Separating Couples Mediation Donegal

Separating Couples

Relationship breakdown can be very emotional and stressful. Mediation can help by offering a framework for separating couples to make informed decisions with the help of a trained professional. Research shows that over 80% of mediated cases are successfully resolved at the mediation or shortly after. Mediation is less divisive and less expensive than litigation.

Mediation provides a safe space for you and your ex-partner to come to agreement in relation to decisions about your children, the family home, finances and the future. The process ensures that you are both treated equally and given equal right to be heard in a safe space, and to have your wishes discussed and taken into account. Mediation is different to the adversarial court-based system. With the help of a professional mediator, you and your ex-partner can make your own decisions about your unique situation and that of your family, rather than having a Judge make these important decisions for you. Mediation allows you choice and control.

Quite often in the society of today couples who want to separate are tied together because they are forced to remain under the one roof – because of negative equity and a lengthy mortgage. Mediation encourages a separating couple to co-operate with each other in working out mutually acceptable arrangements on all or any of the following:

  • The Parenting arrangements of children
  • Education, schooling or childcare arrangements
  • Family holidays and special occasions
  • Financial support
  • Presents and financial gifts to the children
  • Family home and property, division of assets
  • Other problems related to the separation
  • Relationship and contact (if any) into the future

The mediator is neither a judge nor an arbitrator and does give decisions on the rights or wrongs of the actions of the parties. The mediator actively supports both sides in identifying their issues and needs, and in exploring how these needs can best be met. Mediators use their expertise to support and facilitate the separating couple as they work through the issues that concern them. The mediator encourages and assists the parties to listen to each other, to understand the needs of each side and to find a workable and lasting solution.

Mediation fosters good communication. The mediator ensures that the parties have gathered all of the relevant information and that both sides are fully informed of the necessary information pertaining to the issues being mediated, whether in relation to their children, their finances or other specific issues. The mediator will advise the parties to seek advice on their rights prior to, and during, the process..

Because of the neutral position of the mediator they can difficult questions should the need arise. The parties make the decisions and the mediator will reality –test proposed decisions, and manage and documents agreed decisions into a written document if the parties so wish. The mediator ensures that all issues that the parties want to discuss are addressed and encourages full disclosure of all assets and finance. The parties are encouraged to seek legal advice on any settlement which can then be made into a legally binding agreement as part of their separation.

The Process

When the mediator is appointed, they will contact each of the participants individually in a pre-mediation session to explain the process and to get an overview of the issues. The mediator will request the parties sign up to a Mediation Agreement. This explains the mediation process, as well as setting out that all discussions are totally confidential, are treated as without prejudice and are in a genuine attempt to settle the dispute. This means that anything discussed during the mediation cannot then be used as evidence in any future legal proceedings.

The mediation joint session usually takes place off-site at a neutral venue and with the mediator and all the parties present. A virtual service is also offered if parties cannot attend for healthcare or other reasons if this is suitable to the dispute itself.

During the mediation a separate room can be made available to allow the participants an opportunity to talk privately with the mediator, themselves, or their legal representatives. All information given to the mediator during the mediation’s separate discussions will be kept confidential, unless express permission is given to offer it in the interest of progress.

The mediator often goes back and forth between the parties to seek an agreement between both sides before bringing both parties back together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do we have to meet face to face?
Usually it is more productive if participants meet in the same room but there are occasions where this is not suitable to the particular dispute. In these instances mediators will meet participants in adjacent rooms going from room to room meeting each participant individually.

In addition, more recently the use of virtual technology has increased and the sessions can be held in meeting rooms such as Zoom and other online platforms.

Do I need a solicitor?
No. You will not need a solicitor in the mediation session. As mediation is very informal it isn’t like a court hearing. There is no legal argument. The participants know their own situation best and will be invited to discuss what is important to them and suggest anything that might help to resolve the conflict in a way that takes into account the needs of both.

There is however a number of complex legal disputes where solicitors are in the room. They are there to provide legal advice to their own participant and at their own expense. They usually will not participate in the discussions unless invited to do so.

If participants reach a settlement they are advised to get legal advice before making the settlement legally binding.

When is the best time to try mediation?
Mediation can be tried at any stage of a dispute and shows that you are willing to try to look for a positive solution. If there have been previous communication problems mediation may calm the situation and help people to focus on what is in everyone’s interest, rather than leaving an ongoing situation to exist.
Can I bring someone with me?
Yes. With the agreement of the other party a participant can bring in a support person to the joint mediation session. This person usually does not speak unless invited to do so. Due to the informal nature of the process many situations can be adjusted to suit the needs and objectives of the participants. You may also find it helpful to be able to “phone a friend”; it all depends on the nature of the dispute, and what help you think you might need on the day.
Is it too late if the case is already in court?
No. Mediation can be commenced at any stage of a dispute. It is never too late to mediate; it can even occur during a civil case in court. The courts are increasingly recommending mediation in civil litigation procedures as a way to move matters forward and to minimise the costs of a lengthy and expensive civil trial which may have taken a number of years to reach a hearing date.
How long does mediation take?
Mediation can be arranged promptly; usually within days or a week, depending on the parties’ other commitments.

The mediation itself rarely goes over two hourly sessions per day unless progress is being made towards a settlement. Sessions can be adjourned for information to be sought, legal or expert advice to be obtained, for a bedding-in period of a settlement or for a number of other reasons.   Cases differ depending on the nature of the dispute. Separating couple mediation for example usually takes no more than five sessions.

If the mediator feels that no real progress is being made he/she will suggest ending the process.

Can it take place online?
Yes. Though it is not ideal in mediation it is not necessary for all concerned to meet physically. There are a number of online meeting platforms such as (Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet etc. These are particularly useful when the mediator speaks to the participants individually in the pre-mediation session.
Can I suggest to the other party to mediate with me?
Yes. You could broach the subject with them in an email or in person asking if they are familiar with mediation and if they would be willing to try it.

You could refer them to this website and ask them to have a look at it.

They could call our office or request a call -back and the mediator will explain the process and answer any questions they might have.

Do I need a mediator from outside the area?
In some cases if the issues are particularly sensitive or if the participants prefer a mediator who will not be known in the area or that they themselves will not be known in the area then the service is available outside the immediate area and the mediator will travel to a neutral area for the clients.