Published on June 19, 2024

Family mediation is a confidential process where an impartial third party, called a mediator, assists family members in resolving disputes and helps them to reach agreements on various issues such as divorce, child arrangements and financial matters.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

While a voluntary process, following a change to the Family Procedure Rules, we are starting to see courts actively encouraging parties to resolve their issues via a non-court dispute resolution process, which includes mediation.

Unlike litigation, which involves going to court and having a judge make decisions, mediation empowers the participants to work together to find solutions that meet their unique needs and interests.

Here’s how family mediation can help families to reach agreements:

  1. Facilitates Communication: Mediation provides a structured and safe environment for family members to communicate effectively. The mediator ensures that each party has the opportunity to express their concerns, interests and viewpoints without interruption. Through respectful dialogue, family members can better understand each other’s perspectives, which is essential for reaching agreements.
  2. Promotes Cooperation and Collaboration: Mediation encourages cooperation and collaboration among and between family members. Instead of viewing the situation as an adversarial battle, mediation fosters a spirit of teamwork where parties work together towards finding mutually acceptable solutions. This collaborative approach can lead to more durable and sustainable agreements that are tailored to the unique needs of the family.
  3. Focuses on Interests and Needs: In mediation, the focus is on addressing the underlying interests and needs of each party rather than solely on legal rights and positions. By exploring the underlying reasons behind each participant’s requests, the mediator can help uncover common interests and creative solutions that may not have been apparent initially. This allows for agreements that are more comprehensive and satisfying for all involved.
  4. Encourages Compromise and Flexibility: Mediation encourages parties to be open to compromise and flexible in their thinking. The mediator helps facilitate brainstorming and problem-solving sessions where parties can explore various options and alternatives. This flexibility can lead to agreements that are more tailored to the unique circumstances of the family and which can evolve as circumstances change over time.
  5. Empowers Decision-Making: Unlike court proceedings where decisions are imposed by a judge, mediation empowers the participants to make their own decisions. The mediator does not make decisions or impose solutions but instead helps facilitate the negotiation process. This empowerment can lead to agreements that are more sustainable and satisfying for all parties involved.
  6. Preserves Relationships: One of the significant benefits of mediation is its ability to preserve relationships, which is especially important in family disputes where ongoing relationships are often necessary, particularly when children are involved. By fostering respectful communication and cooperation, mediation helps minimise conflict and preserve familial bonds, even in challenging circumstances.
  7. Provides a Safe Space for Discussion:  Mediation can be an effective process even where there is a lot of conflict between participants, or where there is a power imbalance, or issues are complicated. “Shuttle mediation” enables participants to sit in separate rooms whilst the mediator shuttles between them. Where appropriate, participants can have the support of their solicitors in the process to provide them with support and legal advice.
  8. Flexible: Mediation is designed to suit the needs of the participants. It can take place on-line or in person, in the same room or (as explained above) in separate rooms. Where appropriate other third party experts can be included in the process to help participants to have the advice that they need to make informed decisions. Such experts can include accountants, independent financial advisers, pension and tax advisers.
  9. Child inclusive: Children can be included directly into the process. By enabling children to speak with an independent third party, this empowers them and gives them a voice which can help parents to make the arrangements that best suit them

In summary, family mediation is a constructive and empowering process that can help families make agreements by facilitating communication, promoting cooperation, focusing on interests and needs, encouraging compromise and flexibility, empowering decision-making, and preserving relationships.

Another significant benefit for those who chose to go down this route when divorcing, is that the overall costs of the process will be significantly lower than going down a litigation route.

By choosing mediation, families can actively participate in shaping their futures in a way that reflects their values, priorities, and unique circumstances.

In our next article we will be looking at the benefits of ‘child inclusive mediation.’

Rebekah Gurshany is an Accredited Family Mediator and Family Solicitor – you can find out more about Rebekah HERE.

You may also find this article useful: Navigating Family Disputes – Recent Changes In Non-Court Resolution Procedures.

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And is in relation to the topic…

The Early Days Of Separation

Humans are designed to cope with many onslaughts, but change continues to prove extremely challenging. How you manage the early days of separation or divorce has the potential to set the tone for the rest of the process.

When couples separate, they are often thrown into a period of uncertainty. Identities are changing from couple to single, from mum and dad together as a family unit to mum with children and dad with children. Depending on the circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during the early days of separation. “Will we have to sell our home?” “I haven’t worked since we had children – how will we manage financially?” “What will our friends and family think?” “How much will divorce cost?”
“Will I cope on my own?” There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be ‘all over the place’ emotionally due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision-making seem impossible. Who wants to agree the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organise the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss? It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking mums and dads into what appears to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.

Take Your Time!

In those early days of separation or divorce, take your time if you can. Seek support from friends, family and professionals. Try not to make any big decisions too quickly.
Bear in mind that communication problems with your ex and all the pressures on family life you are now experiencing, like for many separating couples, will get better with time. It’s important to recognise that you and your ex will more than likely be in very different emotional places at the moment; different stress levels and anxieties will be making communication difficult. Taking the time to sometimes do nothing, to not react, give things a day or two, can prove very useful techniques.
What you have to remember is that if you have children, your ex is always going to be part of your life. That can be hard to take on board when you are feeling hurt and angry. If you can find a way to communicate with each other that focuses on the children, you will all benefit in the years to come.

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