Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Perils of Social Media + Divorce

Divorcing couples experience trauma. It takes time to grieve for their marriage and eventually heal and move forward. Anger forms a significant part of the process and doesn’t mix well with social media. Before posting about your divorce on Facebook or other social media platforms, here are some points to consider:

The Perils of Social Media + Divorce Focus Mediation Blog

  1. You aren’t only sharing your post with Facebook friends who regularly engage with you by ‘liking’ or commenting on your posts. Most users have some Facebook friends who read their posts but never interact with them. Are you comfortable sharing your divorce related updates with everyone on your friends list? Is it something you would share with them individually if you saw them in person? Recently a friend told me they saw a private letter on Facebook that I had sent to a client. The client had scanned it and uploaded it and it had my name and work address on it. I was less than impressed and felt it was inappropriate. I am not Facebook friends with my real-life friend & so my client had no idea I would ever find out. When I rang his ex-wife to invite her to mediation, she immediately said no. She had seen my letter (a friend had shown her) and the post her husband had shared about ‘taking her to mediation to make sure she played fair’. She said she felt humiliated by the post and couldn’t trust he would abide by the mediation rules and keep the sessions confidential. Mediation is voluntary and it was easy to see why she didn’t want to attend. Her husband was desperate to resolve finances and as she refused mediation, he issued court proceedings. His wife told me if he hadn’t posted on Facebook, that she would have accepted the invitation to mediation. Mediation could have saved them thousands in legal fees and a great deal of time and heartache. A costly Facebook post you might agree.
  2. Remember that Facebook friends of your Facebook friends can also see many of your posts, even if you have privacy settings. Even if they can’t, there’s nothing stopping a Facebook friend showing someone else your post. You lose control of the content as soon as you post. Deleting the post will only work if it has not been read by someone you don’t want to read it.
  3. You may feel momentary satisfaction for speaking your truth and/or calling out your ex’s behaviour. However, do you want to be someone else’s source of gossip? Are you Facebook friends with the parents of your children’s friends? What if they discuss the content in their children’s earshot and place your child in an uncomfortable position? I recall a situation when parents had to tell their children their father was gay because he had followed gay sites on social media and school children’s parents had started gossiping. The father had no idea anyone else could see what sites he was interacting with.
  4. Even with privacy settings, snoopers or even employers can see and read any comments people have made on your current profile picture and your previous profile pictures.
  5. Don’t write anything that you aren’t comfortable with your ex reading or showing a judge or even the police.
  6. The divorce process is painful, and it can feel never ending. A year or so down the line, will you feel embarrassed by the posts you have shared? Private people fuelled by pain or anger, sometimes post information that they would never normally share. Confide in people you can trust such as close friends, family and/or a therapist.
  7. Negative thoughts encourage a negative mindset. When I read status updates with negative quotes about relationships, I know the poster is in pain. Find a more positive outlet. Write letters to your ex and don’t post them or keep a diary. Exercise and take long walks. Look after yourself and eat well. If you find you have alone time, do something for yourself that you don’t usually have time to do. Read the books you’ve always wanted to read, take a long bubble bath. Think about what small steps you can take each day to improve your mood and help you cope with a very painful, but fortunately temporary, period of your life.

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

Controllers – Do They Come in Pairs?

Often in mediation we see the couple separately for their first meetings. This gives people an opportunity to be very frank and open about their situation. Often one will say “S/he’s a controller, and I’m unsure I can cope with mediation!” Then the other person comes and says the same. What might be happening? Each clearly feels they’re not getting their way enough. They have come to resent and oppose the control or influence involved in being part of a couple. Whether this is reasonable or unreasonable is a matter of opinion.

Contollers - Do They come in pairs? Focus mediation blog May 2019

So for example, if Harry went out alone to the pub every night, their partner might object, then Harry might complain of being controlled, but who would be at fault?

What if John complained Sally spent too much money on shoes and the family had a huge debts and Sally had 1000 pairs of shoes? Sally might say John was controlling, if he tried to stop Sally buying shoes, but would his actions be inappropriate and who would be at fault?

These exchanges are the overt text, the surface conversation. What is really going on is what I call the subtext and it is the subtext that is so interesting. It is a matter of opinion whether there are inappropriate control issues as opposed to an expectation of a reasonable conversation about something important with the person with whom you share your life. A conversation might be initiated by the so called controller in the hope of influencing the other person to change behaviour which they feel is threatening the foundation of the relationship. Whether this attempt to influence or control is reasonable or unreasonable is depends on your point of view. If the relationship is strong these exchanges are productive, useful and keep the relationship on a sound footing. If the relationship is struggling, the exchanges may become aggressive, negative, recriminatory or  accusatory. Things may have gone too far for the couple to put things right, however much talking they do. Perhaps reasonable exchanges about what is fair and right in a relationship needed to be had years before, before the situation became irretrievable. So influencing your partner through rational discussion is vital to a healthy relationship. This is appropriate and to be expected.

However, it is easy to think of situations where one person is seeking to control the other inappropriately. Examples might be trying to prevent them seeing their friends and family, to cut them off from other relationships, force them to eat, drink or dress in a certain way, or control their conversation, thoughts or beliefs. These would be issues where controlling behaviour would be inappropriate and usually wrong. So accusations of control need exploration and not just to be accepted at face value. We need to unpick the behaviour behind the assertions and ask what is really going on.

So people should change their understanding of the word ‘Control’ and dig deeper. They should think about what is really being asked, is it a reasonable or unreasonable request?

At the point where the so called controller says, in answer to a question about a request: “OK, it doesn’t matter, it’s not important.” there are two possibilities:

The first is just that it’s not important

the second is in getting close to terminal – they giving up on both on their partner and the relationship, it doesn’t matter any more. Then they may well find themselves in family mediation, quite possibly with me, saying “My ex is a controller . . . ”

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 

Getting the most out of Family Mediation

Here’s our guide to help clients get the most from their family mediation sessions.

Getting the most out of mediation focus mediation

  • Choose a good mediator

How experienced is your mediator? You can ensure they are highly qualified if they are Family Mediation Council Accredited. The accreditation process is lengthy, and mediators must complete an extensive portfolio evidencing their competency and expertise. Can a friend or your solicitor recommend a mediator? Many Focus Mediation clients are recommended to us by our previous clients. Check your mediator’s website and their reviews. Is the website informative and helpful?

  • Write down your concerns, hopes for the future and any questions.

At the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting ‘MIAM’, the mediator will ask you about issues between you and your spouse. They assess whether mediation is suitable and explain how mediation works. Its also your opportunity to consider whether mediation may assist you. Keep an open mind. Most people have a rough idea of what mediation involves, but the MIAM often dispels several mediation myths. Write down your concerns, hopes for the future and any questions. Emotions can run high and this will enable you to ensure you cover what is important.

  • Resolving Finances

Come prepared. The mediator at the MIAM will provide you with a file containing the documentation you need to complete so you can correctly disclose your assets, income, liabilities and pensions. The better prepared you are the more productive the sessions will be. If you haven’t valued the family home or obtained a mortgage redemption figure, then this will halt discussions about how to deal with it. If you struggle to complete paperwork, ask a friend or family member to assist. There are also helpful guides online.

  • Ground Rules

You and your spouse make all the decisions in mediation and not the mediator. However, the mediator manages the sessions and asks you to agree to ground rules that apply to the session and perhaps even outside. An important ground rule is respectful communication. For progress to be made its important to listen and to be heard. Mediation isn’t about convincing the mediator that you are right and your ex is wrong. Mediation focuses on the future and not the past that cannot be changed. This particularly applies to the division of finances. The court rarely considers the conduct of parties and is far more interested in finding fairness and trying to meet the needs of each person, as best it can. Its hard, but do listen to your ex. By listening you may be able to clear up misunderstandings that have arisen from poor communication.

  • Where’s the compromise?

People go to court to win but the court doesn’t look for a winner and a loser – it tries to meet both your needs from the available resources. Mediation only works when there is some ‘wriggle room’. It won’t work if each person tries to impose their will on the other. So where can compromise be found? Think about what matters most to you. Where can you afford to make concessions? It’s a scary time but try to put yourself in the other persons shoes. Where will they live? How will they pay their bills? Ask your solicitor what advice theyd give your spouse. If they advise you that you should receive 85% of the assets, would they have told your spouse (if their client) they should receive only 15%? It’s important to receive realistic advice.

  • Stay Open Minded

Explore all options. If you are asked to explore your mortgage capacity, but don’t feel you can afford the repayments, bring information about this to the sessions. You might find it is a viable option. If it’s not, then without this evidence it can’t be ruled out. Meditation allows you to reach creative and tailor-made arrangements. What works well for your family, might not work for another. When we are fearful, we can become positional. However, when we are willing to explore all options, it can lead to proposals that work well.

  • Can’t communicate – don’t worry.

Clients often worry that their poor communication will rule mediation out. However, that’s exactly when mediation can assist. A negotiated settlement requires parties to work together to find solutions to problems they believe can’t be resolved. The mediator is skilled at facilitating positive communication and enabling couples to move forward. Yes, the sessions are difficult; but client’s efforts are very well rewarded. We often find that the sessions improve communication and that this can in some cases provide a form of closure and peace.

  • Be patient and don’t give up.

Mediation is voluntary but needs your commitment. If each threaten to leave if they don’t like what’s said, then mediation will fail. Be patient, trust that whilst the issues you face are new to you and often very painful, that similar issues have been resolved many times before in mediation. You are treading a well-worn path. Your mediator can get you both to the finish line; but you must commit to the process and not allow yourself to dwell too much on the past that can’t be changed. You don’t need to agree on the past; you just need to draw a line on it and focus on resolving the issues standing between you and a happier future.

