May 20, 2021

How to Get the Best out of Family Mediation

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Separating couples often opt for mediation because they have heard that it is quicker and cheaper than going to court. That is true, but only if the mediation concludes successfully with a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding.

Family mediation is an open and honest discussion in a relatively relaxed setting. All of the discussions are “without prejudice”, which means that they cannot be referred to in any subsequent court proceedings. This is to encourage the couple to come up with creative suggestions and possible options without fear they will be held to those proposals if they subsequently decide that they were not a good idea. I will always allow my clients to sleep on an idea and I will always give them an opportunity to take legal advice on a proposal. The agreements which are likely to last are the ones that have been entered into after due consideration and in a clam and unpressured manner.

Occasionally, I will start a mediation where the parties attend with a written calculation of exactly what they think they are entitled to, down to the last pound and they will not budge from that position. This is not conducive to a successful mediation as mediation needs an approach which includes flexibility, creativity and a willingness to compromise.

It is also necessary to perfect your listening skills. I will always give each person roughly equal time to speak but when it is not your turn to speak, please actively listen to what your ex-partner is saying rather than spending the time planning what you want to say next. It is usually important for people to feel that they have been heard – not just by the mediator but by their ex-partner too. Often joint proposals for settlement cannot be crafted until both participants feel that they have been heard and their feelings have been acknowledged.

Family mediation also requires practical commitment. If the mediation is online, take time to check the connection and how to use the platform before the session. Make sure you have a private space available.

Take time to produce the best possible version of your Form E (financial disclosure form) that you can, with all of the required documents attached. Failure to do so will delay the mediation and commitment may then wane. Make sure that you arrive promptly for the sessions and take an active part in the discussions.

It is important to me that I offer a service of value to my mediation clients but I can only do that if my clients demonstrate their commitment to the mediation process.

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