation are that mediation is voluntary, mediators are impartial, mediation is confidential and without prejudice, except in certain very limited circumstances and, crucially in this context, that decision making in mediation rests with you the client (which requires the mediator to be neutral, offering information but not advice).

Whilst a mediator gives legal, as well as practical, information, he or she can never offer advice to either participant (‘this is what would be better/best for you/your family’). To do so, would infringe impartiality and risk taking the power to make decisions away from you the client.

There are many areas where it is important that you have advice as to which route to follow. For example, should there be spousal maintenance and, if so, should that be for joint lives or for a fixed term and, if so, should that be extendable or not and should it end/ be suspended or continue on cohabitation of the payee? Or in children matters whether there are safety/safeguarding concerns that need to be heard through the court system and adjudicated upon. You may choose not to take the legal advice that you receive, but in order to make decisions that are genuinely ‘informed’, you need to understand what the law is and how it applies to your individual matter and what the long-term implications of certain options might be for you.

The mediator can provide information as to the options and as to the factors to be considered but may not advise either of you as to the legal implications of these important choices for you personally. The relaxation of rules and guidance by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Council and The Law Society as to how one lawyer/ professional may act for both parties to a separation, and the rise of direct access Barristers and of bodies such as “Our Family Wizard”, “Amicable” and “Managed Divorce” mean that there are low-cost options out there for you to access.

So, it very much depends on the circumstances of your individual case and ultimately the choice is yours to make however obtaining legal advice, we believe is an important part of the process.

Sara Collins

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