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

 

The Length of a Relationship – Dividing Finances on Divorce

We know that the law treats unmarried couples very differently from married couples. Recently, whilst reading comments in a public divorce forum, I saw several members giving someone inaccurate legal information about the length of a relationship upon divorce. The issue had cropped up before and had each time caused confusion. The poster said she had lived with her husband for 20 years before marriage and they had 3 children under 14. She had been a full-time mother since the children were born. The marriage had lasted a year as her husband had decided it wasn’t working. He told her that as they had only been married for a year and the assets were all in his name, that she would only receive a share of any assets accrued in that year and no spousal maintenance. Several people agreed and said it was a very short marriage and she had no rights to assets her husband had built up prior to the marriage, as unmarried spouses are treated badly by the law. The legal information the non-legally qualified members provided was wrong. If she acted upon it, she could go on to agree a settlement that didn’t meet her future needs. Her legal position was much stronger than she appreciated, or the forum members realised. Sometimes a short marriage isn’t quite what it appears. Also, even if a marriage is short but there are children, it can significantly impact the division of assets.

The Length of a Relationship – Dividing Finances on Divorce

When is a short marriage not a short relationship?

The starting point for sharing assets is that they are shared equally (50:50) as spouses are equal parties in a marriage and should share “the fruits of the matrimonial partnership” equally. When deciding what (if any) financial orders to make, the courts must have regard under section 25 of The Matrimonial Cause Act ‘MCA’ 1973 to “all the circumstances of the case” (the “section 25 factors”). The first consideration is given to the welfare whilst a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen. When assessing “needs” the court will have regard, in particular, to the matters set out in section 25(2).

Amongst the matters to be considered when assessing the needs of each party, are the age of the parties and the length of their marriage. Since 2003 the courts have taken the stance that when a relationship moves seamlessly from cohabitation to marriage, without any major alteration in the way the couple live, that the cohabitation should be taken into consideration. The cohabitation and marriage are usually added together to determine the length of the ‘relationship’. The date for the end of the marriage for this purpose, is the date of separation and not the date of Decree Absolute. Assets accrued during the ‘relationship’ – cohab + marriage (don’t confuse periods where a couple date but don’t live together), will usually be subject to the sharing principle. When the court considers all the S25 factors and all the circumstances of the case, it may conclude that one parties’ capital or income needs are greater. Perhaps their earning capacity is significantly less, and they would not be able to obtain a mortgage, or they have a disability or are caring for a disabled child. Each case will turn on its facts.

Accept legal advice with caution

Online forums can be useful. People can see that they aren’t alone. However, applying legal information to the facts of a case can be complex and require years of legal training. I often see poor legal advice continually repeated online. An appointment with a solicitor could save someone many thousands of pounds if they have received inaccurate legal advice from friends or acquaintances. They can advise you about what may be in your best interests. There’s also plenty of free good quality legal information available online and we have listed some resources below. Attending mediation is a good way to avoid any hidden pitfalls and to ensure you receive accurate legal information. The mediator is impartial but does provide legal information throughout the process. They also alert you to any hidden pitfalls such as a tax liability or an issue with a course of action you intend to adopt. They signpost you to experts that can deal with these issues and often save you considerable sums of money in the long-term.

A List of Free and Accurate Legal Information Resources

Citizens Advice Bureau.

The Government Website: Money and property when a relationship ends

Resolution: Splitting up – Money and home

Money Advice Service – Divorce and separation

Sorting Out Separation – Helping you deal with relationship break-down

Gingerbread: Single Parents – Money after separation

Family Mediation Council – why choose mediation?/

ITV This Morning – Divorce/ separation helplines and links

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

 

A Safe Place to Talk? – 2019

Has talking to each other become impossible? Are the things you’ve got to sort out too difficult? Does it feel as if there’s a brick wall between you that you can’t bring down?

Mediation offers a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your impossible problems. The kids. The money. Where you are each going to live. The mediator structures your conversation, sets ground rules so that no-one feels put down by the other one, makes sure you each say what is on your mind, and – critically – makes sure the other person has heard and understood it.

shutterstock_45641779

Focus mediators are trained and practised in addressing any power imbalances. They are completely neutral: they don’t take sides. Most importantly, they are non-judgemental. Nothing shocks them. The mediator keeps you focussed on the plans you need to make for your future, rather than dwelling on the past. She uses her wealth of experience to help you both knock down that wall and build a future.

However, this ideal scenario can be knocked for six if a couple comes to mediation intent on playing out their battles in front of an audience. Mediators can help people for whom talking has become difficult, but they will find it nigh-on impossible to help people who insist on dominating the process, no matter how many times the mediator repeats the ground rules of ‘no shouting, no interrupting, no threatening, no undermining’. Mediation can only help those who want it to work and are willing to set aside their old habits, under the mediator’s guidance. The mediator has a right to end the mediation if she feels the process is being abused.

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

%d bloggers like this: