Separating Couples & Family Law Mediation

Brian has spent several years acting as an expert witness in complex private family law proceedings across the District, Circuit and High Courts in Southern and Northern Ireland.

He has been well placed to see and experience families and couples navigate the adversarial process of the Family Law Courts for many years as well as the emotional, psychological, and financial devastation this brings to parents.

In particular he has observed the profound emotional, psychological and physical harms to children caught up in these lengthy adversarial processes.

Brian firmly believes in Family Law Mediation as an alternative to the lengthy, costly, adversarial and arbitrary court process that can last many years perpetuating conflict, adding to the emotional and psychological distress and potential harms to children as well as dis-empowering parents from making their own decisions about their own lives in a timely manner.

Couples will have navigated several adversities and made important decisions in their past relationship and their past lives that were a good fit for them and their families and children without having “experts” impose decisions on them that neither of them is happy with and/or do not reflect their individual circumstances, values and beliefs.

Why would you hand over the power and control now to services, agencies and “experts” that are under resourced and overwhelmed with workloads where you become just another “file” or just another “case”.

Brian invites couples who are separating and / or divorcing to retain the decision making and control of their lives at this difficult time from these “experts” in a process privileging the uniqueness of each family circumstance in a private, confidential, empowering, and dignified manner that reflects the values, beliefs of each parent and their hopes and dreams for their children’s welfare despite the dissolution of the marriage or relationship.

At Changes.ie the mediation we provide is a structured approach to mediation where we work towards creating agreements for example:

  • Parenting Agreements
  • Separation Agreements
  • Deeds of Separation
  • Consent Divorce
  • Family Disputes

Relationship Break-Down

Where a relationship breaks down the Mediator, who is an impartial third party, meets with two people, married, unmarried or in a civil partnership, who are considering separation or have separated, and wish to formalise the separation or divorce, and/or parents who wish to agree structured parenting arrangements, and assists them to identify problems and explore possible solutions.

The mediator’s role is to facilitate and encourage open communication and full disclosure between the parties, who participate voluntarily and in good faith, in an atmosphere of co-operation and responsibility, to reach agreement that they both find acceptable.

The process encourages the parties to reach informed decisions about their children, finances, property, division of assets, and any other relevant issues, and where necessary, includes the assistance of accountants/tax advisors with the consent of the parties. Where parenting agreements are constructed, the mediator encourages feedback from the children, preferably direct feedback where the children are of an age to express an opinion before the agreement is signed.

How does it work?

Usually both Parties attend an initial consultation with the Mediator. During this consultation the nature and purpose of mediation is explained, informed consent is given by signing the Mediation Agreement, and the ground rules are set out.

The Mediator will then encourage both parties to speak openly about their needs and requirements, with equal time given to both. It is important that the parties understand that mediation is not a counselling service, nor is the Mediator a substitute for independent legal advice. The main purpose is to reach a settlement by concentrating on the issues and to look for practical solutions, through structured negotiations.

Mediation is an alternative to the adversarial litigation route which often incurs significant costs and can result in decisions being imposed upon the Parties by the courts.

At the first consultation the Mediator will endeavour to identify all the relevant issues, by investigating the perspective of the parties, and will encourage the parties to agree the elements that will form the basis of an Agreement. During subsequent consultations the Mediator will help the parties to explore options and alternatives and help them to negotiate and make decisions, which will then result in a draft agreement.

Settlement

When the Parties settle at mediation, their joint decisions will be recorded in a written Agreement drafted by the Mediator and signed by the parties. This Agreement is a formal contract, and like any contract can be binding and enforceable, therefore it is recommended that the Parties seek independent legal advice before signing. This is particularly important where the Agreement is a formal Separation Agreement or a Formal Consent Divorce Agreement and may involve seeking legal advice earlier in the mediation process.

Where the parties have difficulty in coming up with options for any element of the process, the mediator’s role can change to that of conciliator, with the consent of the parties, and options can then be suggested by the mediator.

