helping to make change positive

How Mediation Works

How Mediation Works

The first step in the process is to attend a meeting known as a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is a confidential meeting with the mediator in which you have an opportunity to discuss the situation and to consider and reflect whether mediation might be a suitable process in which to move your issues forward. If it is, the mediator will then contact the other party and invite them to attend their own MIAM.

If mediation is not suitable or if you are not willing to mediate, the mediator can issue your MIAM certificate. This is proof that you have attended the MIAM and will be required should you wish to issue a court application.

Joint meetings

If having attended separate MIAMs, both clients wish to mediate and the mediator is happy that the matter is suitable for mediation, then a joint session is arranged. Typically, these last around 1.5 hours. Depending on the issues, clients may need between 3-5 meetings usually spaced out over a course of a couple of months.

The meetings are an opportunity for you to:

  • Communicate with each other with the help of the mediator
  • Feel heard and understood
  • Work together in a practical and future-focused way
  • Think creatively and realistically about how your issues might be narrowed or solved

The mediator’s role is to help you communicate, but also to manage the agenda and process. It’s important that momentum is maintained and that each meeting offers new ideas and progress. If the mediator believes that you are ‘stuck’ or a different approach is required, this will be shared openly and discussed. Once an agreed proposal is reached this can be documented by the mediator and ultimately made into a legally binding document by a family solicitor.

Why use mediation?


Mediation is a great place to start with opening up conversation and dialogue. This might be between two parents who are struggling to speak with each other, or two people who are separating and who have become caught up with lengthy legal proceedings where they can’t see the wood for the trees.

Mediator input

At Rathbone Family Mediation, we are experienced practitioners with many hundreds of hours of mediation practice. Your mediator will help you both to:

  • make sense of your situation
  • adopt a future-focused approach
  • provide the opportunity to speak openly about how you would like things to be

The mediator will also give you a sense of how others have reached decisions in similar situations, to consider what might work and what might not, in a form of reality-testing. They will also be able to point you to other relevant professionals who might be able to assist (pension or divorce experts, financial planners, therapists etc).

Most people in mediation also decide to take legal advice at some point. This can be really important and can help you in working out a settlement you can live with.

A sense of control

Mediation allows you to create and craft your own agreements. It allows you to maintain control over this hugely important process so that your own thoughts and feelings can be part of the decision-making. For people who end up going to court, the decisions are often taken out of their hands and are made by others who do not know them or their children.

Better outcomes for children

If you are able to work out your own arrangements for your children yourselves, this normally leads to longer-lasting and more stable outcomes. Mediation provides a basis from which you are able to make more flexible and collaborative decisions which can be varied or tweaked as part of a healthy co-parenting relationship. Children may also be part of the decision-making process, something known as Child Inclusive Mediation.

Quicker, less expensive and less stressful

The court system is currently creaking under the weight of an unsustainable caseload. Working out your arrangements in mediation is proven to be many times quicker than trying to process a claim through court, which can take many months, and in some cases, years. Most mediations take around a month or two to reach a successful conclusion, and often sooner than that. Mediation is also far less expensive than a court action. Many of our clients agree that it is often more sensible to save the many thousands they may spend in court, particularly when they know there is no guarantee of success.

Although mediation is a direct process, it is generally less stressful and more empowering than a conflicted court case. Once clients reach court, they are often assisted by a legal team, and this can become a very conflicted, stressful and unhappy time. Many find that once they take the court route, their co-parenting relationship suffers and is often made immeasurably worse.

Mediation is not:

  • Therapy or couple-counselling. Occasionally people do reconcile in mediation but it is unusual and is not the purpose of the process.
  • An opportunity for two people to abuse each other or air grievances from the past.
  • One person’s day in court. The mediator is not a judge and will not be making decisions for the clients.
  • A magic wand. Both parties are expected to contribute and take ownership of their decisions.
  • An opportunity for both parties to receive free legal advice. Mediators are not allowed to give legal advice (or any other) as they have to remain impartial. However, mediators can give you information and an idea of what other people might do in similar situations.
  • Legally binding. However, clients’ agreements are normally documented by the mediator, and if they wish them to be legally binding, they need to apply to court for a Consent Order. This is where legal advice comes in handy and is often done as part of the divorce process. For clients who are not married they can instruct solicitors to draft a Separation Agreement or Deed of Separation.
Mediation offers the chance for clients (particularly parents) to work together and rebuild with the goal of establishing a long-lasting and positive co-parenting connection.