Fly on the wall of family mediation

Posted by Christine Plews on
The BB2 programme "Call the mediator" may at times resemble a soap or reality show, but when you stop to think and delve a little deeper in to what you are watching, it is really a very emotionally charged documentary of couples experiencing painful breakups.

As an accredited mediator, I have been watching the programmes with interest and all the commentary that there has been about them. Apart from the fact that the programme throws a much wanted light upon what happens in the mediation room, and demystifies much of the process, it also raises some very important points.

Communication

Time and time again the mediators come back to the fact that most of the problems arise as a result of an inability to communicate and that if communication could be improved then many of the problems would be resolved. Although breakups are full of emotionally charged energy, taking the time to listen to one another often helps no end. Improving communication can particularly help the cases where there are disputes over the parenting of children.

Temperatures can run high

Whilst many of the couples in the programme do appear to be very acrimonious this does not always have to be the case. It is interesting to note that in the cases involving children temperatures can run particularly high as it seems to be more difficult for most people to have a logical, rather than an emotional approach.

Shuttle mediations, where mediators assist the parties involved in a conflict to reach agreement without them being present in the same room, is often avoided where there are children involved. The ability to communicate is an essential plank of co-parenting and it must have been very much a last resort for the couple in this programme.

Different perceptions

The programme demonstrates vividly how each person sees the situation, and their role within it, quite differently. Dealing with each person's reality of the situation is one of the challenges of a mediator.

New partners

New relationships post separation take up a lot of time in mediation, particularly the issue of whether or not new partners should be introduced to the children and, if so, when. It is a very difficult topic for most people to handle and just knowing that can be the first step to trying to find a way to deal with it and make arrangements that the children are comfortable with.

If mediation is to become more main stream then there needs to be more programmes such as these. One of my mediation clients once said to me that everyone had seen programmes about the law and Court rooms and yet no one had seen a programme or film about mediation.  Therefore people don't know how to behave and the difference between what is normal and what is not. If this is the start of mediation becoming an accepted process for resolving issues between couples then it can only be a good thing. 

Blake Morgan's family mediators help clients based in London, Reading, Oxford, Southampton and Portsmouth.  Please contact us for more information. 

About the Author

Photograph of Christine Plews

Christine leads the Family Law Practice Group and specialises in matters arising out of divorce and separation, including cohabitee disputes. She is an experienced mediator.

Christine Plews
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