Monthly Archives: November 2017

Co-habitation – what does it mean and why does it matter?

Resolution is campaigning to change the law relating to cohabitation by couples in a relationship. At the moment when a couple who have been living together split up, they have very limited rights in certain circumstances only – and otherwise no rights at all. For example, a couple may have lived together for half a lifetime, raised a family together – but if one owns everything and the other nothing at all, then when they separate, there is no protection for the financially vulnerable, penniless partner. They may find themselves homeless and without any money or pensions – or any means of claiming any share in the assets built up during the relationship. This tends to reward the wealthier partner at the expense of the vulnerable.

Co-habitation what does it mean and why does it matter Focus Mediation Blog

Limited Protection if there are minor children

If there are minor children then limited help may be available under the Children Act.

Resources may be made available on a court application to a parent, say a mother, for housing whilst that child is a minor.  When the child reaches adulthood and leaves school – that money reverts to the other parent, typically the father. The mother may well then be homeless, with nowhere to live with or without the child, who is very likely to be partly fledged. She may well have reduced pensions and lower income owing to part-time work and career absences for child rearing – tough there is no redress.

How do you fancy a court application under antiquated equitable remedies?

There may be some protection under antiquated laws of Resulting or Constructive Trusts, Proprietary Estoppel and other Dickensian devices. Trying to get a share of assets via this route is fraught with difficulty, complex, uncertain and likely to require lots of money to pay for court proceedings. These might end in tears with an order for costs against you if you lose – or you might secure a fair share of the assets. It all depends. On the one hand this and the other hand that – were promises made to you that you relied on? What can you prove when the love goes cold and the lies start?

But we love and trust each other – it’ll be fine, besides there’s always Common Law Marriage

There is no such thing as Common Law Marriage. It doesn’t exist. Nearly half of marriages end in divorce – and most cohabitations will break-down. Fact. Romance and ‘lurve’ only take you so far, about as far as the bedroom.  For couples who only want an affair – that’s just fine, they want to keep their assets separate – and why shouldn’t they? Forcing everyone to marry and take on financial responsibilities to each other is a massive encroachment on our freedom to order our lives as we choose, an unwarranted intervention by the state. Yet if we do nothing the tragic penury of discarded partners who are often homeless and penniless will continue. What do you think?

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (10 Locations – Milton Keynes, Bedford, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at 


I had a dream last night – all my friends, yes every single one, were invited to a big party … but I wasn’t!  I was the only one who hadn’t got an invite – and worse than that it was taking place next door so I could both hear and see all the frivolity!  It felt rubbish – and I was relieved to wake up with the knowledge it wasn’t real and my Christmas party invites were still on the mantelpiece.  Phew!

Fear of Missing Out Focus Mediation Blog

Sounds silly perhaps (didn’t feel it!) – but we live now in a world of FOMO … Fear Of Missing Out!  Social Media creeps into the home at every opportunity if you let it – and in so doing brings our friends’ happy pictures, anecdotes, one liners, ‘likes’ and so on into our home – a world that’s typically having a great time. That’s cool when you’re high in spirit but not so good when you feel like you’re in the washing machine on fast spin!

F.O.M.O. + Relationship Breakdown

The breakdown of a relationship, whether recent or past, can rev that spin to top notch – the really mean thing is that not only are you having to deal with a huge bag of emotions (cue the grief cycle..) but you also suddenly have to put your financial head on and, if you have children, become a chameleon to hide the hurt you feel and protect them and their emotions – that’s hard….

…and then there’s FOMO – a new angle on it that you haven’t felt before – house/cash/pension/income – how are you going to manage? – What if you are ‘fleeced’? – Where do you start? – What if you MISS OUT?  The panic questions are endless.  Okay – let’s just call it ‘Fear’!

F.O.M.O. & our children

FOMO doesn’t just apply to you though.  Children feel all sorts of emotions when their parents separate including self-blame and a desire to make sure everyone is OK – they can become the proverbial ‘piggy in the middle’ no matter how hard you may try to stop it happening, as this may be their perception – they have their own fear of missing out.  You can help them deal with this through the forging of a ‘parental alliance’.  It’s not always easy for parents to do; but if parents are unified then that aids a solid foundation for their children’s new life.

Mediation is great at keeping communication alive and aiding transparency.  It brings out real feelings in a protected setting and helps to prevent distortion and slow down the spin.  Fears are brought to the surface as are needs and ‘wants’ – they can be discussed, balanced, questioned and addressed, so allowing you to move forward – whether in relation to finances, children or both.  In so doing you are increasingly moving away from that starting point of fear, FOMO.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (10 Locations – Milton Keynes, Bedford, Hemel Hempstead, London , Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at 

Under my skin

Under My Skin Focus Mediation Blog

If you stood in my place and I in yours,

The things we each want most would be so clear.

This quarrel would turn out to have no cause:

We’d learn and understand each other’s fears.

I wouldn’t need to crumple, sob and shake;

Embarrass you with symptoms of distress:

You’d understand the points I want to make;

You’d feel the hurt I struggle to express.

And I, in turn, would save you all the sweat

Of patiently explaining, yet again,

Why logically, you’re much the better bet

And have been since the wretched fight began.

Why don’t we simply swap our points of view?
Can’t you inhabit me? and I’ll try you.

Caroline Friend

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at 

Controlling Conflict on Divorce – Stop Banging Your Head Against the Wall!

When someone fully grieves the death of a relationship, they will heal. It’s a process that takes time. It’s then possible to move forward and relinquish any conflict that has overwhelmed them. They control the conflict rather than the conflict controlling them. Accepting that you can’t control someone but you can control how you respond to them, is both liberating and empowering.

Conflict & Divorce Focus Mediation

Conflict can create positive change

Relational conflict can of course be destructive. However, it can also be a driving force that ends a relationship that doesn’t meet either parties’ needs. I know of a married couple who have not spoken a word to one another for 10 years! They are stuck in conflict. They have silenced the conflict but it still controls them and prevents them from living more meaningful lives.

Finances can trap couples in conflict

It can be very difficult for some separating couples (especially those with children) to move into separate homes before finances have been resolved. Funds may not stretch to paying an existing mortgage and renting a second home, or perhaps neither will agree to leave the family home. They are forced to live in a pressure cooker environment – tensions are constantly bubbling and communication is minimal and often negative.

Children and Conflict

I listen to children (with their parent’s consent) as part of my role as a mediator. A 10 year old girl told me the worst aspect of her parent’s separation under the same roof was that she worried her father wasn’t eating well. He was a poor cook and her mother had stopped making meals for him as ‘they hated each other.’ Family meals no longer included her father who ate microwave meals or takeaways. She would look at his empty chair at the table and try not to cry. Her parents were tearful when I fed this information back to them and it appeared to be a turning point in their conflict – their daughter’s feelings mattered more than their conflict. The conflict dissipated and they worked together in mediation to resolve finances and child arrangements. Imagine the same scenario and add litigation in to the mix – parents battling against one another in court and spending many thousands of pounds. How can that level of conflict not harm a child?

Reducing conflict

After parents separate, if the cycle of conflict continues then children will suffer emotional harm. It’s the conflict rather than the separation that causes them the most distress. Parents who try and convince themselves that their children are not suffering as they keep the conflict away from them, are often misleading themselves. Children are exceptionally perceptive and even if they don’t see conflict; they can feel it.

So how do people let go of their feelings of anger, frustration and resentment? How can they stop their ex from constantly occupying their thoughts?

  • Fake it until you make it. Always be polite and respectful to your ex and treat them as a polite stranger. Good behaviour is often mirrored and subsequently adopted.
  • Re-establish a new relationship by creating new boundaries. This will make you feel more secure – you may need help, as you can’t see from the inside what you are doing to perpetuate the problem. Agree not to discuss certain topics and respect each other’s space and privacy. This parenting alliance is critical for your children. If you love them enough you will work hard to succeed at this.
  • Remember you weren’t able to change your ex when you were together and so you won’t succeed now. However you can change how you respond. If you don’t respond with negative communication then the conflict cannot escalate – you can stop it by depriving it of air.
  • Ignore provocations – if you don’t rise to them they often stop. It takes two.
  • Pick your battles; don’t sweat the small stuff, the big picture is more important – and that means only holding your ground on important issues and always doing so in an adult way, rationally, & calmly – trying to engage the rational adult in the other person.
  • Always avoid eliciting an emotional response by saying something in an inflammatory way.
  • Stop trying to be right and trying to prove you are right. Don’t waste time trying to convince someone of something you can’t. Are you trying to make them see how stupid they are? Don’t! Focus on the actions not the person.
  • Don’t litigate unless you absolutely have to. It’s so tempting to take someone who has hurt you to court, you want to hurt them right? Make them comply? However, you may not get what you want and there are usually no winners in the courts. You may spend more than the value of your dispute if it is financial – not a good investment. Keep some control of your future. You wouldn’t delegate important family decisions to a stranger at any other time, so why now?
  • Consider therapy. Talking to a professional counsellor provides a sounding board and helps you process what has happened and move forward.
  • Listen more than you talk. Remember the old adage we have two ears and one mouth – try to understand the other person. Conflict is often born out of misunderstandings based on the wrong assumptions. No one is always right.
  • Remember mediation helps so many separating couples. Mediation is a safe space for difficult conversations. Without those conversations important decisions can’t be made and you remain stuck. Your mediator helps you focus on the problems that need to be resolved and you solve them. You can learn how to do this. They will have seen hundreds of couples in your situation and have a wealth of experience of helping couples build viable futures apart. Stand on their shoulders – and see over the horizon.

