Category Archives: Conflict

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

 

Divorce – It’s Your Fault, Accept The Blame

Im a Family Mediator and work with separating and divorcing clients. Before that I practised as a Family Solicitor. I have worked closely with many divorcing couples and based on that experience, I welcome Divorce Reform and the removal of blame. However, I am aware that some people fear that it will undermine the institution of marriage and make divorce too easy.

the blame game focus mediation blog

Few take the decision to divorce lightly; especially parents. Children thrive when parents together provide a loving and happy home. However, its well documented that children suffer more emotional harm from prolonged parental conflict, than from parental separation itself. A high conflict marriage is just as damaging as separated parents in conflict. If parents decide to divorce, (and of course it’s sometimes one person’s decision that the other has no choice but to learn to accept), then a divorce that removes blame, is far more child friendly. When separated parents can communicate well, children feel safe. When parents are in conflict or disconnected, children suffer. When fault is removed from divorce it will create a better foundation for separating spouses to transition to co-parenting.

A Case Study involving blame

Parents currently separated whilst under the same roof, attended mediation. They’d privately reached agreement about child arrangements and attended mediation to discuss how to share their assets. I asked if anyone had commenced divorce proceedings. The husband had applied for a divorce based on his wife’s unreasonable behaviour. He explained it was his decision to end the marriage and she didn’t want to apply for the divorce. As they had only recently separated, the only fact he could rely on was her unreasonable behaviour. The husband explained he didn’t feel comfortable about this, as they had each contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. However, he had no choice unless he waited 2 years. She said she wanted to divorce but didn’t want to divorce him or accept the blame. I gave legal information about her options but said she should see a solicitor who could advise her. She felt the most straight forward and cost efficient way to proceed, would be to agree to the divorce, but make it clear in the Acknowledgement of Service that she didn’t accept the particulars of unreasonable behaviour and reserved the right to defend them if they were raised in respect of finances or child arrangements. She felt that was a pragmatic approach, but far from perfect. I confirmed that many respondents struggle with this issue as marriage is complicated and to entirely blame one spouse is hard for that spouse to deal with. However, when we returned for the next session to discuss finances. I could tell something wasn’t right. Clients often feel tense when discussing finances as it’s so important to their future that their housing and income needs are met. However, this felt like something more. I asked the wife if she was ok and she wasn’t. She said she kept reading the divorce application and it made her angrier each time. she said her husband had unilaterally ended the relationship and stopped trying and yet she was being blamed. She felt he had cited petty things that weren’t even true. She said she had a long list of genuine unreasonable behaviour about him and she began to list it. The husband explained that they had argued continuously since she received the application. The wife demanded to know if he had shown anyone the divorce application.

I asked how their children were coping and they said they were struggling. Neither spouse could afford to leave the family home until finances were resolved. Blaming the wife in the divorce application had added to the strained atmosphere in the home. They both agreed it was intolerable to live like this. Of course, they would have suffered if no fault divorce had been available. However, blaming one spouse had added fuel to the fire and had clearly impacted the children. This isnt an isolated example. I could provide many more and I know my colleagues could too.

Let’s trust separating parents and help make a traumatic decision less strained. It’s not about undermining marriage; It’s about supporting their evolving co-parenting relationship and not damaging it.

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

Divorce – What Price Peace?

In a supermarket I noticed someone familiar smiling at me. I couldn’t immediately place him, and he laughed and said, “Don’t tell me you don’t remember me, I find it hard to believe our mediation sessions weren’t memorable!” He was a client from a few years ago and he and his ex-wife were involved in a high conflict divorce. They came to mediation to resolve finances. He was right the sessions had been memorable. They had tried to resolve finances for years before coming to mediation and they had little faith that they could be settled outside court.

