Family Mediation

Mediation is a process in which an independent third party, a mediator, help a couple involved in divorce or separation resolve the practical issues that arise from the breakdown of their relationship. The mediator facilitates communication and negotiation and promotes voluntary decision making by the parties to a dispute to assist them to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

In this context mediation is not about helping the couple to reconcile.


Mediation Benefits

There are many benefits to the mediation process. The couple set the pace and the content of the mediation, while the mediator controls the process. This means that the individuals retain control of what is happening.

Mediation can also benefit the couple in improving communication. The process of mediation is a safe place to talk and express emotion, enabling proper discussion to take place of contentious issues.

Mediation can deal with any practical issue that the couple would like to be dealt with, for example;

  •  who the children should live with
  •  how often should the children see the other parent
  •  detailed financial issues including maintenance & issues relating to pensions


Divorce & Separation in Ireland

In the case of both separation and divorce, Irish family law allows for spouses to agree all aspects of a marriage breakdown including; custody or access to children, financial issues, including maintenance and issues relating to pensions as well as the family home.

While separation differs from divorce in many ways, the main difference is that separated couples are still legally married and therefore neither party can remarry.

A divorce allows either party to remarry. In order to get a divorce in Ireland, the spouses must be

  1. living separate and apart for at least four of the previous five years
  2. there must be no prospect of reconciliation and
  3. there must be arrangements in place for the maintenance and welfare of the two spouses and any dependent children


Deed of Separation by Mutual Agreement

If a couple can agree on the terms on which they will separate it is possible to deal with the breakdown of their relationship by means of a document known as a deed of separation or separation agreement.

The content of a deed of separation is usually negotiated and drafted by the couple’s solicitors in accordance with their respective client’s instructions. The deed of separation is then signed by the husband and wife. Once the separation agreement is signed, it becomes a legally binding contract setting out each party’s rights and obligations to each other.

The main issues dealt with in a separation agreement are as follows:

  • An agreement to live apart
  • Agreed arrangements in relation to custody and access to children (access, guardianship & custody of children under 18)
  • The occupation and ownership of the family/shared home and any other property
  • Maintenance and any lump sum payments
  • Indemnity from the debts of the other spouse/civil partner
  • Taxation
  • Succession rights (both parties usually give up their inheritance/succession rights, under the Succession Act 1965, to a share in the estate of the other)

It is not possible to deal with a claim to be entitled to a share of your spouses’ pension fund in a separation agreement. This can only be done by obtaining a court order called a Pension Adjustment Order.

Alternatively, the terms of the separation agreement can also be agreed either through a mediation process or through a collaborative family law process.