Monthly Archives: February 2019

Separation Options 2019 – What is Expensive? What is Affordable?

Mediation is a process where an impartial mediator helps you communicate and sort out agreements on things you disagree about. You choose when it happens, and your priorities are respected. If both of you want to resolve problems in mediation, whether it is differences about your children or how to split your assets, money and pensions, then you will be able to resolve all this and more in mediation. Issues that currently seem insurmountable can be sorted out and mediation which costs a lot less than litigation, you share the costs between you.

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Finances

If there are financial issues you need to sort out then the mediator will explain how to work through the information (called disclosure by mediators, solicitors and the courts) and help you to build up a full and detailed picture of what you have, then you go on to discuss what you each will need in your future, separate lives. Solicitors can play an important part advising you alongside mediation. However, it will be more effective and cheaper for your solicitor to advise you once you have completed disclosure in mediation, as they can see what your situation is and what advice is right for you. This is faster and simpler than completing financial disclosure through your solicitors and using solicitors’ letters to communicate.

Children

If you are separating from each other how are you going to make arrangements for your time with your children and for the school holidays? Do you need someone to help you talk this through? At Focus Mediation you can prepare a parenting plan to help you work through the future together.

Do you think that children under 4 should have overnight stays with your separated partner? Even the academics find this a tricky topic so how do you know what is best? At Focus mediation we will support you as you talk through these tricky issues, they are YOUR children and you know them best.

Mediation is not about getting back together, but getting on with your future lives, and those of your children, in a way that works for you.

Costs

Mediation is a pay as you go service. You pay for each meeting at the end; you each pay your own costs unless you agree otherwise. You don’t have any hidden charges for emails letters or telephone calls as there should not really be any. You may not have to pay anything if you get legal aid.

The question to ask yourselves, is, can you afford not to mediate? Come to a mediation assessment and see how it works.

Author: Mary Banham-Hall, Family Mediator, Milton Keynes & Bedford

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

The Power of Listening when in Conflict

A friend asked me for advice as she was experiencing difficulties making child arrangements with her child’s father. She felt he was making fairly big decisions without consulting her and they had argued. I couldn’t mediate for them as I knew them both. They had arranged to meet to discuss their issues. She wanted information about the law. She frantically made notes and said she had prepared a rough script covering her main concerns so she didn’t get bamboozled. My advice? I told her to rip the notes up and to tell him she really wanted to listen to him and hear how things felt from his perspective. I told her not to interrupt him and to listen to learn and not to reply. I said it would be hard, but she shouldn’t try and defend herself or reply until he had finished. At that point she should summarise what he had said to let him know she had heard him and to check she had understood him correctly. She thanked me but I knew she was thinking, ‘is that it?’ That really is it though! Listening is key. When we actively listen to someone they feel heard and far more willing to then listen to us.

Speak Less, Listen More

Speak Less, Listen More

My friend called me after their meeting. She said she had very reluctantly kept her notes in her bag and followed my advice. ‘It worked!’ she exclaimed. ‘I listened even though at one point I had to sit on my hands to stop myself interrupting. After I listened and summarised how I felt he felt, he listened to me – I mean he really listened.’ She said she told him what she had told him many times before; but for some reason this time he actually listened and took on board her concerns. They had stopped talking at each other and were now talking to each other.

When we have conversations we often miss much of what is said as we are busy listening only to respond. If we listen to learn then misunderstandings can be cleared up then and there, just by asking some simple questions or seeking clarification. It requires curiosity and is a skill that has to be developed. Next time you feel that a conversation is deteriorating, stop and ask the person to repeat what they have said as you aren’t sure you understand. Very often this can stop a situation escalating. When clients come to me they have invariably stopped listening or they don’t listen well enough. I’m guilty of this too at times. However, I know the key to resolving communication issues is to remind myself that I need to speak less and listen more.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

 

What To Expect In The First Mediation Session

If both of you are willing to move ahead to a first mediation session, and your mediator thinks your case is suitable for mediation, they will fix a first mediation session.

It will depend on the issues you face as to the timing of a first session following the MIAMs.

What to expect in the first mediation Focus Mediation Blog

Our role is to offer you a safe and neutral environment where you feel able to express the issues that have been blocking for example parental arrangements or a financial settlement.

Parental Arrangements

I like to bring parents together as soon as possible to start to talk about the issues they face. The flexibility of mediation means you can bring any issues to the first session you wish to discuss.

When dealing with child arrangements we aren’t just looking at whether arrangements are possible, you can talk about the softer issues.

Why the arrangements aren’t working is often around issues of parental communication – the way parents speak to each other, or the timing of pick ups and drop offs, working up to overnight staying contact can be an issue between parents, so too the introduction of new partners particularly if you are only recently separated.

I describe the process in the first session as building a bridge, and any bridge needs firm foundations. In the first session we aim to put the foundation stones in place. Arrangements both parents are willing to sign up to for a short period of time say 4 – 6 weeks.

I ask parents to come back to another session at that point to talk about what went well and what didn’t go so well. Sometimes after the second session parents feel able to move ahead together without needing to return, and sometimes they need to know they can come back for a third session.

As they start to work well together as parents they start to build their own bridge of trust and understanding to provide that essential framework and support for their children.

Property and Finance

Couples coming to mediation to talk through property and finance are often keen to get to a resolution.

The first mediation session for property and finance follows pretty much the same financial procedures as those laid down by the court.

I usually wait 4 – 6 weeks before fixing a first mediation session. It is important that you have as much financial information as possible for the first meeting and often pension information – cash equivalent values – can take several weeks to obtain. You are paying for the sessions so it is important they are not wasted.

A bit like a jigsaw puzzle you can’t create the picture without looking at all the pieces and in the first mediation session we need you to turn over all the pieces by completing the Form E, so we can see “what’s in the financial pot”, just as you would if each of you was working with a solicitor.

Once we know what your assets and liabilities are we ask you to start to look at your needs set against what can be afforded.

Mediation is not suitable in some cases and it won’t work if one or both of you is not upfront and honest about your finances. You can’t complete a jigsaw with some of the pieces missing.

However, if you both want to get through to the other side of your financial issues and move ahead with your lives, mediation offers a collaborative and expedited way forward.

Some couples have full financial information at the first session and have already considered possible ways of splitting assets and sharing liabilities. Some couples need time to assemble their information and think about options, those couples will need more sessions.

I usually run 1 ½ hour sessions for couples in property and finance matters but if couples would like to spend half a day or a day working through issues I can do this too.

I also offer One Day Lawyer Assisted Mediation – a topic for another time.

Author: Joanna Chawla LLB FMCA , Family Mediator, London & Watford

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

A Mediator’s Guide To Separating Well

Reflecting on the start to 2019, people who are separating I have seen this month, wish to find out about how they can move forward and to try to understand how that might work.

A Mediator’s Guide To Separating Well Focus Mediation Blog Feb 2019

 

How do we get started?

The first step is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM.) Sometimes your solicitor will have told you that you need to see a mediator to get the court form signed, or you need to get your MIAM form. The court rules expect that separating couples, or parents, attend a MIAM meeting so that they can have the opportunity of finding out how they can get on with their lives, and out of their current difficult situation.

Part of the MIAM meeting is used by me to give you information about the mediation process and answer any questions you may have, and I assess whether the process is suitable. This gives me an opportunity to find out a bit about what is going on for you and what needs sorting out. After that, we can set up a joint mediation session if we all agree that this is the best way forward.

In case it doesn’t look like the best way forward, I also talk to you about other options. This does not just mean Court. That is not the only option. There are all sorts of options I can give you information about ranging from different types of mediation to bringing your solicitors along for a One Day Lawyer Assisted Mediation.

There are also other options to help you get towards a solution that works for you, such as jointly instructing an expert to give you an ‘Early Neutral Evaluation’. In that option it can be really helpful to ask an expert, often a specialist Family law barrister, to say what they would decide if they were your Judge or Arbitrator.

Finally, if you really do think that you need someone else to decide for you then you can either choose to ask an Arbitrator to decide for you, or you can apply to the Family Court.

After the MIAM you can think about what might work best for you, and take legal advice. It is really important that you can talk to your solicitor.

Next time- what to expect in the first mediation session:

  • Getting mediation started
  • Issues to bring to mediation
  • Get on with your own lives

Emma Bugg, Lawyer Mediator, mediates from our Hemel Hempstead & St Albans offices.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations; Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk 

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