Monthly Archives: July 2017

Good Value Mediation

People sometimes ring us and just want a price list, the assumption being all mediators are the same and the price is the determining factor. Clearly if you stop to consider for a moment, this is not the case.

However, it is hard to explain in a brief telephone call why Focus mediators are best value, so we sometimes email this information to inquirers. The facts are:

  • Focus family mediators are Family Mediation Council accredited (FMCA) or are working towards that Gold Standard, a hard won accolade following substantial mediation experience and training.
  • Focus family mediators are lawyers by background and they keep up to date with the Law so are better equipped to give clients good quality legal information about the range of options relevant to their situation. This means that in family cases we can offer excellent legal information + mediation.
  • Our mediators are specialist mediators with a wealth of experience to help them to help you. They mediate full-time, honing their skills and building their repertoire every mediation they do. Conducting the odd mediation sometimes is not the same thing.
  • Focus mediators benefit from heavy-weight support in house, including, four full days a year devoted to professional practice issues and sharing team knowledge and experience.

Good Value Mediation

Clients share the cost of mediation – and it takes a fraction of the time it will take to get to court. As a rough guide it costs about an eighth to a tenth of the costs of proceedings and a trial. That is surely good value. We also know mediated agreements are more likely to be kept than imposed decisions – simply because people are more likely to do what they’ve said they’ll do. So if you compare mediation with litigation it is extremely good value and costs less in terms of money, emotions, stress and time.

Focus mediators understand the psychology of conflict and the natural human instinct to fight your corner – which actually costs the most and does the most damage – and takes longest, often locking people into a mind-set of conflict that can have them litigating repeatedly over years over anything and everything, because they just don’t believe anything can be agreed. We are committed to helping you sort things out fast, with the minimum acrimony and suffering. All this is surely good value.

Online Mediation

In family disputes or anything more complicated than a simple disagreement over a refund or similar – remote electronic mediation creates barriers to communication and meeting your mediator face to face is infinitely better. Online may save on rent, time and travel, but when it results in a poorer understanding, then it is a false economy.

Communication critically engages a wide range of senses and exchanges, many non-verbal, some unconscious and instinctive. We are still studying human interactions; they are so complex and multi-dimensional.  Misunderstandings and conflict are frequently caused by miscommunication and miscuing. One of the mediator’s main tasks is interpreting and managing communication and interpersonal exchanges.  Digital exchanges are inevitably limited and not as effective.  Face-to-face, people can read nuances of expression, voice and body language.  Focus mediators think savings from online or Skype MIAMs or mediation are a false economy and we do not recommend choosing online mediation if it could take place in person.

Mediation intro 2

Whilst we sometimes conduct MIAMs or mediate online – we are clear about its limitations. Clients find it more difficult to tune in and technology can be a tricky distraction. Nonetheless, sometimes there may be good reasons to work online, despite its problems, so Focus mediators will do online MIAMs in the following circumstances:

  • You have had a face to face MIAMs or your mediation broke down and your FM1 certificate has expired (a form signed by a mediator confirming to the court you can issue proceedings as you have attended a MIAM); we can do a remote MIAMs and re-issue the court form
  • One of you lives at a distance and the only feasible way to mediate is electronically – this is a joint decision following a practical analysis of your situation

Anyone who wants or needs their FM1 to go to court will of course get it. A court application may often be needed, e.g. to force the engagement of the other party in any process to sort out a dispute.  However, you can also consider with the mediator how mediation might help later in the shadow of the court time-table, so ending costly and lengthy litigation. A proper MIAM gives you vital information and insights to help you – why bypass that?

Our Philosophy

Focus mediators are specialists and mediation is what we do, so we have a wealth of experience of resolving conflict at our fingertips. We offer online MIAMs to some of our clients where this is appropriate.  We know the best way to help most separating couples is to help them to mediate in a way they can manage and sort out their problems fast in mediation. Court is expensive and slow.  It is a destination of last resort for most families.

A Focus Mediation MIAMs is thorough. We will listen carefully to you and get an understanding of your problems from your perspective – and if you want/need to go to court, then we shall give you the FM1 form to make your application.  We shall explain the various options to you thoroughly, so you have a clear understanding of the full range of non-nuclear options for resolution, including during court proceedings, so if you’re litigating you don’t end up feeling you’re on a runaway train with no way out until trial. If you are going to mediate you will be given a welcome pack full of resources relevant to your situation, so you can get off to a flying start in your first session of mediation. All this for £100 + VAT or £150 + VAT if you come to a joint MIAM. Why go online if you don’t have to do so, how can it be better?

Online Mediation – why we believe in face-to-face mediation

We know poor communication is at the heart of misunderstandings and causes conflict. Understanding and managing this conflict is vital to mediation and resolving disputes.  Digital communication impedes what mediators do, making it impossible to use many mediation techniques.  Face-to-face, people can read nuances of expression, voice and body language.  Trying to establish a rapport with someone online significantly hampers understanding, interpreting dynamics and in the mediator’s case assessment and explanations are harder. We think savings from online mediation or MIAMs are a false economy and the concept is flawed.