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Attack or be Attacked

He and his wife had developed a toxic pattern of communication. They verbally attacked one another whenever they met. It was painstaking work to move them away from this dysfunctional pattern of communication. I felt like a strict school teacher at times. At one point I had said, “stop arguing or do it outside where it will be a lot cheaper. It was their mediation and they made all the decisions. However, it was my process and if they couldn’t respect it and let me manage it, then I wasn’t prepared to continue. Mediation is voluntary for each participant, including the mediator. Gradually they saw that rehashing the past and trying to apportion blame, was not a constructive use of mediation time. They couldn’t change the past and were unlikely to ever agree on it. I encouraged them to focus on their individual futures. What were their housing and income needs? How could they best be met? They reached an agreement at their 5th session. They were amazed. I wasn’t. I knew they were slowly but surely making progress and that if they wanted a resolution strongly enough, that mediation was the best place to achieve it.

What Price Peace?

So back to my supermarket encounter. I politely asked him how he was. He told me that he had thought about contacting me and thanking me, but he had never got around to it. He said that he wasn’t particularly happy after the mediation. He had wanted more of the marital assets. However, over time he realised that it wasn’t such a bad deal and that the deal had bought him peace and he was no longer stuck in a rut. He said his ex-wife felt the same way about her share of the settlement. The reality is that a negotiated settlement doesn’t produce a winner and a loser – it means each must make compromises. Walking away with an agreement they can each live with is far more realistic than expecting a big win. Winning is why people go to court – they need to win to justify the big legal fees. However, the court is looking for fairness and meeting each side’s needs; not winners.

I asked him if he would recommend mediation. He said he wished they had been able to sort things out themselves. However, he knew that wasn’t realistic and he said he would recommend mediation to a friend. He said that there was an advantage that he couldn’t see at the time – things had really improved with his ex-wife. He didn’t think it would matter to him; but it did. They weren’t exactly friends, but they were friendly and if they bumped into each other when seeing their adult children, then they would happily chat. He said that mediation had provided closure. He realised he didn’t like his ex-wife disliking him, and he said their children were happier.

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

Anger – A Mediator Point of View

The other day, a man arrived at mediation so angry he could hardly speak. He certainly wasn’t making eye contact. He slammed his papers onto the desk and shifted impatiently in his chair. I asked him what was up. He was angry at having to be here, furious about the money he was spending and spitting nails at what seemed to him to be a completely pointless exercise: working through the financial disclosure “when we both know what we’ve got and that it isn’t going to be enough”.

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My first reaction was the wrong one. I got defensive. Pointed out that he voluntarily agreed to come, and that the hourly rate was reasonable and less than that charged by most solicitors. “That doesn’t stop this whole thing being a complete waste of time”; “But we haven’t even started yet, how do you know that?” I was stupidly letting my professional ego get in the way of a much better approach.

I continued in an unhelpful, rather smug vein by showing them both the flow-chart they had seen in their introductory meeting: it explains why disclosure has to be done, whether you are using mediation or solicitors: without it, no-one can help you negotiate a settlement.

He was still smouldering. We had a few more tetchy exchanges. Finally, finally!, I remembered that this wasn’t how to deal with anger.

I said to him that he still seemed cross. I asked him what about. “Everything”.

And who are you angry with: me? – (politely)No.

Her? – (reluctantly) No.

Who, then? – (ruefully) Myself.

Ah!. Now we could go somewhere with it. I sympathised with him with them bothsaying I could see what a difficult situation they were in, how upsetting it was and how understandable his anger was. I listed all the unfortunate aspects of their case, and told them I could see exactly why they might be feeling hopeless about it.

I also told them that they were amazingly brave to opt for mediation; to choose to work this thing out together, face to face; and that I really hoped I could help. I told them we would be dealing with facts and figures rather than messy emotions; that we would focus on the wayforward rather than on the path that had led them here. I said I would do everything I could to help them reach a solution so that they could draw a line and move on.

I am pleased to say, we worked hard all morning and reached a set of proposals that were eventually converted into a consent order. It had turned out to be simpler than they thought – and they wrote to thank me at the end.

Moral? Anger usually stems from a feeling that you have been misread or wrong-footed, and it is often expressed about something other than the root cause. It seeks to win power over a person or situation, so a defensive, self-righteous response only fuels it. Accepting, analysing and understanding it is a better way forward, whether you are in the mediator’s chair or at home. Good luck!

Author: Caroline Friend, Family Mediator, Oxford.

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 

The Fears of a Divorcing Parent

A divorcing parent will often have fears about the future of their relationship with their child. If the family structure was traditional and one parent stayed at home whilst the other worked full time, it’s likely the working parent will have concerns about the level of their future involvement. Will they be judged because they weren’t as involved in the day-to-day care? The stay at home parent may also worry that they may be forced to go back to work full-time and that this might negatively impact the children. Such fears can lead to each becoming positional and this can cause conflict. The full-time working parent may fear the other parent will stop them seeing the children or will limit time to such an extent that it damages the relationship. The stay at home parent may argue that the other wasn’t very involved when they lived together and that they don’t understand why they are now insisting they spend much more time with the children. They may feel that their role is no longer valued. Obviously, there are numerous family models, and each will experience unique concerns.

the fears of a divorcing parent focus mediation blog

Communication When Divorcing

When parents decide to separate, communication may have broken down or become strained. Mediation creates a safe space for parents to work on improving their communication. They can share their concerns with one another and know they will be heard. At a recent mediation session, a father explained that he was ‘terrified’ that his relationship with his children would be irreparably damaged now he was no longer living in the same household as them. He had proposed child arrangements that meant that he would spend considerably more time with the children than he ever had before. His wife was frustrated; she had often asked him to spend more time away from the office when they were a couple. Now they had separated he was suggesting she return to work and he reduce his hours and provide some of the childcare. She felt he was dismissing her role. The wife said they had agreed to a traditional relationship and she had given up a well-paid career to be a full-time mother to their four children for the last 12 years. She worried about the impact on the children if she returned to work when they were also dealing with the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. The husband said that he needed her to return to work so that he could take reduced hours so that he could spend more meaningful time with the children. In mediation I helped them to explore each other’s concerns and fears in greater detail. They both loved their children very much and each feared the divorce would result in child arrangements that could negatively impact their relationship with the children. The husband explained that sharing a home fulltime with the children had meant that he had been able to touch base with them in the mornings and evenings and that he had spent quality time with them at weekends. His biggest fear was that he would only see them every other weekend and their close bond would deteriorate. The wife reassured him that it was very important to her that the children maintained a strong relationship with him. She expressed her concerns about returning to work; she worried about the impact on the children if she no longer did the school runs. She viewed the school runs in the same way that he had viewed touching base with the children in the mornings and evenings. They continued to share their fears and concerns in a way they hadn’t been able to outside the mediation room. The husband made it clear he wasn’t asking her to work full time and stop the school runs. This led to them together making child arrangements that they felt would help the children to cope with the changes that lay ahead. The wife found a role which allowed her to still cover all morning drop offs and a couple of afternoons. This paid less than the husband had hoped, but he was still able to slightly reduce his hours (and work from home one day a week), so he could collect the children from school twice a week. They listened and compromised so the children didn’t suffer.

So Why Does Mediation Resolve Issues That Parents Can’t?

Often at intake a parent tells me that they fear mediation won’t work as they have repeatedly told the other parent how they feel, and it has fallen on deaf ears. A mediator doesn’t have a magic wand. However, their impartiality allows them to create an environment where each parent can be listened to. Outside mediation during a difficult conversation one may have walked away, or an argument may have ensued. The mediator makes sure the discussions are fair and each parent has an opportunity to express themselves clearly. It’s not an easy solution – it’s hard work and painful at times. However, it lays important foundations for respectful parental communication. Parents won’t always agree and that’s normal regardless of whether they are a couple or separated. Each parent needs to grieve for the end of their relationship, and this takes time. Mediation enables couples to have difficult conversations at a time when emotions are running high and it’s too hard to resolve issues without the support of a professional.

