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What happens if we decide to try mediation?

You can contact a mediation service direct, or your solicitor may refer you to one. The mediation service will offer you an assessment appointment, which is usually free. If the mediation service sends you a letter, it will normally say whether the assessment meeting is free. If not, just phone and ask them.

The mediation service will ask you to bring proof of income and will assess whether mediation is suitable for you.

The other person in the dispute (called the opponent) will not usually attend your assessment meeting. They will usually have a separate meeting with a mediator, but you can choose to attend the assessment meeting together if you wish.

At the assessment meeting, you will find out whether you will have to pay for mediation, and if so, how much this may cost. You will also be given more information about what mediation involves and be asked whether you agree to attend. If family mediation is provided under legal aid, then the costs of mediation itself are always free from the 'statutory charge' and there is no system of financial contributions towards the costs of mediation.

What is the statutory charge?

The statutory charge is a way of repaying legal aid that you have used in a civil case about money or property. If the case has resulted in you keeping or gaining money or property, we may recover the legal costs from your opponent or by asking you to repay them out of the money you have kept or won. In such cases, legal aid is a kind of loan.

If you have used legal aid to recover a property that you plan to live in, then we may not ask you to repay the legal aid immediately. Instead, we may register a charge against your property, which means that when you do eventually sell it we will get our money back from the sale proceeds. Until then, you won't have to repay your legal aid.

The mediator will also ask you for basic information about the dispute so that they can assess whether mediation is suitable in your circumstances.

If your case is suitable and you are willing to attempt mediation to try to resolve your dispute, you will be offered a date for your first meeting with your former partner. At that meeting, both of you will decide the important issues that you want to discuss in mediation and the mediator will explain again what is involved in mediation.

Each mediation case is different, as the people involved are different and the disputes are always very individual. Some cases may take longer than others, and in some cases some of the issues get resolved, but not all. In other cases, mediation narrows down the issues in dispute and allows the parties to focus on what's important.

If mediation results in the parties agreeing on the issues in dispute, the mediator will write a report and send it to everyone involved in the mediation, including lawyers if necessary.

If mediation does not result in agreement, the parties in dispute can still take court proceedings, if necessary.

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