Monthly Archives: September 2016

This blogpost explains why mediation is often the quickest and cheapest route to resolve your divorce dispute and to go back to ‘life as usual’ fast.

I was interested to read this article in The Guardian by Emine Saner (23.08.16)*:

“The end of the summer holiday is a peak period for break ups. But now couples are looking for fast and amicable ways to avoid being mired in the blame game, will the law finally catch up?”

There is a private members’ bill to introduce a “no fault” divorce, and Baroness Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, called for it to be introduced.

Football presenter Gary Lineker, whose marriage to his second wife has recently ended, took issue with divorce lawyers. “It’s very easy to get married and very difficult to get divorced,” he said. “And we know that lawyers try to manipulate it to make you spend more money and basically end up hating each other.”

More and more people are choosing to represent themselves. According to a recent survey, around 40% of people no longer use lawyers in their divorces. For all Lineker’s talk of greedy lawyers, this isn’t to be considered a positive development, as it mostly comes on the back of legal aid cuts.

People who represent themselves in divorce cases may not “get the outcomes they might expect or deserve,” says Emma Pearmaine, director of family services at Simpson Millar. It can also slow proceedings down. “[Divorce] is a horrid thing to be experiencing and we need to come to a conclusion as quickly as we can to the benefit of the whole family,” she says.

The consequence of legal aid cuts and people representing themselves is, she says, “affecting a whole generation of children. Previously a parent on a low income might have been eligible to go to court so they can see their child. Now if they’re not eligible, they might have to make an application themselves or they don’t make an application at all. That suggests to me that we have a whole generation of children who are not having the right relationship with both parents.”

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What is the solution?

We at Focus Family Mediation would urge all divorcing and separating couples to look to mediation first.

Proven to be much faster and much more cost-effective, mediation is a collaborative process that keeps couples talking through the difficult stuff – because when you’re talking about separating a family, don’t you want to find the least adversarial, quickest and most affordable way? Unlike court proceedings legal aid is available to those whose means meet the financial criteria making mediation free for them.

At Focus we are all accredited by the Family Mediation Council to conduct property, financial, and child arrangement mediations. Most of us are also authorised to consult directly with children so giving children a voice in what happens to them and enabling them to inform their parents’ decisions.

Mediation is what we do. It’s all we do. Please call us. You and your family will be glad you did.

*To read the full article go to : https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/aug/23/divorce-new-rules-splitting-up-amicable-marriage-breakup

MIAMs and Mediation

Having worked as a family mediator for a good few years now I’m used to asking clients whether they have any knowledge or past experience of mediation.  Most clients don’t have any and don’t know what to expect.

It’s like anything. If you want to buy a car you want to know what you’re buying. A top of the range sports car or a car that gets you safely round town. How do you know what’s going to be the right car for you? You probably need to test drive them.

That is why in family mediation we have an introductory meeting with clients where we explain what mediation involves. The meeting is about an hour-long – called a MIAM which simply means Mediation Intake Assessment Meeting – an opportunity for you to ask us any questions you like. If you are unsure about what to expect from mediation we will talk to you about how mediation works so by the end of the meeting you have a clearer picture. We will also ask you questions – because we want to know what’s going on for you and the issues you face, so we know how best to help you.

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So is it like going to Court?

No, it isn’t like going to Court. There’s no judgment, no evaluation. It’s a meeting usually just with you, to talk through the issues that are affecting you and your family.

The mediator is there to listen to you and may ask you questions about your situation.

The meeting takes much the same format for every client, so you can feel secure in the knowledge that your ex is not being treated differently from you.

Is it like going to a solicitor’s office?

No it’s not. The meeting is at an office but the mediator is there to listen to you and to explain how mediation works. The mediator will consider all the issues you are worried about, and will start to build up a picture of what’s going on between you and your ex.

The mediator’s understanding of your situation and concerns will be crucial if you go on to mediate, enabling them to help you both work through your impasse in a collaborative and practical way, without going to Court.

How much will it cost?

At Focus we have a sliding scale of costs depending on your finances, your income and capital and we offer legal aid at some of our branches.  This can mean mediation is free for you, but in any event it is usually much more affordable than fighting it out in court.

Will someone listen? Yes they will.

We are specialist mediators – it’s all we do. We know what’s important to you and we have the skills and expertise to help. We are all accredited with the Family Mediation Council.

With court costing over £400 just to issue an application, you should ask yourself if you want the stress of going in front of a judge with the added costs of a solicitor and perhaps even a barrister too.  Alternatively do you want to represent yourself?

You might choose either – because there are some cases that are not suitable for mediation. However if you don’t come to the MIAM you won’t know.

No one wants to buy the wrong car – why don’t you give us a call and see if mediation is the right vehicle for you?

Archer v Titchener

The nation has been gripped by the Rob & Helen’s saga in the Archers!

One interesting aspect which did not grab the headlines was baby Jack’s name. Rob wishes to call him “Gideon Titchener”. Theoretically there is nothing stopping Rob calling the baby “Gideon”.  However a court may well find it emotionally harmful to the child to have different names.

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Rob could make an application to the court for permission to change the child’s name formally to “Gideon”. The court would consider all relevant factors such as his name which appears on his birth certificate as “Jack Archer”, the circumstances surrounding his conception and the fact his half-brother is called Archer. Whether the parties are married is relevant, but divorce must be on the agenda.

It is rare that you can say decisively what you think a court would do but it seems highly unlikely in these circumstances that a court would give Rob permission to change “Jack’s” name.

It seems there is a lot in a name.

No one listening? Then stop shouting, you might get heard

Communication is complex. It is much more than words. Communication comprises a range of related activities, including, speech, facial expression, body language and most importantly of all, the subtext of the total communication package and critically what you do, as actions speak louder than a thousand words.

An example will help. If someone is shouting aggressively and waving their arms, this is likely to induce a panic reaction in the listener. In that state that they experience a rush of adrenaline which suspends their ability to process information and programmes them to fight, flee or freeze, the classic survival response.

 The person shouting has generated the opposite response from that intended. If they had spoken quietly without aggression, the panic response would not have overwhelmed their listener and the meaning of the words could have been satisfactorily conveyed. Literally, you might say ‘If you shout I can’t hear you!’

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‘Gorilla Family Moment’, photo taken by Pascal Walschots

Couples who are separating frequently say they cannot talk, can only communicate by email or text and seem inevitably to fight. Their conflict is so high it breaks out over anything and everything. One of the mediator’s tasks is to break this habit, if only for long enough to help the couple agree their settlement or what to do about their children.

So if you want to be heard and understood, talk quietly and not aggressively, listen thoughtfully to any response – and respond to it respectfully in a co-operative spirit and you might be heard and you might even start to communicate. True, exerting self-control is out of fashion, sometimes it’s even perceived as a weakness by a society which sees ‘chest thumping’ responses as a strength. But such an approach should be rediscovered – as it might be the only way to solve some problems which have remained painfully unresolved. Then you can both move on in a constructive way.