Family mediation - why it’s the only way

If you just want to get started immediately, go to REQUEST TO MEDIATE

There are as many ways of describing the mediation process as there are people who think their opinion is the best. To keep it simple, we like to refer to it as “Negotiation with a referee”. That means both sides have to understand clearly what they want from the negotiation and to be prepared to say out loud what that is and why. The mediator will never take sides.

However, unlike a referee, a good mediator will be prepared to stop play to explain a rule to the players and ultimately to make sure both sides score lots of goals – the same number each!

The main skills of the mediator are people skills. The mediator has to identify not only the legal and practical background and the facts behind in every dispute but he/she must be able to pick up quickly on the details of the relationship between the parties. He/she has to understand who controls what in the relationship and exactly why the relationship has fallen apart.

This social and psychological understanding takes place as the unspoken background in which the Mediator encourages both fairness and objectivity. It is not part of the mediator’s job to act as a judge, or even to promote an agreement which accords with what a judge might say. His/her duty is to achieve a situation where both parties achieve a win win situation as far as ever possible. It’s more about whether you get what you want rather than about what a judge might say.

A judge has to follow the law. That means he/she may be limited in the orders he/she might give. Real life is often different. There will almost certainly be a long list of points to sort out between you. In most cases, some at least, and often most, of these issues have been settled by agreement. It is the last few that invariably cause the problems.

The judge cannot, and usually will not, help you in issues relating to the management of parenting, for example. Neither can a judge understand the precise roles of each of you in a business to which you both contribute, regardless of whether or not you are directors or whether or not you are paid.

Neither can a judge spend the time to listen to you long enough to understand what you gave up in your career in order to bear your children, nor how difficult or how easy it might be for you to return to full employment at sometime in the future, as, when and if parental duty permits it. In a word, you cannot put your joint lives in pigeonholes and deal with them one by one.

Yet another problem with going to court is that you are entirely dependent on what is written down in the paperwork submitted to court. Although a judge may ask questions, it is unlikely that he will embark on thorough investigation of some side issue which you happen to consider important. Maybe your solicitor never even mentioned it in the papers.

Contrast with mediation

Mediation could hardly be more different. The mediator will work hard to achieve a level playing field where you feel absolutely happy to talk freely, including to express strong emotions. (Provided of course they are not so strong as to disrupt proceedings entirely!) The mediator will be patient if you are not experienced in expressing yourself clearly or want to go back and repeat something to make sure the mediator has understood it.

Mediation will give you the opportunity to get all the finer points out onto the table and under discussion. Choosing the best route is a lot easier if your map shows all the alternatives.

Here is a rather more detailed explanation of the psychological elements  [Link to: S64: the psychology of Mediation] which your mediator should be able to take on board.

The mediator will not just sit around

Some mediators do prefer an extremely gentle approach, acting almost like a counsellor. We believe that is unhelpful to you. We cannot help you to reach a win win situation unless all three of us understand the issues and the facts thoroughly and do not hide behind misconceptions and over-optimistic legal advice. That means a good mediator will do a lot of nudging to make sure both sides stay on track. After all, you pay us a meaningful sum of money to help you achieve a settlement not to listen to stories of what went wrong.

On the other side of the coin, you do hear stories about how the mediator will produce solutions nobody has thought of. Don’t bet on it. It’s one thing to steer you in many alternative directions so that you can fully understand the options and the outcomes of what you are negotiating but it’s quite another to expect the mediator to pull a string of rabbits out of a hat. All we can say is that we keep squashing that hat until we are quite positive there are no more rabbits.

Every separating couple has a history which is different from what anyone else has ever experienced. We can’t tell you about other people’s experience so we have prepared a few examples to give you some idea how mediation works.

Where to find information and advice

Talk to friends and family

Talk to relatives: you will probably get a lot of sympathy and probably a lot of bad advice. Relatives will each have their own opinion about your soon-to-be-ex.

Friends will give you a lot more sympathy and a lot more bad advice.

Friends can be particularly dangerous because they may well be strongly influenced by their own experience or the experience of a friend. Your circumstances are different from those of anyone else the world has ever known.

Find a solicitor

And experienced solicitor could be amazingly helpful. Do not expect a shoulder to cry on. Your solicitor may well have started family law work with massive empathy and concern for her clients. Now she has probably seen it all and has developed a tough skin. She needs that, to be working in a family law environment. It’s not her job to give you sympathy or empathy.

The downside is cost. A solicitor will cost you from £200 an hour to £500 an hour, depending on where you live. Believe me, the hours pass very quickly. Each time you think the bulk of the work has been done, there is yet more. Using a solicitor relieves you of one worry but gives you another. Finding the right solicitor is not always easy.

Internet advice sites

There are websites which provide an online divorce service at far lower cost than a specific solicitor local to you. With far lower overheads and a high street office you should be able to find properly qualified people. Whether or not you get the same personal service as you would from a local solicitor is a moot point.

Other resources on the Internet are:

  • The government’s form finder
  • Advice now
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Wikivorce

Books

Read these excellent books: first, “A Better Way of Dealing with Divorce” by Diana Jordan. This book provides basic advice about your predicament. Will boost your morale, empower you. Diana no longer works as a solicitor but as a divorce consultant, either locally in Surrey or online.

For a deeper and more precise guide to the legal stuff - “DIY Divorce and Separation” by “a team from 1, Garden Court Family Law Chambers. The book covers a wide range of issues. Essential reading if you intend to do more than draw a consent agreement. Provides legal backdrop in plain English.

If they are too expensive try public access barristers at a more modest fee level in every large city. Start at  PAenquiry@barcouncil.org.uk

Just to keep the record straight, we have no connection whatever with either of these authors nor do we collect any commission or obtain any other benefit from the sale of their books.

We also tell you on this website about when to use a solicitor or barrister. if you’re not sure where to go,

we can also help you to find a solicitor.

We offer our services

We should be delighted to accept your instructions to mediate in connection with your divorce, separation and other family affairs. However, we wish to make clear that we do not accept instructions in respect of complicated or contentious issues relating to children, an abusive relationship, domestic violence, or drugs or alcohol addiction.

Our expertise relates to issues relating to money, housing, other property, business - and conventional children arrangements.

Our mediator is happy to talk to you personally and separately, to assess for certain whether he can help you and, if so, what mediation procedure might best suit you, when and how an appointment can be made, and more.

To instruct Andrew Taylor just go to REQUEST TO MEDIATE.

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