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Family Mediation Week Day 5

Family mediation has increasingly gained recognition in recent years as a useful tool to assist individuals upon separation both in relation to arrangements for the children and resolving any financial issues.

I am a practising solicitor and mediator and I see first-hand the benefit of family mediation to my clients in my capacity as a solicitor and within the mediation process itself – the ‘power of mediation’ amazes me.

I always remember my very first joint mediation session after my training in 2012. You could literally cut the atmosphere in the room with a knife! Dad wore sunglasses and a baseball hat and Mum had her full body turned away from Dad with her arms folded. Communication had broken down between them and Dad hadn’t seen the parties’ children for a number of months. By the end of the session, which lasted no more than 1.5 hours, Dad had taken his hat and glasses off, they were both facing each other, and they left agreeing for Dad to collect their son from school – Mum even offered him a lift home! After working in family law at that time for 5 years, I was shocked that in 1.5 hours the parties had reached an agreement and left on speaking terms. Had Dad pursued the matter through the Court system, it could have been a further 6 months until he had contact with his son again – a scenario that doesn’t help the parents or more importantly the child.

Mediation is not always as powerful as described above. Some cases are not suitable for mediation and the intervention of the Court is required. However, in the majority of cases, there is no reason why two people who once loved each other, and in most cases had a long happy marriage together at one point, cannot sit down and be civil with one another and compromise to reach an agreement that works for both of them.

I always say as a mediator, as well as to my legal clients, that there is no winner or loser in family matters. In the majority of cases when there have been two incomes going into one household, it stands to reason that both parties need to take a drop in the standard of living they previously had when they separate and require two separate households. Similarly in children matters, you do not embark on the journey as a parent and think that you will only spend 50% of your time with them. It is important for both parties to consider the position of the other person and ensure that they have realistic expectations of the outcome.

I have also found that when I conduct a mediation information assessment meeting (MIAM), there are always two sides to every story – as a solicitor you never get to see this or hear the other side. As a mediator, I use this time during the MIAM productively and assess what is important to the parties. Each mediation I take part in is different. What one family sees as important isn’t necessarily an issue for another family. I find it is important to take time to get to know the family and what is important to them.

For more information in relation to family mediation or to make a referral to our mediation service in Leeds or Harrogate please visit our mediation web page. Alternatively, contact our experienced mediators on 0113 322 9222 or