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Mediation is an effective way of resolving disputes without having to have costly contested court proceedings. It involves using an independent third party – a specialist family mediator – to help the parties reach an acceptable outcome.

Mediation is a voluntary process and can only take place if both parties agree. Confidential discussions are not disclosed outside the mediation or used at a court hearing, although, there can be no such thing as confidential financial disclosure. If parties are unable to reach agreement in mediation, they can still seek assistance on resolving issues using other Alternative Dispute Resolution means or the Court system.

Both parties normally share the cost of mediation, which will depend on the value and complexity of the claim. Parties can consider using mediation at any stage - even before entering the court process. The mediator remains neutral throughout the process. The focus of a mediation meeting is to reach a common sense settlement agreeable to both parties.

Mediation is certainly not an easy option. Parties may not have seen or spoken to each other for some time and there may be difficult emotional and/or complex financial issues to deal with. Parties in mediation have to work hard to reach a solution that works for them and their family with the assistance of a specialist family mediator. At the end of the mediation process, the mediator will produce a summary of the parties' decisions, which their solicitors can then use to produce a binding agreement or court order.

Mediation has many benefits; it enables the parties to retain responsibility for their own lives and to continue to co-operate as parents; it aims to reduce hostility, bitterness and misunderstandings and improve communication between the parties, where necessary mediation focuses on the children's needs to achieve sensible, lasting and workable arrangements.

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