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Clarion launches hybrid mediation service to help divorcing couples stay out of court

Sarah Manning, lead mediator at Clarion

Leeds law firm Clarion, which is committed to helping couples resolve disputes amicably, has added another option to its family services with the launch of a hybrid mediation model to help clients with any children or financial disputes to reach agreement without embarking on a costly, time-consuming and potentially stressful court process.

Senior associate Sarah Manning has recently completed hybrid mediation training and has been accredited by Resolution as a specialist in this niche area. Hybrid mediation, which has only recently been introduced by Resolution, is a means of resolving disputes in an amicable, non-confrontational manner that meets the needs of both parties. Unlike the standard model of mediation, both parties are able to have their legal advisers and other professionals present, as well as the mediator being able to hold confidences in order to assist in the negotiation process.

“As a firm, we always start by assessing whether mediation is a viable option. Often mediation is a quicker, more amicable and less stressful process, as well as allowing all parties to retain some control over the outcome rather than relying on the uncertainty of a judge’s decision if the matter was in court,” explains Sarah Manning, lead mediator at Clarion. “Up until now, the standard model of mediation was not appropriate in some situations, such as those involving domestic violence or complex, high conflict cases. However, this new hybrid model allows the mediator to hold confidences that do not need to be shared with the other party, aiding the mediator in assisting the parties in reaching a decision, and increasing trust and confidence in the mediator.”

“In high conflict cases or for more vulnerable clients who require additional support, such as those where domestic violence is involved or personality disorders, the fact that hybrid mediation allows parties to remain in separate rooms at all times with their legal adviser or even to participate via video conference calls, is a huge benefit.”

Ms Manning continues: “It’s also good news that the Government, having already funded £1m into mediation, has recently announced the extension of its voucher scheme, enabling new clients to claim £500 towards their mediation sessions to encourage more people with disputes involving children matters, to use mediation to reach a resolution. As the courts continue to struggle with the post-Covid backlog, it is an option more people are exploring.”

Justine Osmotherley, partner and head of the family team commented: “I am delighted that Sarah has now completed the hybrid mediation course and is able to expand our mediation offering to separating parties. The hybrid mediation model complements our overall ethos here at Clarion to explore alternative dispute resolution methods rather than proceeding straight to litigation. The concept is excellent for those parties in high conflict or for high net worth cases where traditionally mediation may not have been suitable.”

Having worked in family law for 13 years and qualified as a family mediator in 2012, Sarah Manning has a robust approach to mediation and specialises in children and financial matters. She has a wealth of experience in mid to high-net-worth cases, as well as dealing with overseas matters, complex pensions, and business owners. She was shortlisted in 2020 as ‘Mediator of the Year’ for the National Mediation Awards and is also a board member for Family Mediation Association.