Med-Arb - Information for Clients
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What is Med-Arb?
‘Med-Arb’ is a combination of two well-recognised forms of dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration. There are different ways of combining the two processes; at the moment, there is no single recognised ‘med-arb’ model being practiced in this country, and practices in other jurisdictions vary widely.
However, here at Felicity Shedden, I believe in offering our clients a full range of options to help decide on the future arrangements for their family; I strive to be at the forefront of developments in family and relationship dispute resolution.
I am proud to offer the first family med-arb solution available in this jurisdiction for family finance cases. Our idea is to combine some of the benefits of mediation with the advantages of arbitration, giving a single, streamlined solution that guarantees you an outcome to your case.
Before I commence any med-arb process, I will meet with you and your former spouse or partner, to discuss the process, so that you know exactly what you are signing up to. It is essential that you both understand that, once you have committed to the med-arb, neither one of you will be able to withdraw from the process without the agreement of the other, so you need to be absolutely sure that this is the right option for you before we start.
So what are the advantages of med-arb?
By combining the two processes, mediation and arbitration, I aim to give you the best of both worlds, in a single, cost and time efficient solution. The first phase of the process will be the mediation element. You and your former spouse or partner will agree to enter into mediation with an accredited mediation specialist, who will work with you both to see whether you can design your own outcome to your case. The mediator will remain neutral and independent, and will not take sides with either one of you. They will help you to gather together all relevant financial information in your case, to explore the various options available to you, and to work towards some agreed proposals for settlement.
Very often, the parties will reach an agreement in mediation, settling most, if not all, issues between them. If this happens in your case, the mediator will draft a document that you can take to your solicitors, recording your proposals. At this stage, your proposals remain ‘without prejudice’ and are not binding on either party, unless you choose to submit them to your arbitrator for us to make an award by consent, effectively making your agreement binding immediately. The advantages of reaching an agreed outcome to your case are numerous; it is likely that any arrangements will work better if you have come up with them yourself, rather than having them imposed upon you. Mediation is usually quick and cost effective, and you and your ex will retain control of your own decision making.
However, not all cases do settle in mediation, and it may be that you find you cannot reach an agreement on some, or all, of the questions that you are considering. In traditional mediation, if discussions break down, then you may feel that you have little choice but to issue an application to court and so commence the litigation process. When this happens, all of the discussions you have held in mediation are put to one side, and you start from scratch within the court process. You will be looking at all the costs and delays of lengthy court proceedings, and, with increasing pressures on our court system, it may be many months before you reach a conclusion to your case.
In our med-arb process, I will agree that, at any stage, either one of the parties or the mediator can end the mediation and the process will move automatically into the arbitration phase. Felicity Shedden or Mena Ruparel, who are both members of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
To avoid duplication of work, the financial information that you have gathered together with your mediator will be passed to the arbitrator, so that you do not have to incur additional costs preparing further documents unnecessarily. While you may want the opportunity to ask questions about each other’s documentation, this will not be required in every case. Furthermore, any additional documents that are needed can be targeted at specific issues, so that you don’t need to spend time and money gathering together papers that are not relevant to your particular circumstances.
Although the mediator will pass your financial disclosure to the arbitrator, no details about your discussions so far will be shared, so the arbitrator will have no information about any proposals that you have put forward in mediation, unless you choose to repeat those proposals openly.
Once you enter into the arbitration, you can ask the arbitrator either to decide all of the issues in your case, or, as often happens, if you’ve agreed most points but are stuck on just one or two last questions, you can ask the arbitrator to look only at those sticking points. Depending upon your circumstances and the remaining issues in dispute, you may not even need to have a hearing; instead, the papers can be sent to Felicity with your written submissions. Either way, I will give you a binding decision, known as an award.
I would usually expect the parties to meet our costs equally, although this could be subject to an alternative agreement between you and your former spouse or partner.
I believe that our med-arb solution will give separating couples a smooth and streamlined process, allowing them to reach their own decisions where possible, with the help of an expert mediator, but guaranteeing them a binding outcome, whatever happens. Our costs will be transparent and fixed from the outset, so that there are no nasty surprises or hidden extras.
To find out more, please contact us on +44 (0) 207 420 500, or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.