Mediation sessions are run by professionals who help you try to reach an agreement without going to court.
Mediation isn’t relationship counselling and you don’t have to be in the same room as the other parent.
Choose Professional mediation if...
You both want to reach an agreement but need help from someone who is independent.
- it’s quicker than court in most cases
- can be cheaper than using a lawyer
- less conflict between parents
- helps children continue family relationships
- agreements are flexible
- you’ll need a consent order to make agreement legally binding
- process won’t work unless parents can co-operate
Understanding family mediation
Step 1Find a mediator
Mediator rates can vary depending on their experience and your location. Some offer reductions if you’re unemployed or on a low income.
Check with the mediator before booking and don’t be afraid to shop around.
Step 2Book initial meeting with mediator
You must then meet with the mediator to check if mediation is right for you.
This initial meeting is called a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
The other parent will need to see the mediator too. They can either come to the same MIAM as you or have a separate meeting with the mediator.
At the meeting the mediator will explain:
- how mediation works
- the benefits
- whether it’s right for you
- the likely costs
- if you’re eligible for mediation through legal aid
- other options available to you
If you apply to court only authorised mediators can carry out a MIAM. Check with the mediator before you book.
Average cost of MIAM per person
Estimated fees may vary depending on your location and the experience of the mediator. Some mediators offer reductions if you’re unemployed or on a low income. It may also be cheaper if you attend together. If you or the other parent are eligible for legal aid you both will qualify for a free MIAM.
Step 3Attend mediation sessions
Mediation usually takes place face-to-face with the other parent over several sessions. Each session lasts about 90 minutes.
You can choose to have mediation:
- in the same room
- in different rooms (shuttle mediation)
- on different days
- with your children (child-inclusive mediation)
- with a lawyer (lawyer-assisted mediation)
During the sessions the mediator will:
- discuss what your options are
- make sure you and the other parent both have a chance to speak
- tell you when you might need further help (for example pension advice)
- ensure you make decisions together that are in your children’s best interests
Average cost of mediation per person
Estimated cost based on an average of 3 sessions. Fees may vary depending on your location and the experience of the mediator. Some mediators offer reductions if you’re unemployed or on a low income. Legal aid may be available for mediation.
Step 4Get agreement in writing
If you both reach an agreement the mediator will write down the details. This isn’t legally binding but is flexible so you can both agree to update it if your situation changes.
Making your agreement legally binding
You can ask a lawyer to draft a consent order if you or the other parent prefer to make your agreement legally binding.
This can be useful if your arrangements are long and complex or you think you need a more formal agreement with the other parent.
GOV.UK has more information about consent orders and making your agreement legally binding.
Other types of mediation
Your mediator may suggest that you and the other parent sit in separate rooms while the mediator ‘shuttles’ between you. This is a good option if you’d prefer not to meet the other parent face-to-face or don’t feel safe to do so.
Shuttle mediation is usually more expensive than standard mediation because it’s a longer process.
This is different to standard mediation because you and the other parent can both hire lawyers who attend sessions with you. Your lawyers can also help with shuttle mediation.
As mediators can’t offer legal advice you may want to choose this option if you have a lot of complex legal issues to resolve.
You’ll need to consider the additional cost of a lawyer if you select this option.
If your children understand your situation you can ask them to attend so a mediator can hear their wishes.
Talk with a mediator first about whether it’s suitable to involve your children and remember to check if your children are happy to take part.
You’ll need to make sure your mediator is qualified to offer this service before booking.
When mediation may not be suitable
Child abuse or neglect
You shouldn't make arrangements with the other parent if you think they:
- are abusing your children
- are neglecting your children
- have a drug or alcohol problem that’s affecting your children
You can report a concern about a child online to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
Mediation with the other parent may not be suitable if you think they pose a threat to you or your children’s safety.
Find out more about signs of domestic violence if you’re unsure whether you’re a victim.
Report domestic violence when it’s safe to do so and you think you’re a victim.
Professional mediation resources
The Family Mediation Council has more information on the mediation process and how it can benefit you.
Download a mediation information pack from the Ministry of Justice.
Advice Now has a guide to using mediation following separation.
Find out more about lawyer-assisted mediation