Information about family mediation

Family mediation is a special social service provided for in the Marriage Act. Family mediation is most commonly used in a situation where spouses are contemplating the possibility of a divorce or have already decided to get divorced. Mediation may also be used to find a solution to disagreements arising after a divorce, for example if the divorcing spouses disagree on the meetings with their common child. The goal of mediation is to solve the disputes by way of negotiations and agreements between the parties. The mediator shall pay special attention to securing the position of the children in the family.

Cohabiting partners and registered partners may also use family mediation.

Updated on 5 August 2014
Ministry of Justice

What are the contents of family mediation?

Family mediation is a separate service provided within the social and family counselling services. The purpose of the procedure is to find a solution to the conflicts between the parties through discussions and negotiations.

The mediator shall be impartial in regard to both the matters to be handled and the parties involved. The mediator does not make any decisions on behalf of the parties, but assists and supports them in finding suitable and working solutions to their conflicts.

Mediation is meant to be a short-term arrangement, during which the mediator meets with the parties a few times. If needed, the mediator may also advise the parents to seek help from other services. For example child guidance and family counselling centres may help and support families in form of long-term therapeutic work. Municipalities and various NGOs also provide support and assistance in divorce situations free of charge. Information and guidance provided by an expert is also often available.

Participation in family mediation is voluntary.

Mediation is confidential

Family mediation is confidential. The mediator is subject to a stricter secrecy obligation than other social workers, which sets mediation apart from the other guidance and assistance services provided by the social welfare authorities. The mediator must not disclose any information he or she has received in the course of mediation to any third parties – not even to a court, should he or she be called to give evidence in a trial. The mediator has no right to acquire any information on the family from other authorities on his or her own initiative. The mediator is not, however, bound by the secrecy obligation, if a need for child welfare measures comes up during the mediation. In that event, the mediator is obliged to notify the child welfare authorities.

Child's position in a divorce situation

When parents get divorced, their relationship comes to an end but their parenthood does not. The parents continue to be responsible for the custody and maintenance of their child. Despite the divorce, a child has the right to maintain a close and safe relationship with both the parents.

The mediator shall pay special attention to securing the position of the child in a divorce situation. The mediator helps the parents to find an amicable solution to the everyday arrangements concerning the child. Questions that need to be solved are for example whether the parents have joint custody of the child, with which parent the child will reside, how often the child will meet with the parent he or she does not reside with, and how the expenses for the maintenance of the child are shared between the parents.

The child may also participate in the mediation, if the parents so wish and if this is deemed to be in the best interests of the child. In order to find out the thoughts and wishes of the child, the mediator may discuss with the child in private without the parents being present and then share the child's views with the parents.

If the parents come to an agreement, the mediator helps them to draw up the agreement. In order to make the agreement enforceable, the mediator urges the parents to take it to a child welfare officer for confirmation.

Who provides family mediation services?

Provision of family mediation services is the responsibility of the municipal social welfare boards. Family mediators are usually such employees of child guidance and family counselling centres and other social welfare services who are specifically assigned for the task. Mediation is also available at the family counselling services of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and other instances authorised to provide mediation services.

Further information on family mediation is available at the municipal social welfare services.