Oxford Family Mediation firm explains the difference between dealing with your divorce in court compared to mediation

How Long Is the Process for Getting a Divorce Through Court? How Does Family Mediation Work? How Long Does Family Mediation Take? Find out the difference between dealing with your divorce in court compared to mediation

People often view the legal process as their first or only option when it comes to divorce or a family dispute. Going to court can be a lengthy process however, not to mention that it’s adversarial, stressful, and expensive.

Using family mediators, like ourselves, Rachael Oakes and Claire Colbert at Oxford based Family Mediation and Mentoring on the other hand is quicker, cheaper, improves communication and ultimately, leads to better outcomes for everyone involved in the longer term. So, how exactly do the two processes compare?

The Court Process for Divorce

If you decide to go to court to sort out the financial issues as part of your divorce you will have to lodge a Form A. The court then issue a timetable.

That timetable will contain 3 things;

1. A date by which all your financial disclosure has to be filed with the court and sent to your spouse using something called a Form E;

2. A date by which certain documents must be filed with the court ready for the First Directions Appointment (FDA). This will be things like a chronology, case summary, any questions you want to ask of your spouse’s disclosure and a summary of assets;

3. The date for the FDA.

At the FDA the Judge needs to know what the case is about so that directions can be made about all the additional information that has to be filed to prepare the case for the second hearing which is called a Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing (FDR). In advance of that hearing everyone must have exchanged proposals for settlement so that the Judge can try and help the couple reach an agreement so that a final hearing can be avoided.

If an agreement isn’t reached at the FDR then a final hearing will be needed. The couple are then effectively saying to the court that they can’t reach an agreement, so a Judge needs to decide what should happen.

At any point before a final hearing a couple can reach an agreement and prepare a “Financial Consent Order”. This document records the agreement and then has to be approved by a Judge. Once approved, that order becomes a binding legal agreement, and the court process ends.

How Long Is the Process for Getting a Divorce Through Court?

Managing a divorce via the court is currently taking around 12-18 months from the start to the end of the court process and sometimes longer if certain experts become involved.

The emotional cost of being in ‘dispute’ with a former spouse for so long can take its toll on your health, happiness, ability to move forward with life and of course, can also detrimentally affect children and other family members too.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Court?

The court process is also very expensive from a financial point of view. An average case costs each spouse a minimum of £12,000 - £15,000 + Vat but often the costs can exceed this. So that means that out of the couple’s assets a breathtaking minimum of £24,000 - £30,000 + Vat will be spent on legal fees.

If you have to go to court about your children, the costs and the timeline can be very similar.

How Does Family Mediation Work?

The process for financial divorce mediation, family dispute mediation or to work out a future co-parenting plan is very different.

Family Mediation and Mentoring is an Oxford family mediation service, and we’ve detailed below how our mediation process works. Initially, we will have a MIAM meeting with each person, which is charged a fixed fee of £126 per meeting. These are confidential meetings where the issues to be resolved are discussed and a number of other issues to ensure that mediation is suitable for everyone.

To conduct the mediation process, each spouse must also provide full financial disclosure before everyone can start to talk about how to agree on a fair settlement.

After the MIAM the couple move onto joint meetings. Since most of our mediation meetings are now online, as opposed to holding them at our Oxford meeting rooms, this means anyone can access our expert mediation skills from anywhere within the UK.

How Long Does Family Mediation Take?

An agreement is often reached in 3-6 meetings depending on the complexity of the issues involved. The timing of when these meetings take place is for a couple to agree but family mediation is such a flexible process that agreements are often reached in a couple of months.

This might take longer if experts are asked to prepare reports so that a couple have the necessary information they need before agreeing proposals. However, the process still remains much faster and cheaper than having to follow a court timetable.

Experts such as valuers, pension actuaries, business valuers and tax experts can be brought into meetings or just asked to do a report where necessary.

Lawyers can also attend mediation meetings if a couple would find that helpful.

Once proposals have been discussed the couple often get their own legal advice before agreeing to be bound by the proposals. A lawyer can then draw up the Financial Consent Order which is signed by everyone and then filed with the court for approval by a Judge so that it becomes a binding court order.

Family Law Information Service

Whilst working as family lawyers in our earlier career, we were conscious that many couples wanted to meet with us together to obtain an understanding of the steps and options involved in divorce situations before they thought about instructing lawyers.

Our specific expertise means that alongside family mediation, here at Family Mediation and Mentoring, we can offer a unique Family Law Information Meeting so that individuals or couples can obtain from us the information they need to help make informed decisions about what to do next. This service can also reduce the risk of conflict, help reduce legal fees and aid people if they are representing themselves in the family court.

How Much Is Family Mediation UK?

The mediation process costs on average £5-7,000 + Vat which is usually shared by the couple, so it is a process that costs significantly less than going to court. A lawyer will often agree a fixed fee to prepare the Financial Consent Order, normally £1,000 - £1,500 + Vat and court fee.

Co-parenting plans can take 3-5 meetings to agree and if a couple want to, a lawyer can then be asked to prepare a formal co-parenting plan. Rarely is a court order required although sometimes this is needed if a court process has already started and a couple use mediation to reach an agreement about issues such as schooling, medical treatment or parents moving away.

If qualified to do so, the mediator can also meet with the children to give them a voice in the process.

The costs are broadly the same for preparing a detailed co-parenting plan but there is a government voucher scheme which can provide £500 towards the costs of meetings.

How Do I Go About Family Mediation?

If you think mediation might help you reach an agreement and avoid court, contact us and we will talk to you about your particular circumstances. You can book a free call on our website www.familymediationandmentoring.co.uk or email us at hello@familymandm.co.uk or call us on 0800 206 2258.

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