Category Archives: Divorce

The Powerless Parent

As a family solicitor and now  family mediator, a number of separated parents told me they  felt powerless. It’s often men but also women. Historically children stayed with mum as dad worked fulltime outside the home. Now both parents may work or either sex stays at home whilst the higher wage earner works full time. It’s the parent that works full time that more often  feels powerless.

The Powerless Parent Focus Mediatiuon Blog

Custody, Residence and  Access…

Family Law makers have  moved away from terms such as custody, residence and access, and for good reason.  These terms can prevent parents from seeing the bigger picture. Motivated by the fear of losing their child, they believe they need a court order for  ‘custody/residence’ of their child upon separation.  They may believe it’s too hard to make joint decisions and with an order they can make unilateral decisions about their child.  If the other parent has parental responsibility (as is usually the case) then they should still play an important  role  in decision making about education, health and religion, amongst other issues, and so this presumption is wrong.

The family court has a ‘no order principle’. This means it takes the view that it’s often best for there not to be an order in respect of a child. An order will only be made if it believes it’s necessary and in the child’s best interests. The court appreciates that parents are more likely to stick to arrangements that they have made together than an order imposed on them by a Judge. That’s why litigants must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMs) before they can issue an application for what is now known as a Child Arrangement Order. In a nutshell,  it’s usually best for parents to work things out together outside of the court room. They know their child best and can make arrangements that best suit their family.  They are still their child’s family; even if they are separated and live apart.

Child Arrangement Orders

A Child Arrangement Order focuses on how a child will spend their  time with each parent. A parent is a co-parent regardless of how many nights the child stays with them. The child may spend time in each household and so it’s important that each house feels like  home to them . A parent who works full time and spends less time caring for their child than the other parent, may  still be referred to as the non-resident parent. They often  feel that the time they spend with their child is on the other parent’s terms. So how can we improve things? Well as you’d expect, I believe and have experienced that mediation can really improve parental communication and ease this situation. Separated parents need to work at their new co-parenting relationship. They must transition from a couple to co-parents. It’s an understatement to say that this is tough and requires determination and patience. Feelings of hurt and anger don’t just disappear when a decision to separate is made. When issues such as where you will live and how you will support yourself are thrown into the mix, emotions run high. We also grieve for the relationship and must work through a series of emotions until we reach acceptance and can focus on a more positive future.

How can a powerless parent regain some control.

When separating parents attend mediation, they may not have communicated for some time. Some say that any conversation inevitably turns into an argument. A mediator helps parents to listen better and acknowledge each others fears and concerns. When we feel vulnerable or threatened we often become distant or defensive. However, that stance rarely serves us well. There’s often a point when I see the relief on each of the parents faces when the fog of anger and hurt is lifted and they appreciate that deep down the person they once knew and trusted is still there. They see that the person who they feel has  hurt them is someone they can begin to trust again as a co-parent – even if they are unable to trust them as a spouse. There is a basis for co-parenting.

Children learn from their parents’ behaviour – how we treat the other parent is how they will learn to treat others and potentially their future partners. They are half mum and half dad – when we criticise one parent we criticise the child. If we make a child choose then they may not choose us as when they become an adult. So how can the powerless parent regain control?  By communicating better with the other parent, by  showing vulnerability and being honest and open. There’s no short cut to a good co-parenting relationship –  it takes time, effort and patience.  We must love our child more than we dislike  each other.  In theory that sounds easy but it’s much harder in practice. It’s vital to respect that a child has a right to know and love both parents and that as a parent it’s our duty to ensure that’s possible.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

Finances on Divorce – Winner takes all?

It’s sad to note the number of divorcing couples who still believe that they must battle in court over finances. The driving force is usually fear or anger:

Finances on Divorce Focus Mediation Blog

  • I need a solicitor or barrister who will roll their sleeves up and fight to secure me what’s fair.
  • I have been treated so badly I will take them to court and show them I won’t be walked over. I want them to be punished.
  • Mediation is for amicable couples. We can’t agree so mediation is pointless.
  • I can’t mediate – they will walk all over me. They are manipulative and will convince a mediator that they should receive far more than me.
  • The finances are too complicated for mediation – it’s got to go to court.

The reality is that they will invest tens of thousands of pounds in litigation that often involves huge delay and escalates conflict – destroying hope of a future co-parenting relationship. In a recently reported case, a Judge despaired that a wealthy couple with children had been involved since 2011 in litigation that had been “bitterly contested, highly acrimonious and extremely expensive”. He said the litigation had all but exhausted the parties’ liquid capital and he was left to focus on future income only as there were no longer assets to share.

A gamble that won’t pay off.

I saw a divorcing client recently regarding child arrangements as finances were being litigated at court. They’d already spent £75,000 each in legal fees and were only at first hearing. The marital assets were 1 million. Her solicitor said the costs would at least double by final hearing. So the assets in dispute would dwindle to £700,000 (or less). The starting point for sharing the original assets was 50/50 – so £500,000 each. Now the starting point would be £350,000 each. The client said she would have settled for £550,000 but her ex refused. Now if a court awarded her £550,000, she would receive 78.5% of the assets – a tall order. Pre-litigation, £550,000 had been 55% of the assets. The method employed by each to provide them with a share they felt was fair and met their needs, would cost them approximately 30% of their joint assets.

Why wasn’t court a last resort?

Why hadn’t they used Alternative Dispute Resolution (it’s cheaper, quicker and actually promotes improved communication); Mediation, collaborative law, MedArb, or Arbitration? The client was worried that her ex, an accomplished businessman, would ‘out manoeuvre’ her in mediation. Mediators are trained to bridge power imbalances and ensure everyone fully understands the assets and options available. Litigation was the least likely vehicle to provide a satisfactory outcome – they had each gambled on winning at court and the other losing. That was the only way the numbers would add up as there was no longer enough money in the pot. There was a flaw in the plan – the court looks for fairness and its objective is to meet the parties’ needs. There is seldom a winner and loser, just two dissatisfied people.

Finances resolved in just a day.

At Focus we offer family mediation sessions spread out over a period of weeks – solicitors can advise alongside the process so clients are supported.  We also specialise in a one day civil mediation model. It costs £1000 each and our most experienced dual trained mediators facilitate resolution of finances in a day. It works. Solicitors attend and advise clients throughout the day and proposals are later that day made binding. It saves countless thousands and many tears.  Surely that’s a much safer investment in meeting needs? Gambling at court means risking hard earned assets for a victory that will probably never be theirs.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

Housing crisis

Last week, despite the bone-aching cold of the Beast from the East and in the start of a snow storm, I turned out to protest against the adoption of a Local Plan by Cherwell District Council which would approve the building of 4,500 homes on Oxford’s Green Belt, around Kidlington, Gosford, Begbroke and Yarnton.

Housing Crisis Focus Mediation Oxford

In my day job as a mediator, I help people look at how two homes can be squeezed out of limited resources when a relationship breaks down. Given that 42% of marriages end in divorce, the need to re-house is affecting almost half the families in Britain. So should I be pleased that 4,500 houses will be on the market for divorcing couples in Oxford?

No! and here’s why:

  • These houses won’t go anywhere towards meeting the true housing need as most of them won’t be affordable; they will probably go to house London commuters.
  • Oxford city is dumping its housing crisis on its surrounding villages. It is prioritising employment over housing by creating offices, restaurants and shopping centres on land which could be for housing e.g. Oxpens, parts of Westgate. But employment figures in Oxford are high compared to the rest of the country: unemployment is not an issue, lack of affordable housing is. Oxford city should sort this out.
  • The impact on the villages will be disastrous in terms of traffic build-up. There are a huge number of other developments proposed north of the city, and the accumulated volume of traffic will bring the A40, A34 and A44 to a standstill twice a day. Also consider the resulting air pollution.
  • The villages will be subsumed in a seamless sprawl of development; Oxford’s character as a city with pleasant surrounds will be lost for ever. There are no exceptional circumstances proved to justify building here; we are committing a crime against future generations, who will lose the vital breathing space and character-defining landscape of the Green Belt.
  • The Golf Course should not be built over: it is a valuable resource for local and much wider community in many ways; it raises funds for charity; it is a site of great bio diversity; the alternative site at Frieze Farm is wholly unsuitable; and who will fund the cost of relocation @ £10m?

The protest had no effect and the Plan was approved.

Maybe with my mediator hat on, I’m hoping this will provide housing options for my clients. With my woolly hat on, however, I am sad and dispirited that this is how local government is allowed to ruin our environment.

Caroline Friend, Family Lawyer Mediator, Oxford.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

Butting Heads & Finding Oil

A crucial rule in mediation is ‘don’t argue over positions’. Most people engage in positional bargaining when they negotiate – ‘I won’t pay a penny more than £100’, ‘Sack my lazy colleague or I resign’, ‘You must be home by 9pm or you’re grounded’. The trouble with positions is that we are so busy defending them that we lose sight of what it is we actually need. Does our original position serve us well? Does it meet our needs and adequately resolve all of the issues? It’s hard to back down from a position and save face and so often people continue defending it come what may. Roger Fisher & William Ury wrote the acclaimed book ‘Getting to yes – negotiating an agreement without giving in’. Within it they reported real life situations when positional negotiations escalated conflict. In the following example, it almost caused bloodshed!

Butting Heads and finding oil focus mediation blog

Farmers v National Oil Company of Iraq

After the fall of the Sadam Hussein regime, displaced farmers pooled their limited funds and leased farming land and invested in planting one large crop. However, the National Oil Company subsequently discovered there was oil under the land. They served the farmers with notice to leave immediately. The farmers refused. The Company threatened them with the police, but they wouldn’t budge. The army was called in and the farmers acquired guns and said they would fight to stay. At this late stage a newly trained negotiator asked if he could intervene. He asked the farmers when their crop would be ready to harvest. They said in 6 weeks and that the harvest was all they had left in the world. He asked if they would be prepared to leave after the harvest and they said yes. He asked the Company when they intended to extract oil. Not for 3 years they said but they needed to carry out tests prior to that. He asked whether the harvest would impact this. The answer was no. In fact the Company also had no objections to the farmers farming a small piece of unused land in the future, providing they vacated the remainder of the land after the harvest. Further, they had always intended to offer the farmers well paid work on the oil project and accommodation. However, the conflict escalated too quickly to even raise the matter.

The mediator averted bloodshed by enabling the two groups to consider what mattered most to them and what didn’t. He was the only person who had thought to ask them questions about what they needed and what they could barter with. The concessions made by each side helped create peace but their respective objectives were also well met. The farmers could harvest their crop, grow further small crops and obtain well paid work & accommodation with the Company. The Company could carry out their checks on the land in the knowledge that the farmers would vacate it and they would have a ready made workforce. It was a win/win solution and a peaceful solution was negotiated. Principled negotiations often leads to objectives being met and improved communication and respect.

When couples separate they often become positional because they feel hurt, unheard or fearful about their future. They hold their position so they don’t get trampled over. As Fisher and Ury illustrated, a mediator can enable people to move away from their positions and focus on their needs. Only then can their needs be appropriately met. People often believe it’s impossible to resolve their particular issues – they have already tried hard and are stuck. However, as traumatic as divorce and separation is, their path is often well trod and an impartial mediator can help them to look at the bigger picture and focus on the future. The mediator will have experienced similar issues before and will have a wealth of experience to bring to the table. A mediator will ensure concerns are identified and carefully listen to each party. It’s then that there is often enough movement for positive change.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

Doing nothing is a choice – with consequences you might not choose

When faced with a crisis such as separation, people struggle to cope. They may refuse to talk about the difficult issues that need to be sorted out. They may be in complete denial about the realities of their situation. It may be really hard to tell friends and family –it makes it all real.

Doing nothing is a choice - with consequences you might not choose


The grieving cycle kicks in with the prospect of so much loss – and it starts with denial – this is not happening. A man once returned home to find his wife and children gone and his home empty. There was just a camp bed on the floor and a pillow and duvet on it. He went to bed in it and slept – perhaps he thought it would all be all right in the morning. His instinctive reaction was denial.

