What is financial mediation? How it works & how to prepare

If you're going through a divorce or separation, you might well be looking for a way to reach a fair agreement with your former partner regarding finances and property.

From deciding how you’ll split your money to what happens to the house after separating, there are lots of things to consider throughout the divorce process. In what is already an emotional time, it can be difficult to make sense of your options and understand the next steps.

That's where finance and property mediation can help.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know about financial mediation, including what it is, how it works and how to prepare.

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What is financial mediation?

Financial mediation is a process that helps couples who are going through a divorce or separation reach an agreement regarding their finances, property and assets. The process involves an impartial mediator, who works with the couple to help them identify and resolve financial issues in a collaborative manner.

Finance and property mediation can be used to address a wide range of family issues, including dividing property and savings after divorce, arranging child support, spousal maintenance agreements, sorting out pensions, and determining how to deal with any debts and liabilities. The mediator's role is to help both parties communicate effectively and work together to create a fair and mutually agreeable solution to their financial disputes.

The good thing about financial mediation is that it can be a cost-effective and efficient way to come to financial and property agreements during divorce, while also facilitating open communication and cooperation between both parties.

So, if you're wondering how to arrange your finances as part of your divorce or separation, and want to explore a collaborative and non-confrontational approach, financial mediation might be a great option for you.

How does finance mediation work?

Going through a divorce or separation can be a challenging time, especially when it comes to dividing assets and finances. If you are considering financial mediation, it’s helpful to understand how the process works, what’s involved and how to best prepare.

Financial mediation usually involves the following steps:

  1. Attending a Mediation Initial Assessment Meeting (MIAM)
  2. Disclosing financial information
  3. Joint discussion of priorities
  4. Exploration of the available options for financial agreements
  5. Reaching a financial agreement

Let’s take a look at these steps in more detail.

1. Mediation Initial Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

The first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This meeting will help you and the mediator determine whether financial mediation is suitable for your situation.

During the MIAM, the mediator will discuss the financial mediation process, the benefits, and what to expect during mediation. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have, learn more about what’s involved, and understand the costs involved.

2. Financial disclosure

Once you and your former partner have agreed to take part in financial mediation, the next step is to provide disclosure of your finances.

This involves gathering and exchanging financial information about income, property, savings and investments, debts, pensions and expenses with the mediator and each other. The mediator will work with you both to identify the relevant documentation that you will each need to provide. Both parties are expected to be transparent and provide accurate information to ensure that any agreements reached are fair and equitable. Only when the mediator has a clear and comprehensive understanding of the overall financial situation, can they help you explore all the suitable options for moving forward.

3. Joint discussion

The mediator's role is to facilitate open communication; your mediator will ensure that you both have an opportunity to express your views, priorities and concerns. The mediator will identify areas of agreement and disagreement and help you see the common ground that exists between you. Because the mediator remains impartial throughout the entire process, they can cut through the mass of emotions that cloud the participants’ thinking and help highlight the key issues for each of you.

4. Exploration of options for financial agreements

The mediator will help you explore various options for resolving your financial issues. The mediator will break down each issue into ‘bite-sized’ elements and provide the relevant legal context relating to each area. From here, they will help you identify viable options and possible solutions and explore these in more detail. This may involve brainstorming ideas, considering the implications of different options, and evaluating their feasibility.

The mediator will encourage you to consider the needs and interests of both parties to help you reach a fair and sustainable agreement. Usually, your mediator will have a legal background and will be able to give you information of how your decision will be seen in the eyes of the law.

5. Reaching a financial agreement

Once a preferred solution has been identified, the mediator will think through with you all the practical points that need to be addressed so that you can be confident that the solution is workable and realistic, and that it covers every aspect of the financial settlement. Assuming you and your former partner decide to go ahead with this chosen financial agreement, the mediator will prepare a summary of the agreement, usually referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding. This summary will outline the terms of the agreement and will be used by your legal adviser to create a legally binding document such as a consent order or a separation agreement.

How much can financial mediation cost?

