It’s Family Mediation Week. This is an annual awareness-raising event that shines a spotlight on alternative ways of resolving issues within families.
By ‘alternative’ I mean ‘a way other than through the courts’. Most people who come to me for advice about divorce or about a dispute with their former partner over child contact arrangements, for example, still assume that they will have to thrash out their issues in front of a judge. But, thanks to a surge in other options in recent years, many people can avoid the additional pressures – and potentially significant costs – of the court process.
Mediation is one form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves the parties (you and your former partner) meeting with an independent mediator to try to agree a way forward. The idea is that by working together you will achieve an outcome that’s fair and workable. And because it’s something you have agreed, as opposed to having been imposed on you, you may find that you are each happier to stick to it.
Mediation can bring other benefits, too. It is usually a quicker process than the court, so issues can get resolved sooner – something that can be particularly important where children are in the mix. Mediation also gets two people who may have been on bad terms talking again. As it’s a consensual process, mediation relies on both parties being willing to give it a go. While that won’t always happen (and in some cases, there’s no option but to resort to the court process), when each person commits to mediation they are agreeing to try to work together; something that may have been missing from their relationship in recent months or years. And the safe environment that mediation provides really can enable them to start building bridges, or at least start communicating again.
The idea of preserving some sort of relationship may not seem high on the agenda of couples that are in the midst of an acrimonious split. But if they are parents, their connection will need to continue for the sake of their children. In most cases, the best that can be expected is that parents can be civil towards each other, respectful of each other, and willing to cooperate in order to preserve these important family relationships. Mediation can facilitate that.
As a Family Law solicitor, I have advised hundreds of clients on the best ways of resolving issues with their former partner and I’ve supported them through that. A few years ago I decided to train as a Family Law mediator. This means I now play an even more active part in mediated settlements, helping parties narrow down their issues, understand what is important to them and to their former partner, and decide for themselves how they should each move on. It’s a privilege to help bring about positive outcomes, and it’s something that adds value to the advice I give my clients day-to-day.
Contact me to find out more about family mediation and whether it could be the best way of resolving your family issues.