However bad the relationship, even if you ended it – there is loss and the stages of grief. People are so frightened of what else they will lose – children, home, money, security, even part of their identity, the couple part. Anger and blame can be overwhelming.  Sorting things out can feel impossible – all suggestions for the future may elicit a categoric ‘No!’ Anger may make you fight, litigate to try to ‘win’ and this can cost more than it’s worth and then everyone loses. Doing a deal with your enemy is anathema – and that’s what mediation means, so no, it is not something you want to do. You are at your most vulnerable and least able to cope yet there are all these critical decisions to face. You may want to make them wait, not face the choices, do nothing, hang on to your life as long as possible. Sometimes delay results in a lot of other problems that makes sorting things out eventually even harder. Examples include children suffering avoidably, increases in family debt, mortgage default or serial rows over anything and everything – everything gets worse than it need have done.

Moving forward

Research on decision-making by psychologists tells us decision-making is often hap-hazard and flawed. Especially if motivated by emotions, we do not make our best decisions when we are upset. This is where mediators can help. Trying to do it alone is like trying to do your own dentistry – you cannot see the problems and you’re not a dentist. Family mediators understand the situation and have helped thousands of people to sort things out and start re-building their lives. Yes, it’s tough, but it’s a process for making your best decisions, easier than fighting, it costs less and it is just as fast as you want.

Family mediation is flexible, it starts where you are and wraps around you to help you cope, helps you to see the real issues and work out what to do for the best in a rational way. It is nothing like counselling, it is very practical and future-focussed. Good mediators listen hard – and support you both to make difficult decisions, working through all the options, challenging and reality testing your plans. Yes, effective mediation can feel tough. It brings you face to face with the realities of your situation fast – but isn’t that best? Get it over with? Most people say ‘I just want it all sorted as soon as possible.’ That means mediation. Court applications take up to 18 months, sometimes longer. The legal process is rarely fast. Mediation regularly helps people bring litigation and negotiations to an end with Consent Orders and agreements.

So when you’re fed up with it all – remember it is never too late to mediate and do a deal and doing nothing is a choice that may deliver a poor outcome.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

Mediation – your questions answered

What is Family Mediation?

An impartial mediator helps couples agree all arrangements for separation – whether regarding children, property, finance or pensions.

Mediations Questions Answered Focus Mediation Blog

Is Mediation compulsory?

No. Since April 2014 it’s compulsory (there are exemptions) to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before making an application to court regarding family finances or child arrangements. There is no obligation to mediate thereafter, but many choose to do so after hearing about the benefits of mediation and the associated costs and potential delays at court.

I know my ex will refuse to attend a MIAM…

Mediation is voluntary and your ex can’t be forced to attend a MIAM or to mediate. However, clients who believe their ex won’t attend are often surprised when after speaking to a mediator, they agree to do so. Even if mediation does not proceed, our lawyer mediators provide considerable information at MIAM (including an info pack), and clients tell us this is very helpful. Mediators are trained listeners and clients benefit from feeling heard and understood. The process helps people to consider what they need to prioritise so they can positively move forward.

Do I choose between instructing a solicitor or a mediator?

No, a mediator can give you helpful legal information but they can’t advise you about what’s in your best interests as they must remain impartial. Your solicitor will advise you and is often a great support. Isn’t that double the expense? No, mediation works very well alongside legal advice. The advice often reduces the number of mediation sessions as you feel confident about what options and proposals you can agree to. Many clients like us to send a record of session to their solicitor so they are kept up to speed. In financial cases your solicitor will help make mediated proposals legal binding. Mediation and legal advice is a fraction of the cost of legal fees for litigation.

How can I make sure in a financial case that I get all the information I need about assets?

Our lawyer mediators are well accustomed to ensuring that the legal process of ‘disclosure’ is completed properly. They will help you understand your whole situation. The standard of disclosure is no less in mediation than court – plus you can ask each other questions face to face about any anomalies.

How will I know what the options are? 

Our lawyer mediators give first class legal information in a neutral way about complex cases involving pensions, businesses, companies, tax and similar issues. They will help you explore all available options.

What if my ex if more vocal or forceful in mediation?

Mediators are trained to cope with power imbalances. They ensure both of you are heard and the process is designed to maintain a safe environment and a fair balance between you, as well as ensure you both understand all the financial information.

Will I get the best deal possible or can that only be achieved in court? 

The best deal is really what suits you and your family. The mediator will help you generate and explore options. If you attend court you may find that any ‘win’ (which can never be guaranteed) is lost due to the   legal costs in securing it. The court aims to meet the needs of separated families and so there are rarely clear winners.

We have already started proceedings. Does that matter? 

