Unless specified, this information relates only to England and Wales. If you live in Scotland, go to Parenting across Scotland for information and advice. If you live in Northern Ireland, go to NI direct.

If you’ve just split-up, getting a divorce, dissolving a civil partnership or have been separated for a while, you might need to sort out arrangements with your ex or other family members.

You might be able to sort these arrangements out between yourselves. However, sometimes this doesn’t work and so involving a professional mediator can help.

Family mediation is where an independent, trained professional helps you and your ex to work out an agreement about issues such as:

  • Arrangements for children after you break up (sometimes called custody, residence or contact).
  • Child maintenance payments.
  • Finances (for example, what to do with your house, savings, pension, debts).

If you go to court to sort out your issues, the judge will make the decisions. You will need to stick to those decisions even if one or both of you feel unhappy about them.

Mediation can help you stay in control. No-one will make you do anything against your wishes. The mediator will help you find a solution which works for you both and explain how you can make the agreement legally binding.

You are usually legally required to consider mediation before you can apply to a court to hear your case. They can refuse to hear your case until you have done this.

This involves going to a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

This first meeting with a mediator gives you chance to find out how mediation works and if it is right for you. They will also discuss how many sessions you may need, how much they will cost, and explain whether you can get legal aid to pay for mediation.

Most people who start mediation will reach agreement without having to go to court.

If you need to formally end a marriage or civil partnership, you will need to apply to the court to do this, but you will not usually have to attend a hearing.

Where can I go next?

  • Family Mediation Council

    The Family Mediation Council is the umberella professional body for family mediators. Visit their website to find out more about family mediation and to search for a local family mediator.

  • Black and White image of the crown
    Gov.uk- Legal Aid Checker

    Legal aid is available for family mediation for those who are eligible. This means mediation could be free for you. Find out if you can get legal aid at this tool on Gov.uk.

  • Citizens Advice - Mediation

    The Citizens Advice Bureau provide information about mediation and how it can help you and your ex-partner sort out disagreements when your relationship breaks down.