Mediation by Zoom

1 Jul 2020 | Lisa Pepper

At Osbornes, our Family Law mediations are in the main, conducted by Zoom during lockdown as our  main office in Camden is closed.

First steps

When you contact us for mediation, the first step is that we carry out a conflict check on both clients names, to check that the mediator isn’t conflicted to act , which we would be if either party had instructed us previously.

The mediator then has a telephone conversation with both clients prior to the first mediation session.

The initial information is provided to clients by email, so we need to know if either clients have an email address that needs to be kept confidential from the other. Both clients are asked to complete a Mediation Information Form which can also be found at the very bottom of our mediation page. Once completed, return to familymediation@osborneslaw.com . On receipt of your form, a mediator will call you within 48 hours to start the process.

Suitability

The mediator decides if the clients are suitable – if you are in the same house you may not be.

Intake Meetings and MIAMs

The mediator can have an “Intake meeting” with each client, individually if they wish, so that they can meet the mediator (on Zoom) beforehand, this would last c.30 mins and is charged at £250 + vat per client (the same as our MIAM rate). We do not however insist on an intake meeting; often clients prefer to get started sooner rather than later and once we’ve had a telephone call, are comfortable to proceeding to an actual first session of mediation. More information can be found about MIAMs here: here and here .

Separate rooms

You can be in separate virtual ‘rooms’ in Zoom mediation so do not need to see each other if either of you wishes – the mediator can ‘shuttle’ between you. The mediation is voluntary so only happens in a way both clients are comfortable.

Secrecy

The mediator cannot ‘hold’ a secret.  Anything that the client tells the mediator, must be able to be shared with the other client, or the mediator can’t act.

Advice

Although not essential for the first mediation session, it is preferable if both clients each have a solicitor in the background to give legal advice between sessions as and when the client needs it.  The benchmark as to what is fair is – what would a Judge think? Because the mediator cannot advise, s/he can only give very limited information about that. Clients very much benefit from having a solicitor in the background, to call from time to time. It is recommended that clients instruct a solicitor who supports the mediation process and is known for out of court dispute resolution.

Without prejudice

The negotiations are Without Prejudice.  This allows clients to make proposals, discuss options and offer compromises without the fear that these suggestions will be repeated in Court, should clients be unable to reach agreement.  Two exceptions to that: (i) when discussing matters concerning children, such negotiations are never Without Prejudice; and (ii) financial disclosure is not Without Prejudice, i.e. you cannot say you have £50,000 in an offshore account and later try to argue this shouldn’t be mentioned in court proceedings because it was said in a Without Prejudice mediation.

Documents

Because mediation is without prejudice, the process is not legally binding.  Any summary document recording the “agreement” that the clients reach, produced by the mediator, is therefore not legally binding.

In financial mediation, a Memorandum of Understanding is produced by the mediator if you are able to reach conclusions, and summarises the non binding “agreement.”  That is accompanied by an Open Financial Statement (OFS) which sets out financial disclosure that you provided to each other – i.e. lists the assets and the agreed values you ascribed to them in the negotiations. The OFS  is ‘open’ and not without prejudice – because financial disclosure is not without prejudice as above.

With regards to arrangements for the children, the mediator can help you draft a Parenting Agreement – again this is non-binding.  More information about Parenting Agreement can be found here.

Costs

There are 4 Family Law Mediators in the team: David Leadercramer, Bridget Thompson, Andrew Watson and Lisa Pepper. The sessions last an hour and a half.  We prepare an attendance note of each session and send that to clients by email.

In terms of costs, the fees payable in advance of each session are £400 + VAT for a 1½ hour session with Bridget Thompson, Andrew Watson and Lisa Pepper. David Leadercramer’s fees are £295 + vat per hour.  This fee does not include any additional work arising from the mediation, for example drafting documents such as a Memorandum of Understanding or Parenting Plan – but we generally agree such work in advance with clients on a fixed fee basis.

Next steps

If you wish to discuss the possibility of mediation with one of our mediators, please call for a confidential discussion on 020 7485 8811 or email our Family Mediation Team

Blog post written by Lisa Pepper

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