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Mediation has become an established approach of family lawyers to relationship breakdown – be it divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership, or separation between cohabiting couples. Many family lawyers also belong to Resolution, the foremost association for family lawyers and family justice professionals, which has a pronounced preference for avoiding conflict wherever possible, and provides a simple but effective code of practice.
Most family lawyers understand the value of sound financial advice when a relationship breaks down. It can be of enormous value for couples to have financial planning input when looking at options and trying to reach agreement regarding their separation and the division of assets.
As family lawyers and mediators, we are seeing an increase in the number of financial experts playing a role in the mediation process. So, if you are a financial services expert and want to know more about how mediation works and how you can support your own clients further, read on!
Financial planners, with the appropriate knowledge in divorce and financial remedy proceedings, can add a great deal to a mediation or round table meeting. They could be invited to join the meeting either as a co-mediator (if qualified to do so) or as a single joint expert. With the necessary experience in pensions they can often steer a pension-sharing negotiation to a pragmatic solution and/or they can offer advice on pension reports to demonstrate what it may mean in money terms. If need be they can also assist with framing questions to an Actuary where a pension report is required, which can speed up the process.
Financial advice across the entire range may be sought from a financial advisor, but there are particular areas which regularly require assistance:
The adviser can provide advice on how to get maximum benefit from their clients’ assets for their mutual joint benefit. More widely, knowledge of other financial matters such as investments, capital gains tax issues, equity release (with retired individuals), cash flow planning etc. can add an important dimension to the meetings, which will complement the skills of the family lawyer.
The best way for financial advisors to become involved with mediation is to build relationships with expert family lawyers who are also qualified mediators.
Family lawyers tend to be a sociable bunch, and there are regular opportunities to meet at social events or seminars, not only through Resolution but also via local pods (local groups of solicitors who join together to promote Mediation and other dispute resolution such as Collaborative Law). Building relationships and trust will establish working relationships for everyone’s mutual benefit.
We also suggest the following:
Significantly, mediators cannot advise. That often leaves them wishing/requiring specific advice to be given, particularly with regard to financial assets and financial planning. A financial advisor’s role can be invaluable in these scenarios, and fills a genuine gap in the process
In addition to mediation, these are two additional ways in which family lawyers deal with cases without going to court and which are helpful for financial advisors to be aware of: