Family Mediation helps people to have a calm and constructive conversation about conflict or disputes affecting their families. Much of our work is with separated parents, but we also support parents, children, grandparents and siblings in communicating with one another. The subject matter can include separation and divorce, fallings out, tensions with teenagers, step-family difficulties, family business problems and succession/inheritance disputes.
Arrangements for Children
When couples split up it is often difficult to talk constructively about all the things that need to be dealt with. Separation can be a fraught time, and family mediation helps separated parents to make arrangements for their children in a calm, constructive setting. It produces a clear, workable agreement which can be made legally binding without the cost and acrimony that is often associated with court proceedings. We know from experience that parents want above all else to protect their children from the fallout associated with divorce or separation.
Getting good legal advice is crucial, and we encourage our clients to find an experienced family solicitor. Most mediation takes place without lawyers present, but in some circumstances it can be very constructive to have legal representatives involved in the discussion, particularly where significant assets are being discussed. Even where lawyers are not in the room, it is important to have access to legal advice. For further information on family solicitors in Scotland, see www.familylawassociation.org.
Achieving a fair financial separation can be tricky. Whether or not children are involved, mediation helps couples share their assets and liabilities in a way that is acceptable to both. Working together with legal advisers, our clear, open process enables people to gather the appropriate financial information and consider different options for dividing things. Rather than having this imposed by a court, mediation supports people in choosing the option that is best for them. The resulting written agreement can then be acted on by solicitors without further negotiation or cost. Mediators work hard to ensure that financial negotiations are fair, reasonable and informed.
How does mediation work?
Because mediation is relatively new to most people we have set out below how it works in practice:
- Pre-mediation – We meet both people one-to-one (sometimes you may want to bring a supporter to this meeting: we welcome this). This allows us to understand the situation from your point of view and explore your options for dealing with it. We find these meetings very useful in preparing for mediation and reassuring our client that it is going to be constructive.
- Joint session – We meet together. We begin be asking both people to say what needs to be dealt with and what they would like out of mediation. This helps to set the agenda for the meeting.
- Explore the issues – We then discuss things in detail. It is important that each party hers what the other has to say and that disagreements are not swept under the carpet. We need to fully understand the sources of conflict before looking for solutions. At the same time the mediator(s) help to maintain a positive focus and ensure that the conversation doesn’t become bogged down in recrimination. Where children are involved we make sure that their interests are discussed (older children can be directly consulted). (link to direct consultation with children)
- Consider options – As we talk, possibilities for the future will emerge. We call these ‘options’ and we make sure they are considered in detail. If one option is not acceptable, we look for another, and so on, until we have genuine consensus. We will not impose a decision on any of our clients: mediation works because people understand the choices they have made and so are prepared to act on them.
- Record agreement – When a way forward is agreed, we put this in writing to make sure that all the details are clear. We send this to both parties and, if they wish, to their advisers.
It will be clear from this brief summary that mediation is not an ‘easy option’. It requires flexibility and patience, but our experience is that it produces lasting agreements in disputes that may have existed for years. Because people need time to reflect on what they have heard we typically meet family mediation clients more than once – a full full financial settlement may require several meetings to complete. Other matters can be dealt with in a single session. Either way it is the clients who are in control of how long and how often we meet.
I wanted to write and thank you for all your help in the mediation process between my husband and myself. It was certainly not an easy process for anyone and at times extremely painful, but your kind, calm and friendly manner helped to ease the strain on many occasions. Mediation really does provide a ‘safe space’ to attempt negotiation when all routes seem hostile.
– Family Mediation, 2005