Fathers are often very surprised that one of the first things we ask them to do when they are seeking access their child - whom they might not have seen for a very long time - is to seek mediation.
Their frustration arises because, by the time a father has approached us, it is often as a last resort. They might have been trying to resolve matters with their ex-partner for some time and have finally come to the conclusion that it is simply never going to work.
We know that approaching a lawyer is scary - it's almost a sign of admitting defeat, that you can't do this alone. You might also be worrying about the money future proceedings will involve and be grappling with a feeling of a lack of control once you pass your case into someone else's hands. It might have taken you a very long time to have decided which lawyer you can trust and you might still be uncertain once you've booked your lawyer.
So, the last thing you want to hear, when you come to us, is that you have to go back to your 'unco-operative' ex-partner and try to mediate. Mediation is often something that people see as 'an attempt to get back together'. It isn't. It's usually a less expensive, less stressful way of trying to resolve as much as possible, before the costly and painful process of litigation has to take place. In any event, you have to do it, in order to even begin Court proceedings. So, we are not being unrealistic or difficult in asking you to commence mediation before we will take on your case, but we are acting in your best interests, which is fundamental to our ethos here at Greycoat Law.
So...before you begin court proceedings you are required to attend a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM). In mediation, an impartial, trained mediator, not connected with your case, helps you and your partner to sort out your disputes. As stated previously, mediation is not about getting back together. It's a chance for couples who are splitting up to meet with a professional who can help you to make arrangements for any number of things, including your children, your money or your home.
You should attend a mediation information and assessment meeting before you begin court proceedings in order for your application to be processed. The mediation information and assessment meeting does not take long and will provide you with an assessment of your situation and whether mediation could solve your problems.
Depending on your personal circumstances you may need to pay for the meeting, but it’s important to bear in mind that successful mediation can reduce costs for you in the long term (lawyers fees and Court costs are expensive, regardless of who you appoint - litigation should be a last resort, not your first option).
You may be able to get help with the cost of mediation. For more information, go online to www.gov.uk/legal-aid
But what happens if mediation is unsuccessful?
Read Part 2 to find out what to do - at that point, you would be considering applying for a Court Order.
It might help you to read all 3 parts of this blog (Part 1 is on mediation, Part 2 is on completing the appropriate paperwork and Part 3 is on the Court process). We've also produced a podcast which lasts less than 15 minutes and you can listen to it whilst you're out and about. It contains the same information as our blogs, but with a few extra insights thrown in by Isabelle Parasram, our Head of Legal Practice: