Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Tips from a Mediator

Families argue at Christmas. I put this down to Too Much or Too Little.  Too much time together. Too much to eat and drink, too much expectation and disappointment, but mostly too much said, after too little thought.

You could mediate Christmas; I think you’d find it makes a difference.

Lucy “I hate roast potatoes!”
You “OK, you don’t like roast potatoes, would you like parsnips?” (Active listening and summarising, Lucy feels heard, another option offered).

John “My family haven’t wanted me at Christmas for years . . .”
You “It must feel really hard not to see your family at Christmas” (acknowledging and summarising) but they do live a long way away and we’d miss you. . “(re-frame the reason, it’s not lack of love it’s distance and he has good friends.  Challenge the script).

Focus Pictures Xmas team black background Dec 2013

Usually someone plays Christmas Martyr; people compete for this role, especially in the kitchen. You have a choice – compete or let them get on with it and take the dog for a walk, get very drunk, retire to bed sick or become deaf. The script assigned to you is usually callous selfishness. Nothing appeases the martyr, because it’s their favourite role and they won’t give it up.  Play the game, admire their self sacrifice and hard work, they will love it and you will have peace.

If all else fails, call us after the Christmas shut-down and we’ll try to help, our number is 01908 410509. We may have been working hard over Christmas – but then so may you…

Workplace Mediation

Conflict at work is inevitable in a thriving innovative environment. For example, competition between teams or individuals may bring out the best in people, particularly if there is a prize or reward for the most successful. A state of ‘Healthy’ competition is good for the workplace and has a number of benefits such as, attracting the best candidates for advertised roles, retention of staff and increased productivity.

Business People In Meeting

Conversely, conflict that develops into something ‘personal’ between two or more persons may have a disproportionate affect on the way others perform their roles. Unresolved conflict may lead to a decrease in productivity, difficulties in recruiting the right staff and increased absenteeism through sickness, particularly stress related conditions.

People may react to workplace conflict in a number of ways.

Fight – we’ve probably all seen a verbal argument at work, sometimes it provides the cure to the dispute, or it may lead to more deeply entrenched positions with other workers being expected to ‘take sides’ and demonstrate allegiance by a lack of co-operation or communication with the ‘other side’.

Flight – some individuals will turn their back on what’s going on in the hope that the problem will just go away.

Freeze – someone unsure as to how they should deal with the situation may become passive, efforts to deal with the situation may be ‘half hearted’ through a lack of conviction or confidence and the issue never gets resolved.
Workplace conflict can be resolved by;

Having a quiet word, an informal approach can often solve the problem; it may be that the persons concerned were unaware of the impact of their behaviour on the rest of the workforce.

Informal investigation, speaking to those involved in or affected by the dispute, and taking appropriate action may provide a solution.

Internal processes, grievance procedures or a formal investigation may be necessary; the downside of formal procedures is that there is often somebody found to be at fault. This process creates a winner and loser and may lead to resentment, withdrawal or further attempts to get back at the organisation or another individual involved.

Training for line managers around topics such as, ‘Managing difficult conversations’ could lead to conflict being identified, and dealt with, at an early stage rather than when positions have become entrenched.

Focus Mediator – An accredited impartial mediator facilitates communication between people in dispute to improve their future working relationship and restore their productivity.  Workplace mediators accept that personal differences may continue, but the mediator helps the parties to find their own solution to their dispute or problem, so that they can work together effectively.

The Grieving Cycle and Relationship Break Down

When a relationship breaks down one party leaves and wants to separate. The person who is left can feel angry, abandoned, a high level of anxiety, hurt and a sense of loss. These feelings are similar to those we experience during bereavement and the separation and divorce process can be very like the grieving cycle. It is intense – love turns into anger, anger into sadness and despair. Deeply hurt, we lash out, get a solicitor, apply to the courts and try to hurt the one who hurt us. The result is usually emotionally and financially catastrophic.

In discussing death, Dr Kübler-Ross identified stages of grief that can be aligned to the emotions experienced during a relationship breakdown: shock, denial, hope, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Stages of the Grief Cycle

When couples engage in mediation one partner may be more recovered emotionally and ready to negotiate child contact and/or finances. The one who is still trying to adjust the breakdown of the relationship may well be lurching through the emotions of anger, bargaining, depression denial and hope. The emotions loop and intertwine as understanding of the situation is explored, but time is a great healer. Although both partners may be at different stages of adjusting to the separation, mediation can facilitate that adjustment and understanding and help the separating couple focus on the future. Parents are encouraged to communicate and consider the impact the separation is having on their children and their ability to build a future as separated parents.

Understanding where you are in the cycle of emotions and that there will be a moving on and recovery helps in the recovery process. Mediation is a humane way of sorting everything out, allowing each of you to proceed at the pace you can cope with and in a problem solving way, without becoming opponents in a fight.


Couples embarking on a new relationship often move in together. Some couples will live in a house one of them already owns or rents some may decide to buy a property together.

