Family mediation provides separating and divorcing couples with the opportunity to make their own decisions about the future arrangements for their children, finances, property and any other areas of conflict, with the reassuring presence of an impartial mediator.
Communication is key to this process.
Mediation can help you to establish a way of talking together as you make these decisions.
A family mediator is trained to enable you to have these discussions in a calmer, more constructive and respectful way and to focus on the areas that need to be addressed without apportioning blame for the breakdown of the relationship. As the family structure changes, separation can feel frightening and chaotic for everyone. Family mediation allows you to have some control of this process and the chance to discuss the future in a safe, neutral space.
Children are very sensitive to their parents’ anxieties and your responsibility as parents is to privilege the needs of your children as you and your partner end your couple relationship. As part of the alternative dispute resolution approach to separation and divorce, mediation allows you to use your knowledge of your children and their needs, as well as your own, to come to your own conclusions about what will allow each of you to move on with your respective lives and continue co-parenting your children.
Child inclusive mediation provides the opportunity for your children to speak to the mediator. Children like to be informed and appreciate having their views and options heard, although it is always made clear that they are not responsible for any overall decisions – these need to be made by their parents.
After each having an initial individual session, the following mediation meetings are usually round-table with both clients present, although occasionally the mediator might work with you in separate rooms. The mediator will be able to offer legal information, but you are each strongly recommended to have independent legal advice.
You will both need to provide full financial disclosure, supported by documentation in order to decide how capital, pensions, savings, debts and income are divided. This financial statement can provide the basis for your divorce. All other decisions remain confidential to you and the mediator and, if mediation fails and you go to court, these discussions cannot be referred to.
Mediation is voluntary, and can be ended by either of you at any time. The mediator can also end mediation if they feel that it is not in the clients’ best interests to continue, if there are child safeguarding issues or fraudulent financial activity.
Communication at this stage is often extremely difficult; you are discussing the end of your family’s life together. It is likely that emotions will still be raw, and beginning mediation may stir up painful feelings again.
However, family mediation is not counselling and although the mediator will help you to manage your feelings, you may also consider seeking some counselling as part of the process of separation and divorce.
Both family mediation and collaborative law are alternatives to following an adversarial legal route through court. Whilst not suitable for everyone, family mediation is a less costly, less lengthy process, and it is more likely that separating parents will be able to maintain effective communication after the divorce is completed.