Hybrid Mediation

Hybrid mediation is an excellent alternative for couples seeking to resolve issues arising out of their separation or divorce with support from their solicitors, but without having to go through the court system.

The Covid pandemic threw into sharp focus the huge problems in the court system, with cases often taking several months even to reach the first hearing stage and up to 18 months or more to reach final hearing.

Given the continuing chronic delays in the courts, hybrid mediation offers separating couples a much quicker, more cost-effective and bespoke route to resolving their issues, whilst retaining support from solicitors through their process. 

Please explore further information on Hybrid Mediation below, including answers to frequently asked questions.

  • Hybrid mediation combines elements of the family and civil models of mediation (hence the name). Unlike traditional family mediation, where the participants’ lawyers tend not to attend mediation sessions and instead advise clients between sessions, in the hybrid model the participants’ lawyers can be directly involved in the process. They frequently attend sessions with their clients, often throughout the process.

  • One of its key aspects is the mediator’s ability to hold private meetings with the participants and their lawyers where the mediator can ‘hold confidences’. This means that one participant can explore options for resolution without this being passed on to the other participant; in turn, the mediator can get a better idea of what lies behind each participant's negotiating positions. The confidence will only be released by the mediator once a participant explicitly directs this.

  • In hybrid mediation, financial disclosure takes place in a format agreed by the participants. Crucially, the mediator cannot hold confidences over financial disclosure, which always needs to be shared openly.

  • Although the participants can decide together what format they want the financial disclosure to follow, if the participants wish this can follow the same format as a court-directed process – i.e. with full disclosure by way of an exchange of Forms E, questionnaires and joint reports on properties, pensions and business assets. Crucially, however, this can be done at the participants’ pace and often a great deal more quickly than a court process.

  • The mediator remains ‘the case manager’ throughout, ensuring that the process remains on track. The lawyers’ role is to give independent legal advice to the participants throughout the process.

  • Hybrid mediation can be conducted in higher conflict situations than traditional mediation; people in these situations often attend mediation sessions with their lawyers in separate rooms from their separating partner. Please see below for further details.
  • Hybrid mediation can be used by a couple who are seeking to resolve any issues arising out of their separation – whether those issues are financial (property, division of capital, maintenance, pensions, business assets or any other matters) or children issues. We offer hybrid mediation for all issues (both financial and children issues).

  • While traditional family mediation works well where issues are more straightforward and situations are lower conflict, hybrid mediation can be suitable even in the most complex of cases. The participants’ lawyers’ high level of engagement in the process means that a team of professionals properly supports the participants throughout.

  • It can be appropriate when there are significant issues of power imbalance or high levels of conflict. Whilst hybrid mediation can involve participants attending in separate rooms or in one room, in higher conflict situations the participants (with their respective solicitors) often attend in separate rooms. The hybrid mediator shuttles between the rooms, so the process is suitable even for those who feel unable to sit in the same room.

  • The fact that the process can be conducted with the participants in separate rooms with their lawyers throughout means the process can suit not only complex cases and situations with high levels of conflict, but also situations where there has been domestic abuse - or where one or other participant has a personality disorder. 
  • While hybrid mediation can take place in person, it can also take place entirely online: we have conducted many hybrid mediations entirely via Zoom and other video platforms. When the process is online, we allocate breakout rooms to the participants and their lawyers at the outset of the process. If participants prefer, we can also offer hybrid mediation where one participant wishes to attend our offices in person with their lawyer, and the other prefers to attend online with their lawyer.

  • As a result, the process has no geographical constraints. We have acted in cases as the hybrid mediator on cases where participants and their lawyers have been at different locations across the UK or, indeed, internationally. 
  • Speed. Whereas a court process can take many months, or even years, a hybrid mediation process can be resolved within weeks. Meetings can be convened at short notice, particularly as the process can take place online.

  • It’s cost-effective. It takes less time and lawyers can be involved at mediation meetings, rather than advising between sessions. A hybrid mediation process generally costs a fraction of a fully contested court process. Crucially, it is intended to reduce conflict and stress, which sometimes, sadly, can be significantly heightened in a contested court process. 

  • It can be conducted entirely online if you wish, removing the need to travel to sessions in more formal settings. Participants can either attend remotely with their lawyer at their lawyer’s office and dial in to sessions. Or they can dial in from the safety and security of their own home - without needing to visit and office or court room.

  • It can be suitable for complex cases. Whereas traditional mediation has sometimes been seen as inappropriate for more complex cases, or cases with a higher level of conflict or abuse, hybrid mediation can be suitable. As such, the range of cases suitable for the hybrid mediation approach is far greater. Hopefully a greater take-up of hybrid mediation nationwide will take pressure off the court system.

  • It is bespoke. Other professionals can be brought into the hybrid sessions to assist the participants with particular issues. For example, a financial advisor (a financial neutral) can be brought in to the process to help participants reality test possible settlement scenarios, using sophisticated computer modelling tools. Similarly, in a case involving a child, another professional can be brought in to meet the participants’ children and sensitively ascertain their wishes, or help the parents find a constructive way forward with regard to communication and co-parenting issues.  

  • Flexibility in finding solutions – ‘de-siloed thinking’ - is another benefit. The mediator’s ability to hold confidences increases the chance that, if an impasse is reached, it can be unlocked through creative, constructive negotiations. If an impasse is reached, it is very straightforward to move into other forms of resolving dispute out of court to reach an agreement – such as Early Neutral Arbitration or Arbitration. Accordingly, even if hybrid mediation does not result in a full agreement being reached, it should not be necessary, in the vast majority of cases, to ask the court to determine the outcome. 

  • It delivers better outcomes - tailored to the participants’ wishes and needs. Above all, participants in a successful hybrid mediation can reach an agreement without this being imposed on them by a judge. The agreement that they reach will be one that they have crafted with support from the mediator, their lawyers and whichever professionals are brought in to support at the sessions. Participants can also take advice from a barrister between meetings if they wish to. 

If you have a solicitor, they can refer you to a mediator who is trained in the hybrid mediation model, or you can contact a hybrid mediator directly.

Edward Cooke is an experienced, accredited hybrid mediator and can be contacted at edward@ecfamilylaw.co.uk. You can also call him on 01243 769001. Resolution also has a list of qualified hybrid mediators on its website at www.resolution.org.uk

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