What is Family Mediation?
I thought I should in the early stages of this blog tell you what mediation is. Further details can be found across the website but it feels wrong to have a mediation blog by assuming you know what mediation is.
Family Mediation is a process. It is a process to help couples whose relationship has ended to make the decisions about their futures without the need for contested court proceedings. When a couple take part in the mediation process it should feel like we are having a conversation but my job as mediator is to guide that conversation. Think swan, the meeting should feel calm and serene but under the desk I am pedalling away and using the techniques I have been taught to move the couple to a resolution.
There is a broad structure to the mediation process. I need to meet with each half of the couple on their own before we proceed to a joint meeting. The joint meeting will ideally have all three of us in the same room (or virtual room in today’s pandemic restrictions). Sometimes the couple will be in separate rooms and I will move between them. This is called shuttle mediation.
Mediation will normally take place over 3 – 5 joint meetings and they last about 90 minutes each time. At the first joint meeting I will take you through the Agreement to Mediate so that everyone is clear on the rules of mediation and what can and cannot be done in the process. I will then usually ask the couple to set an Agenda. The agenda is a list of “headlines” of the matters we need to discuss. I will have a good idea from the individual meetings what needs to go on the Agenda but it is for the couple to finalise. We will then work through different items on this agenda at the meeting and future meetings. The Agenda can change each meeting as different matters arise or with many couples they continue the discussions outside mediation and resolve some matters between them.
The aim of mediation is that you leave it with two documents, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and an Open Financial Summary (OFS). The MOU and OFS will then be taken to your solicitors to convert into a binding agreement. By taking the document to your solicitors you are also able to take independent legal advice on the proposals you have jointly come to in mediation.
It would take several different blogs to explain the techniques we are taught to enable discussions to move forward at mediation. It can be quite emotional to come into mediation and it is normal to feel upset. We are talking about the most important people in your lives, you are talking to your ex partner and emotions can be running high. You will be worrying about the impact upon your children, you may not know where you will end up living, how you will afford to pay for your outgoings. We work through all of this.
Mediation works because those who come to mediation realise that it is better to try to stick with the process, even when it does feel difficult, rather than end up in contested court proceedings.
I’m always happy to have an initial chat if you want to understand more about mediation. Just call me and we can talk it through.