Hybrid mediation – A useful guide for family law solicitors

Hybrid mediation – A useful guide for family law solicitors

Hybrid mediation – A useful guide for family law solicitors

As a family law solicitor, I’m sure you have no doubt referred cases to mediation and are fairly accustom to the traditional model of mediation. More recently, you may have heard the phrase “hybrid mediation” banded around and are wondering how this type of mediation may be beneficial to you and your clients. This guide aims to provide an overview of the hybrid mediation model, it’s benefits and how you as a solicitor can get involved in the process.

How does hybrid mediation differ from traditional family mediation?

The main difference between hybrid mediation and traditional family mediation is that the mediator is able to have separate confidential meetings with each participant. These meetings are a safe space to discuss matters privately with the mediator. And agree on what to feedback to the other party in order to progress the discussions in mediation.

Hybrid mediation often also involves inviting the parties’ lawyers to be part of the mediation process to advise and support their clients.

Why might clients want to involve their lawyers?

There are a number of scenarios where it may be beneficial to include parties’ lawyers in the mediation including:

  • where clients feel unable to put forward or consider options without their lawyer present;
  • Complex finance cases where it may be necessary to bring in other experts;
  • High conflict cases where communication has broken down;
  • Cases where there are safeguarding concerns such as domestic abuse;
  • In cases involving narcissistic personalities;
  • Cases where the parties have reached an impasse;
  • In cases where the parties disagree on a legal principle;
  • Cases already in contested court proceedings.

There are other scenarios where involving lawyers in a hybrid mediation may be advantageous. It’s always worth contacting a hybrid mediator initially to discuss whether this model would be appropriate.

What are the benefits of hybrid mediation?

As I’ve identified above, Hybrid mediation can be particularly effective in high conflict cases where parties feel unable to communicate their proposals directly in front of the other party, including where there are safeguarding concerns.

It enables each party (and their lawyers) to explore options in more depth with the mediator without feeling like they are over committing or making too many concessions too early in the process.

It enables participants to receive the appropriate legal advice and assistance throughout the process so they can make informed decisions. Which will aid the parties in moving towards a workable settlement in the mediation.

Participants have the comfort of having their lawyer by their side during the process. And have the ability to seek their advice during the sessions themselves which can help move beyond impasse.

Hybrid mediation allows for flexibility and creativity within mediation to give participants the best possible chance of securing a resolution and avoiding mediation breaking down unsuccessfully.

What cases are suitable for hybrid mediation?

Hybrid mediation can be adopted to help separated families in both children and finance cases. This can include issues relating to where children live, how much time they spend with each parent or specific issues such as schooling. In finance cases, the issues may involve property division, maintenance and/or pension claims.

Hybrid mediation particularly lends itself to complex finance cases where expert advice and support will benefit the parties during the process.

It is can be beneficial in high conflict cases or where there are issues of power imbalances which can be addressed through separate private meetings as opposed to joint meetings with the parties.

Hybrid mediation can also be used for mediating with non-married couples who may have a property dispute (TOLATA cases).

How to start the process?

You can refer your client to us for hybrid mediation by completing our mediation referral form and specifying that you would like the mediator to assess the suitability of hybrid mediation. The mediator would then discuss this with your client further in their initial mediation individual assessment meeting and collectively decide which mediation model is best for their situation. Alternatively, you can arrange an initial telephone call with the mediator to discuss hybrid mediation before making the referral.

If hybrid mediation is assessed as suitable, both parties (and their lawyers) will be asked to sign the agreement to mediate.

What is the role of the lawyers?

As a hybrid mediator, before I meet the parties for a joint session, I will meet with the lawyers separately to consider the key issues to be resolved in the mediation and explain what their role will be within the process. I explain that the lawyers are there in a supportive role and I share with them what I envisage the lawyers’ role to be in a joint session. I always explain to the lawyers that I will continue to speak directly to the parties and ask the lawyers to resist answering for them unless that is what the party themselves has specifically requested. If the party and their lawyer want to have private discussions so that the lawyer can share his or her advice without me present, I will leave the room and return when they feel ready to share their comments with me.

I will explain the agenda, format, and timescales for the meetings so that the lawyers have a clear understanding of how the process will work from the outset and there are no surprises.

How much will it cost?

All our mediation sessions are conducted on a fixed fee basis. Where preparation time is needed between sessions, this is charged separately. Our charges can be found on the fee section of our website.

I hope you have found this guide useful. I am always happy to speak to family solicitors about the hybrid mediation model and how it may be able to assist your client. Alternatively, if you would like me to present my workshop on hybrid mediation to you and your team, I would be happy to arrange this.

Laura Clapton

FMCA Accredited Mediator

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Laura Clapton
Director, Family Solicitor & Mediator
0113 887 4672
0786 023 2975

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Director, Employment Solicitor & Mediator
0113 887 4670
07736 252 681

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