Mediation is a useful aid to resolving disputes at any stage, whether before or after proceedings have started. Court proceedings are frequently resolved by agreement. Mediation is a great aid to that end.

How long does it take?

Each session lasts about 1 1/2 – 2 hours, and it usually takes between 1 and 5 sessions to resolve the issues. The number of sessions depends on the range of issues and the complexity of your affairs. The introductory session lasts about an hour.

Are proposals in mediation binding?

No, not in conventional family mediation, but you take the proposals to your solicitor for a binding Court Order or Separation Deed if that is needed in your case. Children’s arrangements don’t have to be made binding, but we could draw up a co-parenting plan, which you can sign if you wish.

In 1 Day Family Mediation, your solicitors are there at the end, not all day, to make your agreement binding.

Is the mediation process hard?

Yes, sometimes it can be difficult, but it is usually easier than the alternative of Court proceedings. Separation is painful, and sorting things out is not always easy, but it has to be done. It is a type of facilitated DIY divorce and separation.

Is it quick?

Mediation is usually as quick as clients want, with sessions arranged at weekly intervals if you wish or even in one long session if everyone is prepared (“1 Day Mediation”). However, it may take time to assemble the necessary information and sometimes you may benefit from a period of reflection between sessions. A mediated outcome will almost always be achieved before your case could proceed to a Court hearing.

Is mediation always appropriate?

Not always. Both parties have to want to take part in mediation – it is voluntary. Also, if there is heavy domestic violence, it may not be possible to mediate. The mediator will make a careful risk assessment.

I don’t want to meet my ex – do I have to?

We can offer shuttle mediation, with you in separate rooms, in appropriate cases. We would talk to you about the implications of this.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: 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 (including our client testimonials) at 

£2m Divorce Fight Dubbed a “Scandalous Waste of Time” by Judge

Mr Justice Holman said that Michael Parker and Barbara Cooke who are locked in a bitter and expensive court battle “Had lost touch with reality.” So far the costs of their financial proceedings over their divorce settlement were £2m from a total of £6.6m in assets, so nearly a third. The likely costs of their trial are estimated at a further £200,000.

2M Divorce Costs Focus Mediation blog

“If there’s nothing left at the end there’s nothing left,” said the judge.

What is going on for couples like this who simply cannot agree a settlement and seem hell-bent on pressing on with litigation, the costs of which are completely disproportionate to the value of their assets? Let’s look at some possibilities based on experience of other such cases and listening to exchanges in some mediations, where people are trying to end runaway litigation:

  • Neither can back down; they feel they must ‘win’ and have the last word, win the last battle even if this means they both lose out.
  • They are stuck at the angry/furious stage of the grieving cycle; everyone has to work through this at some stage – litigation can keep you stuck there for some time.
  • Demonisation of each other and each other’s representatives; believing the other person’s position is ‘mad’, ‘unfair’ or that there are hidden assets to be discovered.
  • Temporary insanity; I’ve heard people refer to this – saying afterwards ‘I think I went a bit mad.‘
  • 75% of litigants think they will win – so a species of hope springs eternal.
  • The adversarial system itself – which bewails such costs and ticks off litigants – but does nothing to stop it, despite court rules saying that costs must be proportionate to value.

Sadly such cases are all too common in divorce and in general civil cases. What about:

  • The dispute between two neighbours about the costs of £4,000 worth of drain repairs in a garden – costs £300,000.
  • A case mediated successfully by a Focus mediator where previous litigation costs were about £64,000, over noise between two flats, where the cost of sound-proofing was only around £3,000.
  • Countless divorce cases where costs exceed the margin of difference between the parties by a considerable margin.
  • The £3m divorce where costs were £930,000.
  • Numerous cases Focus mediators have settled where costs have been say £20,000 or £40,000 and the case settles with no money changing hands or with a small payment.

And so it goes on. Our justice system is dysfunctional in that no one using it imagines this can happen. If people knew where they were going to end up they’d probably be much more focussed on mediation at an early stage to resolve their dispute. Which is the point really. Our mantra is ‘Stop the madness of runaway costs and mediate – it’s never too late for an outbreak of sanity.’