Why Attend Private Family Mediation with Changes.ie

Changes.ie has offered a private family mediation service to clients within Ireland. We also mediate in cases where there are international families, so long as one party resides within the Irish State.

Private mediation has, in our experience, several advantages over the alternatives such as litigation and the state-funded family mediation service.

We can’t guarantee an outcome, but we can guarantee we’ll put in the time and effort to give your case the very best chance of success.

Time

Changes.ie can offer appointments to all clients within 10 days of their first call to us.

District Court cases for access and maintenance may take many months and it may take 2 years or more for an actual hearing on the matters of Judicial Separation or Divorce.

Usually when one parent is dissatisfied at that point, they may appeal a decision of the District Court to the Circuit Court resulting in several more years of legal costs, emotional turmoil perpetuating the conflict and the harm to children and young people. Many of our divorce and separation cases reach a final settlement within 4 months from the date of client inquiry.

Cost

Private Mediation is significantly cheaper than litigation. While you may need to pay other experts such as solicitors, accountants, and professional valuers to get legal and financial advice on the settlement terms under discussion, the total costs for many clients to conclude separation or divorce agreements with Changes.ie are generally less than 20%, and often less than 15%, of the typical legal costs for equivalent litigation.

We’d be happy to discuss comparisons with any prospective client. We believe this is excellent value given the level of support and engagement our clients receive.

Legally Enforceable Outcomes

Unlike the mediated agreements from the state-funded family mediation service, Changes.ie private clients can and, in practice almost always do, decide their agreements are legally-binding. This is permitted under Section 11 of the Mediation Act.

Our understanding is that clients who come to family mediation want to be taken step-by-step through a structured process by mediators who have significant knowledge of family law.

Our mediators help clients understand and manage the process, while making sure they get independent legal advice at the appropriate junctures. This is intended to produce legally-sound agreements from the mediation process, rather than reaching a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) which needs to be redrafted, and often renegotiated, by clients’ legal advisors.

We can’t take the pain from relationship breakdown, but we can ensure a less painful process for separation or divorce.

Financial Disclosure

We insist that all financial documents used to vouch affidavits of means will be exchanged between the parties and their solicitors. This information is exchanged outside of the mediation process to disincentivise mediation being used to mislead a party into agreeing to terms that are less than equitable.

Option Development

Under the Mediation Act 2017, mediators can, with the permission of the parties, suggest options when the parties are finding it difficult to agree terms of compromise. Mediators cannot impose terms and they are merely talking points for further discussion and refinement. They are however very useful, in our experience, in assisting clients to broaden their thinking beyond the classic win/lose arguments in litigation.

Improve Communications

An aim of mediation is to improve communications and understanding between the parties even if they can’t reach terms of compromise. Mediation is a non-adversarial process and parties are encouraged to be open and honest with each-other regarding their reasons for proposing or rejecting options.

Respect and fairness are emphasised, safe in the knowledge that they can consider settlement terms in their own time and that the content of their negotiations remains private and won’t be used against them in future litigation.

Safety

Where one or both parties feel uncomfortable, or even unsafe, to negotiate in the same room as each other, they can opt for Shuttle or Separate Mediation in separate rooms or negotiations at different times and/or locations.

Flexibility of Time, Location & Online Dispute Resolution

Changes.ie offices are based in Stillorgan and Laois, but we can also meet clients in comfortable meeting rooms in Kilkenny, Limerick, Galway or Cork.

Parties are often met outside of office hours to facilitate their working schedules. Where parties are too busy with work, traveling or reside too far away from each other for face-to-face meetings, we use video conferencing facilities to assist individual and joint discussions.

If you are committed to retaining control over your own decision-making process in a private, confidential, and dignified manner while optimizing the emotional, psychological, and physical outcomes for your children across their lifespan.

Take the first step today and schedule a consultation with Brian to see if Family Law Mediation is for you, simply contact Brian at brian@changes.ie or call +353 87 777 3128.