Since the changes that took place following the implementation of the Family Procedure Rules 2014 making it compulsory for separating and/or divorcing couples to attend an information meeting about mediation before any court action can be considered, there have been many articles explaining what mediation is. There is not however much information available to people at this vulnerable time about how important it is to choose the right person to go through this process with.
I chose to train as a family mediator because I strongly believe that this process offers people the time and the space to talk things through before making life changing decisions that will affect their future and the future of their family. It is a process where the mediator will be trained at all times to remain impartial and not express any judgements or beliefs of their own, but is following the rules of the process enough?
Emotions are involved in every situation in family law. Often not only the emotions of the separating or divorcing spouses but also children or other family members. It is never an easy choice to sit in a room with a stranger and discuss some of your inner most thoughts and feelings. Whilst mediation is not and never will be relationship counselling (which is a common misconception) it surely needs compassion and understanding to allow that process to unfold.
Both parties need to accept that the relationship is over when attending a mediation session, but in order to move forward and make informed choices it is not uncommon that certain areas of the past relationship need to be discussed in order to do that. It is essential that the mediator you choose makes you feel comfortable enough to do this.
If you are considering divorce or separation there will likely be issues that will need to be resolved. You will have questions such as – what will happen to the house? Who will live there or will it be sold? Where will the children live and if not with me how often will I see them and how will it work?
At this point most people visit a solicitor in order to get advice on how they should move forward. This is the point when you will be referred to a mediator. Often that mediator will be chosen by your solicitor and your details will be sent to the mediator directly from the solicitor. It is important that at this point you research yourself whether the mediator that has been chosen is someone you feel comfortable with.
You can do this by an initial phone conversation with the mediator before you attend a MIAMS appointment. You can also ask around. I have found that many of the mediations I have carried out have contacted me because a friend of theirs went through this process and recommendations are important. Unless you have experienced mediation it can be daunting so some advice from someone you know can go a long way to make you feel more settled about the process.
Costs are also something you should consider. It is widely publicised that mediation is a far cheaper alternative to resolving issues through court proceedings. However mediator’s costs can differ significantly. Any mediator should be able to give you an accurate picture of the costs you will be incurring and how their particular charges apply.
It is not always possible to tell people what the exact costs will be as each separation/divorce is different and some have more issues to resolve than others but most mediators will give you an idea of how many sessions you should need based upon your particular circumstances and how they charge for their time and expertise.
Take your time choosing the right person. A good mediator needs to acknowledge what you are going through and make sure that the decisions you come to are based upon you making an informed decision not an emotional reaction.
You can only do this by being given a safe, secure space to discuss your issues and to try to resolve them in a practical way.
I believe that a fundamental factor in ensuring the success of a mediation is having the right person in place.
For more information on mediation and anything you have read in this article please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Georgia Hookings (Family Law Mediator).