Mediation: a useful tool in Family Law Cases.

Mediation is basically a service to help couples in Ireland whose marriage has broken down and who have decided to separate or divorce and in some cases those couples who have already separated. The purpose of mediation is to help a couple negotiate their own terms of agreement while addressing the needs and interests of all involved. In particular, mediation where suitable can address the needs of the children of the marriage, if any.

However, mediation is not suitable for everybody and there must be some level of cooperation between separating couples in order that they can work out mutually acceptable arrangements on all of the matters pertaining to their marriage break up. Some of these issues include the following:-

  • Parenting the children.
  • Financial support and maintenance.
  • Access to the children.
  • Family home and property.

The family mediation service of Ireland has described the role of the mediator as follows:-

  • To see a couple together and help them settle their differences.
  • To create a climate in which neither party dominates but in which both parties participate fully in good faith.
  • To create and maintain an atmosphere of cooperation and responsibility to help couples deal with difficult emotional issues that can prevent them reaching an agreement.
  • To help couples reach an agreement that they believe to be fair and workable.

Mediation is a very helpful tool in any Family Law case and is becoming more and more popular for couples who have decided to separate. However, we find that it is not suitable for everybody and there must be a reasonable level of willingness to cooperate from both parties. Unfortunately, some couples go in to mediation and it ends up being a waste of time as one of the parties really has no interest in mediating and is simply using the tool of mediation as a delay tactic.

As regards the service, a professionally trained mediator would assist the couple to reach their own agreement. Both parties would usually attend and discussions are always confidential. It is paramount that the mediator does not take sides. Before a mediator will take on a case both parties will have to independently contact their mediator to confirm that they are happy to proceed with the mediation. Sometimes mediation can take up to six sessions lasting one or two hours approximately and the end result is a written document which is agreed between the parties setting out the principles of the couples agreement. This agreement can provide a very helpful framework that can be taken to the parties Solicitors to be drawn into a legal Deed of Separation or the basis of the consent for a Judicial Separation or a Decree of Divorce. Some mediators also offer a further service once an agreement is reached and this is a family session where a couple has reached an agreement. A session may be offered to parents to invite their children to discuss their new family arrangements. In certain circumstances this can also be a very important tool. Further information in relation to mediation can be found in a number of the full time family medication services in Ireland. Details of the various offices are available on the Department of Social and Family Affairs website.

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