The North East’s Specialist Divorce and Family Law Solicitors, Major Family Law comment on Lawyer Supported Mediation:

Whilst addressing the Family Mediators Association Conference the Family Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, said that at a time of significant change for the family justice system it was important for people involved in cases to have ownership of their arrangements by coming to decisions themselves – as they do through alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation.

He highlighted recent work by the Ministry of Justice, including setting up an external advisory group of experts to improve practice and make sure family mediation is focussed on the best outcomes for any children involved. He added that work will continue with the judiciary, CAFCASS and with young people themselves to implement this.

He stated: “It is not the sign of a civilised family justice system to have more and more people litigating in court whether with lawyers alongside them or not. A civilised system is to have more people resolving disputes away from the often confrontational atmosphere of the courtroom”.

Alternative dispute methods such as mediation are shown to have a high success rate and outcomes are generally felt to be more positive as both sides have agreed the outcome together. Mediation has been encouraged and supported for many years by family lawyers who recognise its value and the many advantages mediation has to offer. Mediation works particularly well when coupled with legal advice and, with this in mind, Lawyer Supported Mediation is a welcome new addition to help deal with family disputes.

What is Lawyer Supported Mediation (LSM)?

Lawyer Supported Mediation works under a fixed fee structure ensuring that you are clear about your costs from the outset and that you remain in control of your costs from beginning to end.

LSM combines the work of a mediator and a solicitor who work in tandem. LSM ensures that a separating couple can discuss and work together to resolve their issues with a neutral mediator and receive independent legal advice alongside. This means that each person is fully informed before they begin the process about the consequences of any agreement that they might reach.

How it works

If LSM is of interest then you will receive a free initial consultation during which your solicitor will be able to discuss your particular circumstances and explain in detail how the process works. After the consultation you will then be sent a written estimate of your costs which will be on a fixed fee basis.

Your partner will also be offered the same free consultation with another participating solicitor. If you both decide to work within LSM you will then be introduced to your mediator who will again meet with you both individually to listen to your concerns and explain their role. The mediator, who may be a family solicitor as well, will facilitate discussion between you as a separating couple to help you resolved any issues. If you are willing and able to have such discussions there is a strong chance that you will reach agreement.

Your lawyer will offer you a number of pre agreed advice sessions throughout the process so that you are aware of the legal position. A mediator cannot give you advice during the process.

Once agreement has been reached your solicitor will draft any documents that need to be drawn up to finalise matters and will ensure that all necessary steps are taken to make your agreement binding.

Generally those couples committed to mediation manage to reach agreement. If for any reason this is not possible and you need to go to court to finalise matters you will be able to continue working with your chosen solicitors.

Mediation, and related legal assistance, continues to be supported by the availability of legal aid and with the addition of LSM now available, perhaps the family justice system will be seen to move away from an often litigious one to, as Simon Hughes says, a “more civilised one”.