Monthly Archives: February 2015

Mediation in Oxford: Fast and Affordable: An Outbreak of Sanity for Separating Couples.

Mediation has been around for at least thirty years and is now used by a vast proportion of separating couples. It is actively promoted by the government and the courts as the preferred way for couples to sort out their separation. Oxford judges frequently recommend couples to mediation instead of battling it out in their over-crowded Family Court. They will not start a new case unless the couple has first met with a mediator to find out about mediation. Here is a guide to what is involved when you come to Focus Mediation in Oxford.


You start by coming to a MIAM: a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. This is time spent alone with your Focus mediator, who will want to understand what has happened to you. She then explains the process of mediation. You can come to the MIAM on separate occasions, or you can come as a couple: either way, you get time alone with the mediator and a full explanation of what lies ahead.

Once you had your MIAM, the joint sessions start, spaced to suit you, your timetables and what you can afford. These sessions give you a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your issues: the kids, the money, where you are each going to live.

You might start with a session working out a timetable for sharing caring for the children. Or you might launch straight in to disclosing your finances to each other, so that your mediator can write up your Financial Statement; then, when you can see what you’ve got, your mediator will help you make a plan: sell the house, or transfer it to one of you, or keep the house until the children are older and sell it later; set an appropriate level of maintenance … whatever seems best for your particular case, bearing in mind all your circumstances, including the local problems presented by living in an expensive part of the world like Oxford. Focus Mediators are also family lawyers: they know what the solicitors will be looking for and what the court is likely to approve. They can give you helpful legal information to inform your decision-making. You need not feel lost and frightened.

Once you have agreed all the aspects of your settlement (and preferably taken your solicitor’s advice on the proposals), your mediator will record them, and they will be handed to the solicitors who can turn them into a Consent Order, sealed by the Judge. This makes your agreement binding and makes any pension share happen, if you are divorcing. If you are an unmarried couple splitting up then your solicitor can make the agreement binding in another way, so it cannot be re-opened later.

You might have three, four or five joint sessions, depending on how many issues there are to cover and how co-operative you can both be. Focus mediators work fast and effectively: they are dedicated to helping you reach a settlement as quickly and cheaply as possible. Their reputation depends on it!

Focus charges £100 + VAT for each MIAM or £150 + VAT for a joint MIAM, then £125 + VAT per person per hour, with concessionary rates for people on low incomes. The cost per person of a full mediation is usually between £200 each (single session of 1 ½ hours at concessionary rates, no documents) and £1,300 each (4 sessions and two documents on a fully successful mediation at £125 ph). Legal Aid is also available (unlike solicitors, who can no longer offer it).

If you are separating and live in or around Oxford, it would be sensible to come to meet Caroline Friend, Senior Mediator at Focus Mediation. The office is in Summertown at Prama House on South Parade. Caroline can help you quickly and affordably in a matter of weeks, and avoid the horrendous costs and delays involved in court proceedings. Doesn’t that sound like the sane thing to do?

Divorce and Half Term Blues in Oxford

If you are going through divorce or separation, February half term can be a real challenge. No money, no partner, and rotten weather. The children need you to be cheerful, but it’s hard.

At Focus Mediation, we do all we can to get you through this difficult time. Below are two excellent websites giving you ideas for entertaining the kids in and around Oxford at half term.

Looking at the bigger picture, even if you are doing the divorce yourself, using on-line forms, you need some professional help to steer you through your financial settlement. Our mediators can do just that: they will help you and your ex-partner look at the figures, discuss the choices that you have and then draw up a plan, which can be turned into a Consent Order.

They can also help you sort out a suitable way of sharing caring for the children. Our mediators are qualified to talk to children, and then feed back their views to you, if you think that would help you make the right arrangements for them: research shows that when children are involved in mediation, the arrangements made for their care stand a far greater chance of succeeding.

Children feel valued by this process. They feel they have been given a voice in the confusing world of a separating family. It reduces their anxiety and lessens the burden of guilt and responsibility that many of them feel. They often have good ideas about what might work, and their views can clear up conflicting impressions. As their parents, you can feel reassured that you are doing the best possible job in sorting out their future, and you may even find you can communicate better between yourselves because you are working together.

One last Half Term perk: mediation at Focus Mediation in Oxford is free, if you qualify for legal aid. If only one of you qualifies, you both get the assessment meeting (MIAM) and the first joint session free. Why not give it a try? Meanwhile, here’s those websites we promised:            

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Home Sweet Habitat at Pitt Rivers Museum (PRM) – ‘Explore how animals and humans make themselves at home, and build your own little den. Crafts, object handling and a family friendly talk at 3pm.’ Monday 16-Wednesday 18 February 1-4pm. Entrance to PRM is via the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) on Parks Road OX1 3PW. The PRM entrance is at the far wall of the OUMNH.

There’s a whole raft of ‘how to’ activities 14-22 February at the Story Museum, 42 Pembroke Street OX1 1BP including the Teddy Bear Pancake Sleepover(!) and, for kids aged 8+, Science Oxford’s Fire Show. Full details at

Popular children’s entertainer Nick Cope is giving a concert at Barefoot Books in Summertown, 294 Banbury Road OX2 7ED on Tuesday 17 February from 1:30-2:15pm. Tickets £5 per person, big or small. Nick will be playing songs from his new CD The Pirate’s Breakfast, so BFB suggest you give him a treat by coming along in your best pirate costume!

Also at BFB, the Salt Box Music Co. will be running hands-on music sessions for very young children 12-1:15pm on Wednesday 18 February. Go to their website for details of all their activities in and around Oxford.

Again at BFB, there is African drumming 10:30-11:30 am and a magic show 2-3pm on Thursday 19 February, plus an all-day science workshop run by Bright Sparks Science for children aged 5-9 yrs from 9:30am-3:30pm on Friday 20 February. See and for everything that’s happening at BFB during February.

For More information Contact Us Here

Half term activities for separated parents in London

Some more half term suggestions for separated parents wanting to entertain their children. Happy Holidays from

Focus Mediation!

Imagine Children’s Festival on the South Bank

The Imagine Children’s festival takes place on the South Bank from 9th February to 22nd February where the children take over the South Bank and there are shows and activities for all ages involving theatre, music, comedy, dressing up, poetry and more :

Some highlights include:

For younger children

  • Charlie and Lola’s Bestest play (for age 3 plus) on every day 2 or 3 times a day
  • Pip and Posy by the Gruffalo writer, Axel Schaffer’s Pip       (age 3-6) Friday 20th February

For the older child 8/9 plus –

  • Anthony Horowitz – 9 plus
  • the “greatest comic making show on earth with The Etherington Brothers” Thursday 19th February 11.30 and 2.30pm
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – 8 plus Friday 20th at 11
  • a lesson in Dangerology (“discover what to do if a shark comes out of the loo or a volcano erupts underneath your house”.) 8 plus ( book tickets.) Monday 16th at 3.15pm

For 3-11 year olds there is a Pirate School every say from Saturday 14th to Sunday 22nd 3 or 4 times a day (book tickets} where parents get to stay and watch. As well as lots of Alice in Wonderland themed activities to celebrate its 150th anniversary –activities to numerous to mention. Tickets need to be booked for several events- sooner rather than later.

Imperial War Museum Workshops:

The Imperial War Museum has exhibitions ranging from the First and Second World Wars to Afghanistan and a Holocaust exhibition for over 14’s. Thought provoking and good for an extended age range.

Mini Vault

This underground space beneath Waterloo station has 3 weekends of shows and events for families with children up to age 11- the pdf document on the website shows ages and activities in one place :


The Horniman Museum:

Visitors say that it is a joy for adults and children! It has a natural history museum with a very fetching large walrus as its centerpiece. It has plenty for everyone. It has an impressive collection of taxidermy, African art, musical instruments, and an aquarium and a petting zoo (as well as decent coffee for parents) to name but a few of its features , visitors say it is good for young children, has something for everyone and the gardens are also particularly fine on a sunny day.

The Science Museum

The website splits activities into age groups which makes it handy for planning a trip. The new Information Age gallery may appeal to some older children.


The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum

Nature at its best with some of the most amazing photographs you will have the pleasure of seeing.

And finally…

  • If your children enjoy taking part in workshops and making things the following ideas work well:
  • Museum of London, British Museum, V & A, Design Museum, London Transport Museum (often running half term workshops)
  • Art galleries such as the Tate Modern, the National Gallery Tate Britain all have workshops over the holidays. See, for example, the Tate Modern’s plentiful offerings:

1.     Events


Daily activities: Tate Modern

Open Studio: Ooo Mmm

Every weekend. Additionally, Thursdays and Fridays during holidays, 11.00–13.00 and 14.00–16.00

Ooooooooos running down the wall, mysterious mmmms creeping around in the shadows, tired, floppy wwws hanging around.  What does language look…



Special event: Tate Modern

Tuttle Families

Saturday 14 February 2015, 12.00 – 16.00

Weave in, out and around. Flock together and apart.  Weave your way through the Turbine Hall as you move your body to an original soundtrack,…


  1. Courses and workshops: Tate Modern

Reach Out event: How We Learn

Tuesday 24 March 2015, 10.00 – 13.00

Calling all Instagram users! Come, create and see your image in a mass installation within the Reach Out exhibition at Tate Modern. Work with…



Daily activities: Tate Modern


Every weekend. Additionally, Thursdays and Fridays during holidays, 11.00–16.00

Liminal is a participatory sculpture for families, inviting you to experiment with shape, form and composition – inspired by the art and…



Daily activities: Tate Modern

Sonic Weave . Exploring Silk and Viscose Through Sound

Saturdays and Sundays plus school holidays Thursdays and Friday, 11.00–16.00

Listen to the sound of silk worms eating mulberry leaves, viscose being chemically synthesised, fibres being spun on a spindle and explanations…


Event series

Listen. Sonic trails for children and families

Saturdays and Sundays plus school holidays Thursdays and Fridays

Experience Tate through sound-scapes especially created for families by musicians and sound artists.  Borrow a set of headphones and an MP3…

If there are activities your children have particularly enjoyed and you would be happy to share them, do feel free to post on our Facebook page or  send a Tweet

Mediation: Oxford Divorce Stress Buster

Oxford house prices were quoted in the Oxford Times recently as the highest in the UK apart from London. This places extra stress on separating couples who now need two places to live instead of one, but it doesn’t look affordable

January and February are tough months for everybody. They’re especially tough if you have just worked through a strained Christmas and decided that you can’t hold your marriage together any longer: you’ve decided to separate. The year ahead looks impossible. Were will you each live? How will you share the children? Talking has become dangerous. Rows erupt, important issues are no-go areas, communication is at an all-time low, along with your spirits.


Mediation with Focus Mediation in Oxford is designed to cope with all this stress. It is run by Caroline Friend, who lives near Oxford, she understands Oxford problems and has helped many local people with all the same issues you are now facing. You might do well to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone this way before you.

You start by coming to a MIAM: a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. This is time spent alone with your Focus mediator, who will listen to your story and then explain the process of divorce and of how mediation works in detail. Then the joint sessions start, spaced to suit you, your timetables and your budgets. Mediation gives you a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your impossible problems.

Sally thought she and Jo were putting their marriage back on track, and was deeply shocked when Jo chose the week before Christmas to announce he was filing for divorce. The next two weeks were grim: you could cut the atmosphere at home with a knife. However, once the mediator had seen them both, they could get a handle on what they needed to do: a session looking at their income and outgoings, so as to work out what rent Jo could afford, and time spent working out a child-care pattern that both parents felt comfortable with: it wasn’t ideal – not seeing your children every day will never be that – but it respected the children’s needs and gave both parents plenty of time with them. All that was completed in two weeks and reduced the stress considerably.

A couple more sessions dealt with the bigger picture of the house and how to share the equity in it. The mediator encouraged both parents to put the children’s stability first, and helped them take difficult decisions in the light of current court practice. She helped them identify any maintenance that would be appropriate, and dealt with any disparity in their pensions. Even more importantly, they established ways of communicating with each other to make arrangements for the children without quarrelling.

Focus Mediation is there to help. It might make all the difference to your new year.

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