Sarah Smith is a mediator and family lawyer with over 22 years’ experience. Marking Family Mediation Week 2019, she is exploring what the mediation process involves and what it means for separating couples and their families.
If you have children, securing their future wellbeing is paramount and it’s likely that one or more joint mediation meetings will involve talking through the arrangements for them. What does a normal week look like? How does that change in the school holidays? What about Christmas, Birthdays or Family Holidays?
A Parenting Plan is a great way of pulling these discussions together and I will create an individual one for your family as part of the mediation process. Then, in the future, as Mum and Dad this will be useful to you as a review, particularly as the children get older and their needs change. This doesn’t have to be a printed document, we can look at apps or other tech solutions that make things even easier and, if appropriate, allow the children to be involved too.
If we’re mediating to try and sort out the finances, we will start with financial disclosure – that means pulling together all the financial information relating to the marriage such as property, pensions, investments and income. This always has to happen whether separating collaboratively with lawyers or through the courts before we can move on.
Now what? Maybe everyone is holding off saying what they want. Maybe there is an elephant in the mediation room?!? Maybe everyone wants the same thing – and you can’t both stay in the house, or both have the children on a Wednesday evening. This is going to come unstuck and can even leave couples feeling that they are going to become stuck in ‘one of those nightmare divorces’.
If separating couples reach this point, the best advice I can offer is to stop. It doesn’t have to. You signed up to mediation precisely to avoid unnecessary conflict and to find solutions and that is what, as a mediator, I am committed to ensuring.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what another specialist family lawyer said:
“I always talk to my clients about mediation normally from the very first appointment. Mediation promotes honest and open communication to find out what is most important to them and look for creative ways to try and achieve those objectives. Mediation can be used positively to turn a potential argument, where battle lines are drawn, to a search for a workable solution. Clients know that throughout the process they can still access the advice and support of their solicitor as and when they need it as the meetings progress. Mediation adds to my toolbox for helping clients to resolving their issues using a method that suits them and their individual circumstances. It helps them to keep control and ownership of the decisions that they make cost effectively and with the aim of keeping the acrimony to a minimum.”
Contact Berwins on 01423 543 108 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about your family law options and to discuss whether mediation could be the right course for you and your family.