How Mediation can support discussions around financial arrangements.

Specialist family mediator, Rachel Lemon raises awareness of Family Mediation Week (20 to 24 January 2020) by telling us how mediation can help resolve financial arrangements for separating couples in part 4 of her 5 part series.

Along with arrangements for the children, financial arrangements are often a priority for separating couples.

Separating couples may worry about their futures, will there be enough money for us both? Will our standard of living change? Will the children still be able to stay at their private schools? These are all natural concerns.

Mediation offers a quicker (and therefore cheaper) way to deal with financial arrangements on separation versus court proceedings.

Discussions about financial arrangements in mediation have a number of stages:-

What is there?

It is important both clients and I, as their mediator, have a good understanding of what there is. What are the assets? What income is available to the family (now and possibly in the future)? What pensions are there? If there is a business, what is the nature of that and can it be used to assist in meeting the family’s capital or income needs? A full picture is important.

There is a misconception that mediation is a “soft” option and a way for those who do not wish to disclose their financial position “getting away with” non-disclosure. That is not the case. I make it clear from the outset to both clients that I am not able to guide and support their discussions unless I know what there is. Equally, if both parties do not know what there is, they will lack sufficient information and confidence to come to the table to explore possible settlement options.

If there are questions about the information that has been provided, they can be easily dealt with in mediation – a simple question and answer session (which solicitors can help clients prepare for if necessary) can be useful to plug any gaps.

How shall we divide what there is?

Mediation provides a safe and confidential environment in which clients can explore all the options. Does it work for the house to be retained? Does it need to be sold? What does the end result look like in both scenarios? What are the implications of the options? Reality testing helps clients to explore the impact of each option.

When all the options are considered, when one favoured one comes forward, it is more likely to be received with confidence and acceptance as the clients have got there by exploring all the other options and “parking” those for reasons they have explored together. This process empowers clients, encourages them to take ownership and direct their lives where they feel is best for their family.

Once clients have got to a point where they have, through discussion, reached a preferable option to them, I draw that up in a document to enable them to take legal advice on it. The document I prepare is comprehensive and should make it straightforward for solicitors to advise and to then draw up into a consent order which can be lodged with the court. Communication is key regardless of what process separating couples use to resolve disputes. Mediation focuses on discussion. Other processes may do as well (although to a lesser extent) but in the main other processes have a heavier focus on correspondence which may slow things down, incur more costs and create distance between the clients as their “positions” become more entrenched.

If you require information about the process of mediation, contact Rachel Lemon on 01932 590 612 or at rachel.lemon@mundays.co.uk

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