The careful couple will usually make an agreement when they buy together setting out who owns what share; or agree who pays for what when they start to live together. Sometimes this is written down and sometimes it’s not.  Getting together can be a gradual process; couples slip into informal financial arrangements over time, and over time can start to assume something different from what was originally agreed.

Circumstances invariably change.  Children may be born, jobs start and end, incomes fluctuate, mortgage contributions can no longer be afforded, properties may be re-mortgaged or varied and both of you start contributing in different ways from those you first agreed on.


Years later when your relationship ends how do you agree what’s a fair split of your assets? Untangling the muddle requires tact and technique – mediation offers both.

Focus Mediation offers you a range of mediation styles to resolve the issues around your separation.

While we can offer you the traditional style of family mediation with 1 – 5 sessions of 1 ½ hours over weeks or months, we can also set aside a day for you both: to identify the issues, talk through possible options and proposals and help you come to a binding agreement at the end of the day.

The benefit of this style of mediation is that it can be done in a day, nothing else is this fast.

All the information you need to help you in your decision-making must be available on the day, with Focus Mediators there to help you work through it – helping you find a way forward. You will bring your legal advisers with you to help you in your decision-making or you can have them available on the phone.

We do not have a magic wand, but we can help you reach a decision that is fair, and meets yours and your family’s needs

Divorce Resolution Options

“Help! I’m getting divorced. Do I need a family lawyer? A family mediator? A Collaborative Family Lawyer?
I need to understand about family law – where should I go first?”


When you split up there’s a plethora of options which can be bewildering. Everyone has an opinion – and wants you to use their services and preferably not services they do not offer. This is your life and your choice and decisions you take about where to go first for help can shape the route you take to resolution. It therefore makes sense to explore the fastest and most cost effective route to resolution first, as you may not need to spend more time and money on more time-consuming and expensive resolution options.

At Focus there will be an assessment meeting either together or apart as you prefer. We will listen to your situation and work out with you the issues to be resolved and check if you get legal aid. We can explain about other resolution options and indeed, two Focus mediators are able to offer Collaborative Family Law as well as mediation, if you prefer that. Most of our mediators are lawyer mediators, and your case will be dealt with by the mediator with the right back-ground and experience to ensure you receive good quality legal information and the right help.

Other resolution options include: 

Court proceedings – you pay your own lawyers for a long process or act in person; usually takes about a year (property and finance) or less if about children. You become opponents in an adversarial fight, which often makes matters worse and often costs more than the monetary difference between you. It usually makes sense to avoid court if you can but it is ideal for getting a time-table for resolution, forcing a recalcitrant party to participate and disclose information and document and for some people is the only realistic option

Lawyer led negotiations – you pay your lawyers to complete disclosure and negotiate the best deal they can for you; this will again be adversarial (see above) and if you have round table negotiations, if these fail then you are left with the court option to resolve matters – unless you mediate

Collaborative Family Law – you are each represented by your owned specially trained collaborative family lawyer and you and they sign a participation agreement dis-barring the lawyers from acting for you if the process breaks down and you go to court, this holds everyone in the process until you resolve the settlement, but if it does break-down, it is expensive (mostly they succeed).

Mediation – you can mediate at any stage in your family settlement, though the earlier you both engage in mediation the higher the potential savings in the costs of other processes. However, sometimes one party has no interest in mediating for example because they are sitting on all the assets or have the children. In those circumstances sometimes court proceedings may be needed to get them to the mediation table with a realistic attitude. It is never too early or too late to mediate – especially if you are stuck in seemingly endless dispute over everything that is costing a lot and making life hard for you. This because very often the dispute may be about the feelings and belief that drive disputes and not just about the apparent legal narrative that is being discussed between lawyers and at court. Mediation is the only way to address these important aspects of your situation and it can unlock arrangements that a court adjudicated outcome has no way of imposing. It is often these tailored arrangements that make the most difference to people and the way they feel about their settlement.

How does Mediation Work?

When families are splitting up it makes sense to come to hear how mediation can help before you do anything. This is because mediation is the usually the most cost effective and fastest way to resolve the issues arising when you split up.

You come to an assessment with the mediator, which can be jointly together or separate and typically takes about an hour. The mediator needs to understand your situation, can assess you for legal aid. If you want to mediate, they explain what you have to do to prepare for the sessions.


Mediation is facilitated negotiations, with the mediator giving you the legal information you need to make informed decisions. It is not about recriminations or arguing, nor is it about counselling or getting you to reconcile.

The six steps to mediation are:

  • Assessment
  • Identify the Issues
  • Mediation sessions
  • Full financial disclosure if there are financial issues to be sorted out
  • Explore options
  • Come to agreement

Simple and effective, mediation is hard work but worth it. You avoid becoming opponents in an expensive fight and potentially spending more than you are arguing about in legal costs. It makes sense to try the simplest fastest route first, as you may well not need to spend more and take longer.

This past year has seen some major changes to legal aid for most family proceedings, however in many cases you can still have mediation paid for – to find out if you are eligible click here.

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