Getting the most from family mediation
22 January 2024
A mediator will assist parties to discuss issues following the breakdown of their relationship, including plans for children and the financial consequences of a couple having to separate out their assets. Mediation can be attempted at any time but to get the most out of it you should ensure you are prepared.
The best time is when you both feel ready; it can often be helpful to try mediation early on after the decision has been made to end a relationship, but it can be helpful later if you are still having problems or facing new ones.
Some people are understandably angry or resentful towards the other person and the prospect of discussing and negotiating an agreement over vital day to day parenting, property or money arrangements can feel impossible. Consider what you need to do to recalibrate so that your mindset is focussed on moving things forward, not just for your own benefit, but for your child or children, mediation can then work and be a success.
Find a good mediator, ask your solicitor for recommendations and/or use the Family Mediation Council Website (the professional regulator of mediators) https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/find-local-mediator/ as a start.
Mediation can be in person or dealt with remotely and can be arranged at yours and the other party’s convenience to avoid travel costs. Consider how, when and where you will mediate to give yourself the best chance to engage fully – perhaps in the morning rather than at the end of the day when you and the other person may be tired.
Prioritise the mediation, avoid cramming it in when you should be working and therefore putting yourself under pressure.
Discussions in mediation are private between the parties and the mediator and cannot be revealed if there are subsequent court proceedings or arbitration. This enables there to be open discussions guided by the mediator to find common ground and a way forward.
Set boundaries for yourself and with the other person, for example you can agree not to discuss matters raised in mediation outside of meetings unless you want to. This can sometimes help people navigate the difficulties of separation or parenting apart.
Consider taking legal advice so that you are prepared for mediation. Your solicitor, if you have one, can attend mediation meetings as well if you wish.
Be clear about what you would like to discuss with the other person. Do your preparation, what would you like the mediator to help you with, what would you like the mediation to address and consider what the other person may want to talk about. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider preparing a set of bullet points you would like to cover to keep focussed on what you would like to achieve.
Be willing to listen to the other party, and, especially where children are involved, be child-focussed, and practical, what works for them, and everyone involved.
Be realistic and be ready to accept that you both will not get everything you want. Shift your focus to the future, think about everyone’s needs not just yours. If you walk away from mediation feeling like you can live with the outcome, it has probably gone well.
Mediation can empower people to make thoughtful and well-constructed decisions for their family and future that enable them to move on with their lives and it is important to respect this process and be as prepared in advance as possible.
If you are interested in using the Birketts Family Law Mediation Service or would like further information on family mediation please visit our web page. We provide family mediation in five of our six offices – Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich, London or Norwich.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2024.