Family mediation for separating couples
What is mediation?
Mediation is a service to help couples in Ireland who have decided to separate or divorce, or who have already separated, to come to agreement in relation to decisions about the children, the family home, finances and the future.
In mediation, a trained mediator helps you to negotiate your own terms of agreement in a safe space, while addressing the needs and interests of all involved. Mediation allows you and your ex-partner to make your own decisions, rather than going to court and having a judge make them for you. Mediation can be an effective, cheaper and quicker alternative to court.
Mediation is not marriage counselling or a legal advice service.
Who is mediation for?
Mediation is for married and non-married couples. It also assists same-sex couples who have decided to separate, and parents who have never lived together but have a child or children to take care of. In certain circumstances, it can also assist in disputes within families.
How can mediation help?
Relationship breakdown can be very emotional and stressful – making it particularly difficult to agree decisions in relation to living arrangements, finances and childcare.
Mediation encourages a separating couple to co-operate with each other in working out mutually acceptable arrangements on all or any of the following:
- Parenting the children
- Education, schooling or childcare arrangements
- Family holidays and special occasions
- Financial support
- Family home and property, division of assets
- Other problems related to the separation
The role of the mediator is to:
- See a couple together and look at the issues to be discussed and agreed.
- Create a climate in which neither party dominates but in which both parties participate fully in good faith.
- Create and maintain an atmosphere of co-operation and responsibility.
- Help couples deal with difficult emotional issues that can prevent them reaching agreement.
- Help couples reach agreement that they both find acceptable.
How does mediation work?
For mediation to work, both parties must confirm their willingness to attend.
Mediation is a process, which means there is a structure and formula in how it is delivered. The issues discussed depend on the needs and wishes of the separating couple.
With the help of a mediator, the couple systematically consider each issue, explore their options and come to decisions. The parties are encouraged to get expert advice such as legal or financial advice to ensure that the separating couple can make informed decisions that they both find acceptable.
Discussions are confidential and the mediator does not take sides.
How long does it take?
Mediation usually takes between 3 and 6 sessions. Each session lasts approximately one hour.
What is the outcome of mediation?
Most mediations end with a written document, sometimes referred to as a Note of Mediated Agreement, that sets out all the details of the couple's agreement.
The type of agreements that may be reached include:
- Comprehensive agreements: which cover all issues resulting from the separation including finance, parenting, accommodation etc
- Parenting agreements: which address parenting issues and support good parenting models
- Financial agreements: which cover the finances and assets of the couple
- Interim agreements: where the parties make an agreement for a specific time frame
- Partial agreements: which addresses a particular issue or issues
The mediated agreement is not a legal agreement, however, you can bring this document to a solicitor to be drawn into a legal contract or deed of separation. You may also use it as the basis for a decree of divorce.
Parenting, children and mediation
The mediator can ensure that the voice of the child is heard during the mediation process, helping to minimise any damage to the children caught in the middle of parental disputes.
Parenting plans may be reviewed in light of the changing needs of the children as they progress through school or teenage years. This can be facilitated by the mediator at a later stage and can be written into the mediated agreement.
Private family mediation
The Mediators’ Institute of Ireland (the MII) is the professional association for mediators in Ireland.
Private family mediation services are available throughout the country. Private mediators charge in a variety of ways (daily rate/hourly rate/flat rate). Contact the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland for a full list of approved and accredited mediators in your area or go to mii.ie to find a mediator.
The Family Mediation Service
The Family Mediation Service is free.
The Family Mediation Service is provided by the Legal Aid Board. You can find a list of Family Mediation Service offices, as well as information on the Family Mediation Service on the Legal Aid Board's website. They also have a leaflet on the service (pdf).
For an appointment, both parties must contact the service and confirm willingness to attend. There can be waiting lists to access this service.