Financial mediation costs will differ depending on the mediation service, as well as the complexity of the situation and number of issues. Everybody’s situation is different, and this reflects the variable nature of the typical cost. However, you can be certain that the cost of financial mediation will be significantly less than the cost of using an adversarial route such as negotiating via solicitors or an application to court.

To give you a better idea of the typical costs, find out more about our property and finance mediation fees.

How to make the most of your financial mediation

Preparing for each step of the financial mediation can help you feel more confident and involved during the process and increase the likelihood of reaching a successful resolution.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for financial mediation:

  1. Attend the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM):in the UK, couples are required to attend a MIAM before they can involve the court in their finance and property dispute. This is so that they have the opportunity to find out about alternative ways to sort out their finances without involving the court, with all the cost, stress and delay that litigation involves. During the MIAM, the mediator will explain the mediation process, assess whether mediation is suitable for your situation, and answer any questions you may have. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about how mediation might work for your situation.

  2. Gather and organise your financial information:as outlined above, having the full financial picture is a vital first step in helping you understand your situation so you can explore the various options available to you. As part of the mediation process, the mediator will explain what documentation you and your ex will each need to provide. It’s vital you obtain everything asked from you as quickly as you can since missing pieces of financial information can cause delay and increase the cost unnecessarily.

  3. Understand your financial goals and priorities:consider what financial outcomes are most important to you and what compromises you may be willing to make. Understanding your priorities can help you stay focused during mediation and work towards a mutually acceptable agreement. It’s important to communicate your goals with the mediator, who can then help you explore the options available that might potentially fit within these goals.

  4. Look after yourself:negotiating a financial settlement is bound to be a stressful process even if mediation offers a kinder way of reaching an agreement than the court route. The other party may well have a very different perspective and it can be hard to stay calm when faced with this. The mediator will work hard to ensure both your views are heard by each other but the mediator has to be impartial so it makes sense to ensure you have at least one confidante with whom you can share the ups and downs of the process to give you support and encouragement.

  5. Consider seeking legal advice:it's important to understand your rights and what is fair from a legal perspective. The mediator will recommend that you take legal advice from a family law solicitor to help you understand the legal implications of any proposed agreements.

By taking these steps, you will feel more confident and prepared as you work towards a mutually acceptable agreement with your former partner. Remember to approach mediation with an open mind and willingness to collaborate and compromise in order to achieve an acceptable outcome for everyone involved.

For more mediation advice, read our 9 tips for a successful mediation.

Are financial agreements legally binding?

Financial mediation agreements can be legally binding, but it depends on the type of agreement reached and the legal formalities followed.

If the parties in mediation reach an agreement on financial matters related to their divorce or separation, they can choose to formalise the agreement in a legally binding document. When it’s part of a divorce, this document can take the form of a consent order, which can be filed with the court for a Judge’s approval. Once the court approves the consent order, it becomes a legally binding order and is enforceable by law.

However, it's important to note that a financial mediation agreement that is not formalised into a consent order may not be legally binding, which is why it’s so important to use a professional legal expert to guide you. Your mediator will be able to help you understand more about the steps involved in making an agreement legally binding.

Can I mediate online?

In recent years, online mediation has become increasingly popular due to its convenience, accessibility, and affordability. It can be a useful and efficient way to resolve finance and property issues, all from the comfort of your own home, saving time and cost as the participants won’t need to take time off or pay for travel.

Unlike traditional mediation, online methods do not require both parties to be physically present in the same room. This is ideal for anybody who does not wish to be physically around their former partner. Overall, online mediation offers many benefits for those who are looking to resolve conflicts.

Speak to a financial mediator

Are you facing financial disputes in your divorce or separation? Speaking to a mediator about finance and property mediation could be the right choice for you. Choosing mediation over going to court can save you time and money, and help you reach a fair and sustainable agreement. Additionally, mediation is a confidential process that allows you to maintain privacy and control over the outcome.

If you are looking for a way to resolve your financial disputes and move on with your life, contact our mediators today.