Going to court should be a last resort to resolve most family disputes. The pandemic has exacerbated the significant delays in the adjudication of many family cases. The courts have made clear that all parties, legal advisers and the judiciary should continue to have express regard to all forms of non-court dispute resolution.
Below we have some common questions answered about using hybrid mediation for family disputes:
1 What is hybrid mediation?
A combination of the civil and family models of mediation. It is particularly suited to high conflict or complex cases, as participants can involve their lawyers directly in the process giving them additional support, as well as direct and timely access to legal advice.
2 What are the benefits of hybrid mediation?
- Quicker: mediation can take place over the course of a day; Usually requires fewer sessions; outcome documents produced immediately;
- Cost-effective: takes less time, and involves less duplication of effort when lawyers are involved at the mediation meetings, rather than advising between mediation sessions.
- Reduces conflict: thereby enabling focus on the issues and outcomes in a calmer and more rational way;
- People are empowered and supported;
- Increases certainty of outcome: As people’s lawyers can be involved and the process is more efficient, there is less risk that someone may change their minds as can happen when advice is only sought between meetings;
- Confidential: People can confidentially explore options with the mediator without commitment or raising expectations.
3 What sorts of family issues can be sorted using hybrid mediation?
All manner of family issues, including financial matters (including those with an international element), children matters, inheritance issues and wider family disputes that may involve other family members such as parents or grandparents.
4 When is hybrid mediation appropriate?
Hybrid mediation is particularly useful in the following situations:
- When the issues in the case are complex
- Where separate meetings (which can be supported by lawyers) would be beneficial
- When either of the people may feel unable to sit in the room with the other person
- If there is an imbalance of power between the participants to the mediation;
- Where there are high levels of conflict;
- If there is a concern about domestic abuse, an imbalanced power dynamic, or another reason why either person finds it hard to have a voice;
- Where an element of confidentiality is needed.
5 How is hybrid mediation different from other family mediation?
- People can have the support of their lawyers directly and throughout the process;
- People (and their lawyers, if needed) usually sit in separate rooms;
- The mediator can keep confidences, to assist in reaching a compromised outcome;
- Meetings can take place over a half or full-day;
- People do not have to delay discussions in order to consult with their solicitors between meetings;
- Other professionals such as neutral financial experts can be involved;
- Lawyers are better able to draft the outcome documents having been involved throughout, and can do so promptly as soon as agreements have been reached;
6 How does hybrid mediation work?
- Initial separate meetings with the participants to screen and explore the issues;
- (If lawyers are supporting) a meeting with both lawyers to discuss their role, the information needed, and the format of meetings;
- Hybrid mediation meetings then take place separately or jointly or a combination of both. Lawyers do not need to attend all meetings;
- Lawyers’ roles are to support their clients and give independent legal advice: the mediator remains in control of the process and discussions are between the participants;
- If a mediated outcome is achieved, the lawyers can immediately draft the necessary outcome documents.
7 Confidential meetings – what are the benefits?
People can discuss things with the mediator in a way they might not feel comfortable doing if the other person were also present. People can explore options with the mediator without commitment or raising expectations.
8 Confidential meetings – what sort of things might be confidential?
This is specific to each person and situation, but normally includes the reasoning behind options for settlement or the people’s hopes and concerns.
9 How do I arrange hybrid mediation?
If you have a solicitor they can help you find a mediator trained in the hybrid model, or you can self-refer. The resolution website www.resolution.org.uk has a list of mediators including those trained in the hybrid model. The mediator will talk you through the steps to getting the process started.
10 What are the costs involved?
Hybrid mediation is very cost-effective. The costs of the mediator in hybrid mediation are generally met equally by the participants but can be whatever proportions they decide.
Each person will be responsible for their own lawyer’s costs. The lawyers’ direct involvement in the process reduces the need for people to liaise with their lawyers between meetings. It reduces the need for inter-solicitor correspondence. Outcome documents can be produced immediately.