Busting common mediation myths
Although mediation can enable couples to separate in a less antagonistic way, many people still have misconceptions about what the technique involves, leading them to dismiss it as a valid method of separation.
Misconceptions can make people hesitant to try mediation. Here we outline some of the common myths.
"I thought the mediator would give us a decision"
The role of the mediator is to be neutral and impartial between the parties and not to impose a decision. If court proceedings are issued, or the parties appoint a family law arbitrator, essentially their own private judge, a decision can be made and imposed. In contrast, the mediation process belongs to the clients, and helps them reach their own agreements. Mediators can give legal information and we encourage mediation clients to take their own legal advice alongside the process.
"I thought we had to be in the same room"
Usually the couple and the mediator are in the same room. Sitting around a table together with an independent third party often assists discussions and helps facilitates agreements. If the parties do not feel able or comfortable sitting in the same room together it is possible to be in separate rooms. The mediator can then shuttle between the two rooms. This usually takes longer but can assist couples to resolve matters. Sometimes the parties might find after a while they want to move to being in the same room. Where the wellbeing of clients is an issue we can take appropriate steps to address this.
"The children are excluded"
Some mediators are trained in child consultations and will meet the child or children if the parents agree. The child or children's views can then be fed back to the parents in a later session. This can be invaluable and helps the child feel and know they are being listened to. Read an example of involving a child in mediation.
"The only professional will be the mediator"
Sometimes it is helpful to have a co-mediator. This can be another lawyer, or a professional with another skill set, such as a family consultant who can provide emotional and behavioural support. Read an example of working with a family consultant. In addition, a financial consultant can be brought in, for example to explain the options regarding sharing the pensions and the impact on their financial settlement options. In addition, if the parties agree and I agree, another third party can be present, such as an adult child, or family friend, to help make the process run more smoothly by making people feel more comfortable.
"Mediation is compulsory"
Family mediation is not compulsory, it is voluntary. No-one can be forced to mediate, and the mediation, once started, can be stopped at any stage by either party or the mediator, where necessary. It is compulsory, however, to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before making an application to the court for a financial order or an order to do with children, unless it is an emergency or other limited circumstance.
By avoiding the need to go to court, mediation is often faster, easier, and cheaper for separating couples, and works especially well for couples with children. For more information about family mediation, please contact Sarah French.