Family mediation is the process by which the participants, whether parents, spouses or ex-partners are able to sit in a room with a mediator and talk through their plans for their family’s future. This may be in relation to the family finances, property and the arrangements for their children.
Reaching an agreement in Mediation
The hope is that the participants will reach an agreement in family mediation. This agreement is then reflected in a Memorandum of Understanding and, if discussing finances, an Open Financial Statement. These documents are not legally binding. Once you have these two documents and the family mediation process has come to a conclusion; the participants will need to take the documents to a family lawyer who will draft the agreement into what is known as a Consent order, this order will reflect the agreement reached in Mediation.
Mediation agreements and court
The consent order is then filed at court, and once considered by the judge and approved is legally binding.
If the participants are mediating over the arrangements for their children and reach an agreement, this again will be reflected in a Memorandum of Understanding. There is no need, at this stage, for this to be set out in a court document. The court operates a “No order principle” when it comes to orders made in relation to children; therefore if there is no need for a court order, where the parents have reached an agreement themselves, then the court will not wish to intervene; this is very different from the financial aspects of mediation. In those circumstances, the arrangements for the children which have been reached in mediation can either be simply reflected in the MOU, or can be set out in a Parenting Plan. It is important to note, that a Parenting Plan is not legally binding but relies on the agreements reached between the parents and for them to take ownership of the arrangements.