So if you are splitting up or have constant trouble with your ex – why not try mediation? You have nothing to lose except your problems. You can learn how to manage your post separation relationship (if you are to have one) better. What have you got to lose except a big head-ache and a lot of aggravation? What have you got to gain – settlement, closure, moving on to your separate futures apart.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at 

Confessions of a mediator

This isn’t the first blog in which I’ve held my hands up and admitted that I don’t always manage to practice what I preach! I doubt it will be the last. So hear comes another confession…

Confessions of a mediator Focus Mediation

My children M (age 9) and H (age 12), have always squabbled. Nothing unusual there – children bicker. However, in the last few months it’s really escalated. It’s progressed from; ‘mum he’s humming, mum he’s turned the T.V over, Mum he’s looking through the car window on my side of the car’ (I kid you not!) to ‘mum he pinched me, mum he pushed me, mum he’s trying to kick me…’ It’s got physical. The pushing and shoving is mutual but the rest is H to M. He has always been a gentle soul. M reminds me of a boisterous puppy and idolises his brother. H is behaving like a teenager a whole year earlier than expected! He is growing in confidence and trying to push boundaries to find out who he is. He can get frustrated and angry with his little brother. M gets upset as he can’t understand why his big brother doesn’t want to be his friend anymore. I’ve tried to explain to H how his younger brother feels and I have asked him to be kinder. It didn’t work. He believes I always take M’s side – evidenced by the fact I just did it again.

The brotherly conflict peaked

It culminated last week in a physical fight during a trip to the woods. We were with their friends and parents. M slapped H across the face leaving an angry red mark. M’s friends all agreed that H had been teasing him and had tripped him over. M’s friends laughed when he slapped his brother – I think partly from complete shock and also because this group of 9 year olds though H deserved it. So H has a very sore face and felt humiliated and M felt proud of himself for finally retaliating after months of provocation. The younger children received a telling off from their parents for laughing. I took the boys home whilst thinking that I couldn’t remember feeling more out of my depth as a mother.

Lecturing children and getting nowhere fast

I told M he should have called me over and not taken actions into his own hands. I told H off for taunting him and provoking him. I reminded them that they should support each other and be a friend to one another. I banned them from their gaming console (the most effective punishment in my armour) until they managed to behave better towards one another. Both felt hard done by and I wondered (naively) whether it might be a bonding experience. No such luck – they spent the rest of the day blaming each other for their plight.

A mediator who didn’t listen – a sackable offence!

I sat and contemplated the irony of a mediator who helps resolve conflict at work but who couldn’t manage it with her own children. Unfortunately I was missing some vital mediation ingredients – I was far from impartial and I had too much of a vested interest in the outcome. However, there was something I could do; I could actually start listening to my two boys who were both feeling unheard and frustrated.

I reflected on my past conversations with each of the boys and realised that I had been ‘talking at them’ for a while. I had forgotten to hear them. Listening carefully is how you gather information about what your child is thinking and feeling. Without listening any relationship will flounder. I had been too wrapped up in trying to maintain discipline and fix the problem. Listening effectively builds strong relationships and shows respect. Listening is always the first step in solving problems.

Drawing a line in the sand and opening my ears

I spoke to the boys individually and listened well. The longest conversation was with H. His feelings flooded out and amongst the things he told me (much of which must remain private) he said that it hurt him that I often gave in to M for a quiet life and just expected him to accept it. He felt that I always took M’s side and that I was quick to assume he was in the wrong. He felt M had picked up on this and was using it to his advantage. He gave plenty of examples and he had valid points. I checked I’d understand what he said and then I held my hands up. I explained he’s the oldest and therefore the Guinee pig – I’m learning as I go and I don’t always get this adult stuff right! For months I had asked him to be kinder to his brother but he didn’t seem to have any empathy towards him. Now that I had listened well, H told me that he knew he hadn’t been kind to M and he wanted to make amends. Over the next few days I watched the shift in their relationship. There was an immediate and obvious improvement. They began to enjoy each other’s company again. It became clear again to H how much his younger brother looked up to Him.

Kids ganging up on me – the equilibrium had been restored

M did something wrong a few days later and I told him off. H stuck up for him and told me I was being a bit harsh. He put his arm around his little brother and told him it would be alright. They will continue to squabble – I know that. However, I think the two of them (for now) are back on track again.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at