Complaints Procedure (Mediation only)
If you have any concerns about our practice or the service you have received from one of our mediators, there are a number of steps you can take.
We are committed to providing a high quality service to all our clients and to treating our clients fairly. If you feel that something goes wrong, we want you to tell us about it as soon as possible. In limited circumstances a qualifying third party can make a complaint against a mediator. If you think this applies to you please see the separate section in this Complaints Procedure relating to qualifying third parties.
Our complaints procedure
If you are dissatisfied with a mediator’s practice or the service you have received we hope you would talk first to the mediator involved about your concern or complaint so that the mediator can deal with it immediately if they can.
If you feel that is not appropriate, or if you are still dissatisfied please contact Robert Williams. You can write to him at 5 Clifton Mews, Clifton Hill, Brighton, BN1 3HR; or email him at [email protected] or telephone him on 01273 646903 or 078807233.
Please set out as clearly as you can the nature of your complaint and how it has arisen.
- Within 5 working days of receiving your complaint (i.e. excluding weekends and Bank Holidays) we will send you a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint and, if necessary, asking you to confirm or explain the details of your complaint. We will also let you know the name of the person who will be dealing with your complaint.
- We will record your complaint in our central register, and open a file for your complaint.
- We will examine the relevant file and, if we need any information from you in order to investigate the complaint, we will request you to provide it.
- If it seems appropriate, we will suggest a meeting with you to discuss the complaint with you and, if possible, to resolve it.
- At the conclusion of our investigation, we shall send you a letter setting out our findings. If the matter has been resolved by a meeting between you and the person dealing with your complaint, our letter will confirm to you what took place and any solutions we agreed with you.
- Our aim will be to conclude our investigation and send you our letter setting out our findings or confirming what took place at a meeting within 30 working days of receiving the complaint or, if we need more time before we can conclude our investigation, we shall write to you within that time to tell you of the likely timescale.
- If, after we have concluded our investigation and written to you, you are still not satisfied, you can write to ask us to review our response. We will then review our response. We may suggest an external individual or body to review our response.
- We may (but are not required to) invite you to agree to independent mediation, in which case we will let you know what this process involves and how long it may be expected to take.
- Once these steps have been carried out, we will write to you confirming our final position on your complaint and explaining our reasons. We would generally aim to do this and write to you within 15 working days of receiving your request to us to review our response to your complaint. If the review is going to take longer, for example because further investigation is required or because we are inviting you to a mediation, we will write to you within that time to tell you of the likely timescale.
What to do if we cannot resolve your complaint
- The mediators working for us are all registered with the Family Mediation Council (FMC). The FMC regulates them and they must adhere to a Code of Practice and professional standards. If your complaint is about a breach of the FMC Code of Practice and professional standards you can ask the Family Mediation Standards Board (FMSB) to consider the complaint, if certain criteria are met. You can raise your concerns with the FMC at familymediationcouncil.org.uk/complaints-about-mediators/.
- As our mediators are working within a legal practice there are additional complaints routes available to you:
- It is possible to make a complaint the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority where the complaint concerns a breach of an SRA regulation as opposed to a complaint concerning a breach of the FMC Code of Practice. This includes any practice or regulatory issues, which you believe should be considered by the professional regulator of solicitors. Information about the type of complaint the SRA can help with can be found on their website: https://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems/report-solicitor/.
- You can raise your concerns with the Solicitors Regulation Authority at sra.org.uk. If your complaint is about poor service, it may also be possible for you to make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. The Legal Ombudsman might be able to help you if we are unable to resolve your complaint ourselves. The Legal Ombudsman cannot deal with a breach of the FMC Code of Practice/professional standards. The Ombudsman would look at your complaint independently and it would not affect how we handle your case. Before accepting a complaint for investigation, the Legal Ombudsman would check that you have tried to resolve your complaint with us first. If you have, then you must take your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman: i) Within six months of receiving a final response to your complaint and ii) No more than six years from the date of the act/omission; or iii) No more than three years from when you should reasonably have known there was cause for complaint. Information about the type of complaint the Legal Ombudsman can help with can be found on their website: www.legalombudsman.org.uk/helping-the-public.
You can raise your concerns for the Legal Ombudsman by calling 0300 555 0333 between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m;
Email [email protected] or write to them at Legal Ombudsman PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton, WV1 9WJ.
Qualifying third parties
- The following qualify as third parties who can make a complaint against a mediator:
- a prospective client who has been directly affected by a mediator’s professional behaviour.
- A person who has been invited to participate in the mediation process, for example another professional who attends a mediation.
- The following do not qualify as third parties:
- someone who has been contacted by a mediator after the mediator has seen their (former) spouse or partner or anyone else as a potential mediation participant
- in a situation where a mediator has signed a court form indicating that one person had attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) without notifying the second mediation participant or inviting them to attend a MIAM themselves.
- A mediator will not investigate a complaint made by someone who does not qualify as a third party and the complaint would not be accepted by the FMSB.
- Complaints that appear to be vexatious or of a purely personal nature do not have to be investigated by mediators. Complaints can be considered of a purely personal nature if they are discriminatory or focus on the personal attributes or circumstances of a mediator rather than their actions as a mediator.
- Complaints can be considered vexatious when:
- the purpose appears to be to intimidate, disturb, disrupt and/or unduly or unfairly pressurise the mediator or the FMSB;
- they are persistent/repetitive, and repeating the same or substantially similar complaints which have already been investigated;
- they are clearly unfounded and unsupported by evidence;
- they are irrelevant and relate to matters other than mediation;
- abusive or offensive language is used.
Family Law Partners
Edition: June 2022