When times are difficult it can be helpful to think about the future. What will your child thank you for handling well? How can you ensure that you will both be there for major events such as a graduation, wedding or even a grandchild’s 1st birthday? Nothing worth having comes without effort and that includes a healthy co-parenting relationship after divorce.

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 advice would you give to a close friend experiencing divorce?

At Focus Mediation our Lawyer Mediators collectively have many years of experience supporting separating or divorcing couples. We asked them what advice they would give to a close friend experiencing divorce.

Mary Banham-Hall

Mary Banham-Hall FMCA – Family Mediator & Collaborative Family Lawyer

You and your children will hurt enough without fighting, so don’t let conflict take over. Remember what’s important and focus on that. ALSO Working out what to do together helps you both and is definitely the way to go. Yes, it’s hard but worth it – and with a mediator’s help you can do it!


Emma Bugg

Emma Bugg FMCA – Family Mediator & Collaborative Family Lawyer

I would recommend they read the Separated Parents Information Programme ‘SPIP’ and Resolution “Helping parents to help children”  handbook and to read as many other resources as possible to find out how best to navigate a way forward that works for their children and enables them to continue their parenting role as best they can.


Jane Leadbetter

Jane Leadbeater – Family Mediator

Try mediation. It can help you to resolve issues quickly and at much less financial and emotional cost than negotiations between solicitors or court proceedings.


Rachel Lander

Rachel Lander – Family Mediator

Lots of people seek the support of counselling when their marriage breaks down.  A counsellor can really help you in working through the difficult feelings and emotions that you may face.  In turn this can assist you in approaching practical issues, such as where you will all live, how the bills will be paid, emotion – and money – and add to your stress.  There are many alternative ways to civilly reach agreement with your ex: mediation (coupled with advice from a solicitor as the mediation progresses) will provide a forum to explore issues, future pension provision etc., in a more pragmatic and calmer way.

Remember that you don’t have to ‘fight’ or ‘have your day in court’.  Both of those approaches will drain you of much needed energy in a safe environment and to reach proposals that in a lot of cases can be put before the court by post and made into a binding court order.

If there is an insurmountable blockage that can’t be resolved in mediation, then consider arbitration as an alternative to court proceedings.  An independent arbitrator who is picked by you and your ex (usually an arbitration trained Barrister or Solicitor) will act like a Judge, on a private basis, and can deal with matters in a more flexible way than traditional court proceedings including incorporating mediation into the arbitration itself.


Elaine Clarke

Elaine Clarke FMCA – Family Mediator

Don’t rush into agreeing anything. Mediation will help you – it’s a cheaper alternative to court – but also be guided by legal advice. I believe with the help of a mediator, separating couples can make their own arrangements for separating, rather than battling through the courts. This is usually much better for them and their families, as well as being quicker and costing less, both financially and emotionally.


Sara Stoner

Sara Stoner FMCA – Family Mediator

Feeling hurt and angry is normal and to be expected. You can’t change the past and you won’t agree on it. Focusing on your future enables you to move forward and find peace. A court battle won’t make you feel any better and you will regret wasting so much time and money. Don’t dismiss mediation just because you don’t get along. Mediation is a safe space to have difficult but necessary conversations that you haven’t managed to have. Decide your own future and resolve matters quickly and cost efficiently. Your children need you to sort out finances so they aren’t caught up in a toxic situation. It’s not the divorce that harms children; it’s the prolonged parental conflict.


Caroline Friend

Caroline Friend FMCA – Family Mediator & Collaborative Family Lawyer

This is one of the worst times in your life, so don’t be surprised if you are overwhelmed with difficult emotions. The trick is to try to put those emotions on one side when you are looking at your financial settlement, and when you are making arrangements for the children. So far as finances go, maybe jot down how you would like your life to look
in one year’s time; two years time, five years time: generate some thoughts on how you can best develop your independence while supporting the family. As for the children: what do you want to avoid; what do you want to aim for for them? How would you like them to look back on this difficult period in their lives? What can you do to make sure they continue to grow up with good relationships with both their parents and
don’t feel caught up in the conflict?

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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