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This is where a trained independent person helps family members who disagree about something important. For example, in relation to child care arrangements after a couple separate. A mediator will try to help those parents to reach agreement before or without having to go to court. It is not a form of counselling.
Mediation can help if there is disagreement about child maintenance or other financial matters. Mediation can also help when arrangements agreed in the past need to change. Previous agreements might need to change, for example, because children are getting older.
The mediator is impartial and does not take sides. The mediator can help by making sure discussion remains focused on the needs of the child. They may meet an older child separately. They will seek the young person’s views on particular matters in order to inform the adults’ discussions.
The mediation process is voluntary. It is the people taking part in the mediation who reach agreement and make the decisions. No one can be forced to agree to anything against their wishes.
It is important to note that informal agreements reached in mediation are not legally binding. If parties to mediation want therefore to formalise any agreement reached in mediation to ensure it is kept to, then they can apply to court for a consent order.
It is a requirement that anyone wanting to apply to court for a private law order about a child must first meet with a mediator for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Mediation is not required however if there is evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, or if an application is urgent.