21st Jan 2019

What ‘Mediation’ really means

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.    

“I don’t know why I’m here” – that was how a new client began a mediation session with me recently.  While his situation was, of course unique it struck me that it’s a lot of people’s starting position, even if not articulated in quite such a striking way.  If you’ve recently separated or you are struggling with your ex over arrangements for the children, then your thoughts (understandably) can be all over the place.

Another couple I’ve been working with said, “We’ve been in the ‘trying’ stage for years. We both know deep down we’d be better apart, but we have a lot of shared history - so I get scared about making this real and I change my mind yes-no-yes again.”

Starting with questions

So ‘why are you here?’; and why am I sharing these experiences with you? Well, this week marks Family Mediation Week, which gives an opportunity for mediations across the county to explore the process and to promote an understanding of what is involved.   

Even after 22 years in family law (as a mediator and a Collaborative family lawyer), I’ve never lost my awareness of what it takes to come and see a mediator (or lawyer) for that first meeting. You will have lots of queries and some worries about what might happen – what exactly is mediation anyway?

One client said to me they thought we would be sitting on beanbags – there may be some confusion with meditation there!

Exploring the process

All these thoughts and queries are likely to be clamouring for space in your head. So as a mediator, I will listen first; give you a chance to get it all out and ask all those ‘silly questions’. We can start to cut through some of the mystery - explain what options there are in sorting out your separation, what are the typical timescales, what is it going to cost.  We won’t get all your queries sewn up in one meeting – remember a mediator is neutral and not here to advise either of you - but to get alongside you and give the help you need to start to formulate a plan.  

Mediation can help you get from where you are now to where you want to be. An accredited mediator is a great person to work with through the potentially tough times ahead.  


Sarah Smith is Yorkshire’s only Eminent Practitioner in Family Law. She is both a qualified mediator and a collaboratively trained family lawyer.

Contact Berwins on 01423 543 108 or via family@berwin.co.uk to learn more about your family law options and to discuss whether mediation could be the right course for you and your family.

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