Confessions of a Family Mediator
There is no doubt that mediation can resolve conflict and foster a positive co-parenting relationship post separation in a way that adversarial court litigation will never achieve.
Mediation is less confrontational, less stressful, less expensive and less damaging in every respect. It offers couples an opportunity to move on from their relationship and to continue to work together constructively, to the immense benefit of their children.
Will mediation help me reconcile my marriage/relationship?
It is not unheard of for couples to reconcile after mediation. When I meet parties individually they may both tell me that they want to give their relationship another try, but they haven’t been able to express this to each other. When I pass this message on, I explain that if there is a chance of reconciliation, mediation is not the right forum.
Mediation is designed to facilitate discussions between a couple who are going to separate; where they are going to live; the arrangements for the children and finances. I work closely with family therapists and marriage guidance counsellors who are better placed to help couples who don’t wish to separate and I will always signpost my clients to the right professionals to assist them reach their goals.
What if I can’t face sitting in the same room as my ex-partner?
I will always meet each client on their own in the first instance before proceeding to a joint session. Part of this process is to enable the mediator to assess whether or not mediation is suitable for that couple. More often than not, clients will say that they would prefer not to sit in a room with their former partner. My job, as a mediator, is to assess how best to manage that issue. I must consider whether there are safeguarding concerns or whether one party is potentially at risk. Sometimes it is possible to manage that risk by “shuttle mediation”. Each client will remain in a separate room and I will move between them, working with each to convey the words of the other, as best I can. In some rare cases, it is clear that mediation is simply not suitable.
If it is a case of apprehension or anxiety about holding a joint session, I need to work out the best format to help the clients. My view is that the best way to mediate is face to face. When conducting shuttle mediation, despite best efforts, tone, eye contact and body language simply cannot be conveyed to the same extent as it can face to face. Mediation is intended to foster good communication and therefore, if it is safe to do so, I will always recommend face to face mediation because the improvements in communication which can be achieved (even where there has been a great deal of conflict) can be amazing.
Will mediation work if my ex-partner is very controlling?
Emotional, financial or other types of control is something I as a family lawyer and mediator encounter regularly. One of the key roles of a mediator is to redress any imbalances that they identify. It is important that each client has a voice regardless of if they are quiet and reserved or communicative or even domineering. Both parties need to be able to put their point across and a mediator will help manage the discussions. Both parties must feel heard and understood.
If one party lacks understanding, say for instance in relation to financial matters, then the mediator will explain the complexities of the family finances so that both clients are able to make an informed decision about what is to happen. This may offer the less confident partner to find their confidence. It can be a very empowering exercise and can open the door to their new beginning, post separation.
Having been a Family Law solicitor for over a decade and a Family Mediator for almost 6 years I have extensive experience of resolving matters through both court and mediation. Please get in touch if you would like to talk through your situation and see how we can help.
Our team of family mediators are among the best in the South. If you require legal advice from one of our dedicated family lawyers, contact us today on 0800 2800 421. We have offices in Salisbury, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Winchester to meet your requirements.
© Juliet Mayhew – Partner & Family Mediator Winchester