Family Mediation Services (Fee based)

What is Family Mediation?

It is a process by which separating parties seek to reach agreement about issues arising from their separation/divorce, in particular, in relation to their children, property and finances.  Mediation is different from individual and couple counselling.  The couple discuss the issues they want in the presence of an independent and trained third party – the Mediator – who will facilitate the couple reaching proposals as to how they are going to separate.

The Mediator helps parties to:

Focus on the needs and feelings of the children:
An accredited mediator with West Sussex Mediation Service is qualified to directly consult with children (when appropriate and agreed between the parties)

  • Find practical solutions
  • Help you to make sure things will work in the future
  • Reach joint decisions
  • Improve and maintain communication

Benefits of Mediation

  • Mediation is less stressful than going through the Courts especially for any children involved
  • Is cheaper and quicker than going through a long drawn out Court battle
  • Follows the parties’ pace rather than a Court timetable – you have control of the process
  • Helps reach proposals which are more likely to last and in certain circumstances agreements made in mediation can be made the subject of Court Orders (and therefore legally binding).
  • Is confidential and private


How does mediation work?

Our mediators are all accredited with the Family Mediation Council and work under the Resolution code of practice. Mediation therefore provides a supportive professional forum in which parties may be helped to deal with all their issues arising from a relationship breakdown. Mediations are usually conducted by a sole mediator, but where appropriate a co-mediator may also become involved. Mediation is undertaken with the parties together, either in the same room; in the same building; or using an online platform such as Zoom.

The ground rules for mediation are that it is voluntary; the mediator has to remain independent and impartial; and is a confidential process (unless exceptional circumstances apply). All discussions/proposals in mediation are off the record but can be shared with your solicitor for the purposes of independent legal advice (which is actively encouraged).

(Initial) Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)

The parties meet with the mediator so that the parties and the mediator can consider suitability for mediation. As the manager of the process it is the Mediator who makes the final decision as to whether mediation is suitable. At this stage if mediation is assessed as being unsuitable then a MIAMs form can be completed which is required for the issue of proceedings about finances or children in the family court.

Joint Mediation Sessions

The parties will then meet with the mediator for one or more sessions which generally last approximately 1.30 hours. The number of sessions will depend on the issues, five or six sessions are not uncommon, but more or less may be needed. The frequency of the sessions are as agreed between the parties and the mediator.

If an agreement is reached between the parties then the Mediator is able to draw up a Summary of Proposals which is not legally binding. For agreements in relation to property and finances the Summary of Proposals and financial documents prepared by the Mediator may be used by your solicitors to draw up a legal binding document.

Why choose West Sussex Mediation Service?

We offer highly competitive fees as we are a charity and not profit driven
Years of mediation experience
We can arrange meetings convenient to your location, using an online platform, if assessed as being suitable
Our mediators are from different backgrounds and offer a range and breadth of experience
See our leaflet for more information or contact us

Our Mediators

Heather Foster

Heather Foster

Heather Foster qualified as a Chartered Certified Accountant in 1983 and has been a Finance Director in industry, public and charitable sectors. She graduated in law from London University in 1997, specializing in commercial law and then volunteered with Mary Ward Legal Centre as a debt adviser and later a Director of that Law Centre. Heather then trained as a commercial mediator and was accredited through the Centre for Dispute Resolution in 2005. She then extended her accredited mediation offering to include Workplace and Employment in 2013.

Heather trained in family mediation through National Family Mediation in 2014, and became an accredited FMCA mediator through Family Mediation Council in 2018, having completed a course in family law through CILEx Law School. She has volunteered as a family mediator with West Sussex Mediation Service since 2015.

Sarah Mellish

Before choosing to become a lawyer, Sarah Mellish trained and worked as a secretary (Diploma in Secretarial and Business Studies) and as a librarian (Associate of the Library Association) in London and the South East. Sarah moved to Brighton and then worked, as a secretary, in a family law firm who allowed her time out to train as a legal executive. Sarah qualified as a legal executive in 1986 and as a solicitor in 1989. She was in private practice as a family lawyer for approximately 40 years. During that time she was a member of a number of Law Society Accreditation Panels to include Family Mediation, Family Law and Children/Child Care.

Sarah has worked as a mediator since 1998 achieving accreditation status in 2001 with Resolution. Sarah qualified to consult directly with children in October 2009. Sarah also qualified in other dispute resolution processes being collaborative law and family arbitration. For the last eight years of her professional life, Sarah was an equity partner in a small four partner specialist family law firm well known in the Brighton area. Sarah retired as a solicitor in November 2019 and from January 2020 has worked for West Sussex Mediation Service on a voluntary basis.