Embark on separation and you’ll be sure to hear the word ‘mediation’ and you may not fully understand what it is and how it might help you. Commonly, people assume that when couples separate that a long, expensive, and emotional time is ahead of them, fraught with legal jargon and courtrooms and judges wearing silly wigs, but with mediation that needn’t be the case at all.
Family mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that requires both parties to negotiate an outcome with the assistance of a trained and qualified mediator. This mediator is the third party in the room and is there to guide the discussions and to help facilitate a healthy, non-confrontational environment and keep talk on topic.
Whilst mediation might seem like an unconventional approach, it is actually proven to be very successful and, with a desire for such matters to be kept out of the courts, it is an encouraged path to take by both individuals who have benefited from it through to the judges and the Government who, in certain circumstances, can assist with the costs of mediation. To help you approach mediation in the right way and be best prepared, here are our five top tips for a successful mediation.
Come with and Open Mind
Mediation isn’t for everyone and prior to embarking on mediation your suitability will be assessed via what is known as a MIAM (Mediation Initial Assessment Meeting). Assuming you are suitable then you really must approach mediation with an open mind and be prepared to compromise.
Try and write down what you feel an ideal outcome would be and then write down a second or third option too. Know that any of these options, or indeed a hybrid of the three, through constructive discussion and compromise, you are more likely to reach an agreement. When it comes to your children you might not want to compromise, but it’s important going into mediation with this outlook as it allows for a healthy and constructive flow of conversation, it garners respect from the other party and in return, you might find the other party more willing to compromise too.
Communication is Key
Communication is key in achieving both a constructive mediation and an agreeable outcome and effective communication is key to enabling such outcomes. Think about how you’d like to be spoken to and let that guide your communication style and approach. Accusatory language, both verbal and physical can be a barrier to reaching an agreement.
Before attending mediation try and come up with ways of handling your emotions so that in the sessions, if you feel yourself becoming angry or frustrated you know what action to take to address these emotions. Your mediator is there to help and you can ask for some time out to help you gather your thoughts and re-set. You could also, in a calm manner, express how you are feeling to the mediation and your ex-partner and explain why you feel the way to do.
Know the Key Issues
What are the main issues you feel are at the forefront of the matter? Knowing what the key issues are will help you focus on the big stuff and not have the sessions clouded with the small stuff. Take time beforehand to make a note of the big issues and note why you feel they are important and what you hope to achieve as an outcome through mediation.
It is important to enter mediation prepared, knowing what matters you want to be addressed. And don’t be surprised if your ex-partner has the same issues noted down. Referring to our first tip, be prepared to compromise also. The most important matters will likely be the most contentious ones so in this respect your ability to communicate effectively and show compromise will be required at its very best.
Prepare for the Other Party’s Issues
You know what your own issues are, and you might have an idea of which issues will be shared issues but, having an appreciation of what your ex-partners issues might be will allow you to prepare ahead of the sessions.
Take time to consider what key points your ex might wish to discuss and seek agreement on. What outcome might they be looking for and what would your compromise be? Making a note of these will help in the overall discussion and might help when it comes to tabling all matters and seeking a compromise.
This Isn’t About Winning
Ultimately this is not about being the winner, it’s about reaching a compromise that works best for everyone. Remembering that Family Mediation is about the children and what’s best for them.
There is no point in entering mediation with a ‘it’s my way or the highway’ attitude. With this approach you will not achieve agreement on matters and mediation will likely prove unsuccessful. The next step would then be to take the matter to court and in the worst case, let a judge make the decisions for you – removing all decision making, compromise and agreements from your hands.
For mediation to be successful you must come into it with an open mind, a positive attitude and be willing to listen and compromise.
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About Shelley Wales
Shelley is a Family Law Solicitor at Thornton Jones Solicitors. Shelley joined the Thornton Jones Family Law team in September 2018 after honing her skills in family law at Ramsdens solicitors where she spent 10 years. Shelley is a qualified Family Mediator and is working towards full accreditation. She specialises in dealing with the financial aspects of divorce and separation, and has a real interest in unravelling the finances of unmarried couples through the Trusts of Land and Trustees Act 1996. Shelley is a member of Resolution and is committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational way wherever possible.
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