Whilst online mediation and assessment for mediation can work for simple complaints and disputes – such as faulty goods, agreeing a refund and simply providing a neutral post-box for communication between disputants to resolve something simple. Most cases are not that simple and need the full range of mediation interpersonal skills. Occasionally, the only way to sort things out may be via Skype – if people are in different countries, for example. However, it is much harder and if a meeting is possible, why would you not mediate in person and have those advantages?

Mediation Intro pic

Frequently people think they are arguing about a specific issue or point of law. More often the root of the problem is emotional, fear and mistrust. In family cases, with their complex dynamics – remote electronic mediation is a poor substitute for meeting your mediator. Whilst it can reduce costs (specifically rent, time and travel) you are less likely to find it satisfactory.  It is less likely to work. So when it is important to sort something out – why ask your mediator to try and do it with one arm tied behind their back and a patch over one eye, if not both? It’s like going to the gym and sitting in the changing room with your coat on, refusing to meet your coach except via a screen. Why would you?

Focus mediators will offer online mediation in limited circumstances – not because we can’t do it, because we can and we have helped clients online when they are abroad, or a long way away, but it is not ideal. We don’t advise to use online mediation because it does not help people access what they most need, which is our full and present attention to them and their problems – and how best to resolve them face to face.  Then all senses, instincts and intuitions can be engaged and documents can be explained and handed over, with notes made during a conversation where two minds can meet without difficulty.

Free Family days out in Hertfordshire

The school summer holidays are a few days away. At Focus Mediation, we appreciate entertaining the children over the summer can seriously stretch family finances. Days out don’t have to cost a fortune to be entertaining and memorable though. Sara Stoner, Lawyer mediator at our Potters Bar and St Albans office, has compiled a list of some of her children’s favourite free days out. “After some family days out I have felt like I have spent a small fortune. However, some of the best days out with my children have been free and very simple. Visiting large open spaces and bringing a picnic, football and friends for them to run around with, has created some very happy memories. My favourite days involve joining in with the children’s games and then watching them play. My top tip is to buy a cheap foldable chair and watch the children in comfort! Now that does make me sound old, doesn’t it?”

Free Entry

  • Stanborough Park Activity Centre, Stanborough Road, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6DF. Whilst there are some paid for attractions within the park, entry is free and there are plenty of open spaces and a stream for paddling in. Bring towels and water proof shoes. Dogs allowed. It’s website says the park includes, Fishing, Nature Trails, Children’s Play Area, Water sports Activity Centre, Rowing Boats, Pedal Boats & Water Walkers, Model Boating Lake, Terranova Restaurant (south side), Stanborough Coffee Shop (south side), Kiosk providing drinks and snack (north side only), Bouncy Castles and Healthy Walks’.

http://www.finesseleisure.com/parks/stanborough-park

  • Rye Meads Nature Reserve, Rye Road Stanstead Abbotts Hertfordshire, Stanstead Abbots SG12 8JS

The RSPB website describes the nature reserve as;

A great family trip; visit this delightful wetland reserve beside the River Lee. Rye Meads is a favourite with walkers, birdwatchers and photographers too. There are wheelchair-friendly trails, and 10 hides (come just to see the amazing murals!) look out over the reed beds, wet meadows, open water and artificial sandbanks, which are a great place to spot the blue flash of a kingfisher.’

Read more at; http://www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/rye-meads

  • Tring Natural History Museum, The Walter Rothschild Building, Akeman Street, Tring, HP23 6AP

Explore the museum which houses one of the largest collections of stuffed mammals, birds, reptiles and insects in the United Kingdom. There is a drop-in session for toddlers and group sessions for children to explore natural history in the grounds of the museum.

Discover more at; http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/tring.html

  • Lee Valley Regional Parks

10,000 acres to explore. Walking and cycle paths are surrounded by nature. Explore and discover new sights on each visit. Not to be missed; Amwell Nature Reserve (SG12 9SN), Stanstead Innings (SG12 8HL), Flen Fabo and Dobbs weir (CM19 5EX) and River Lee Country Park   (EN10 6LQ). Children are fascinated by the colourful barges moored along the canal and they may even get the opportunity to help open a canal lock.

This year Lee Valley Parks are marking their 50th Anniversary. There are lots of family events planned for the summer holidays. The website lists routes for popular walks. My children’s favourite is the Artworks Route number three, as the giant wooden chair is located on this route.  Lee Valley Farm isn’t free, but at £16 per person for entry for the whole summer, it may be worth the investment.  The farm has many summer activities planned. Visit the Lea Valley White Water Centre. Entry is free and you can watch the white water rafting. There is a free large sand pit for children to play in. The centre has a great atmosphere and you may even catch a glimpse of an Olympian training! https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/, https://www.lvfarms.co.uk/visit, https://www.gowhitewater.co.uk/visitor-info.

gREAT dAYS oUT

The giant wooden chair; Artworks Route number three
  • Fairland Valley Park, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts, SG2 0BL.

120 acres of Parklands with 4 linked lakes. Plenty of free fun for children including; two well equipped children’s play areas, splash park, (bring swim wear, water guns, buckets…), woodlands, sailing centre and cafe.

http://www.stevenage.gov.uk/about-stevenage/fairlands-valley-park/