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 

Different Types of Mediation – a Navigation Guide

  • Non – Binding Memorandum of Understanding in Family Mediation

Children agreements don’t have to be binding and because families change, such arrangements can always be changed in future to meet circumstances as they arise.

Financial agreements made in multi session family mediation are made without lawyers and are not binding under protocols and Codes of Practice established by the Family Mediation Council or FMC. A professional family mediator will have completed a portfolio of work and achieved the coveted Gold Standard Accreditation by the FMC –  FMCA. They will not endanger their registration or professional reputation by facilitating binding financial settlements for clients and are barred from drafting a binding Consent Order or Deed in connection with finances.

Types of Mediation

  • Binding Consent Order or Tomlin Order in Civil Mediation

At the end of a civil mediation clients or their lawyers draft a Binding Tomlin Order to conclude any civil court proceedings or a binding agreement if there is no litigation, and the mediator may help. Mediators who have completed the civil mediation training will be registered with the Civil Mediation Council (CMC) and work to a different Code of Practice and protocols from family mediators.  Under the CMC code it is expected that the outcomes of mediation will be binding. Lawyers often attend such mediations which typically take a day with clients signing a binding agreement on the day.

  • Hybrid Mediation

There is a cross-over area between family and civil mediation where great care must be taken. It is worth remembering there are reasons family mediation outcomes are not binding until after there has been an opportunity for reflection, legal advice and ‘cooling off.’ Couples are not always equal partnerships freely entering into agreements.  There may be abuse, issues of control, learned helplessness and violence. A civil mediator will not normally be trained to identify such matters and address power or information imbalances, which under their code is not their job. A family mediator, often from a family law background, will be accustomed to giving clients substantial neutral legal information. They may have couples who want a binding agreement in a day. They are well placed to assist with this up to a point, within the constraints and protocols of their mediation back-ground.  They may use their training as a family and a civil mediator, as they should be both. Then they are able to navigate both systems of mediation and differing codes of practice knowledgably and with confidence.

  • One Day Lawyer Assisted (Family) Mediation – Binding

Focus Mediation has developed this way of working, which essentially uses the civil mediation agreement but incorporates skills from family mediation too. It is vital to be clear about precisely how this works:

Similarities and Differences Family Mediation One Day Lawyer Assisted Family Mediation- civil style
Impartiality Yes Yes
Voluntary Yes Yes
Gives legal information Yes No as lawyers there
Confidentiality as against rest of world Yes Yes
Holding confidences between clients No all open and no secrets held save confidential address or contact details Yes can hold confidences so far as offers and options are concerned
Sharing of factual information e.g. open financial Must be shared Must be shared
Lawyers present No Yes
Timing Series of shorter sessions over weeks/months Usually one Day mediation after financial disclosure completed
You may start with family style mediation to complete financial disclosure or resolve children matters, then swap to ODLAM First Second, to complete mediation
Type of mediation Family mediator should be accredited by the Family Mediation Council – FMCA Civil mediator should be registered with Civil Mediation Council – CMC
Nature of Outcome Summarised in non-binding Memo of Understanding Set out in binding Consent Order or Deed drawn up by lawyers on the day
Sessions Usually in one room without lawyers or anyone else; can be apart Mostly if not entirely in separate rooms with mediator going between
Bring a friend Rarely Yes
Plenary Session – where parties and their lawyers meet and set out their positions and express intentions of good faith at the start of mediation No Yes – but optional not compulsory
Those present must have authority to settle Yes Yes
Able to end or avoid court proceedings Yes Yes

In summary, the resolution of disputes requires skill, training and experience. It is important to ensure mediators have the requisite skills and training and that the best method of mediating is used for any dispute, not just used because that is the way that mediator is trained, insured and able to work. It is helpful to use a mediator with a broad knowledge and experience of Family Law especially for a financial divorce case, which is why at Focus Mediation we only use lawyer mediators for family finance cases because they can help you better. For non-family disputes Focus Mediation has a range of mediators from a host of different professional backgrounds so we can offer appropriately qualified and experienced mediators for most situations where a dispute arises.

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 

A positive message for children during a breakup

Driving to work on my way to mediate with a separating couple, I heard a song playing on the radio by James TW called, ‘When you love someone’. The song is about a child’s parents splitting up. The video is cinematic and well worth a watch (please follow the link). The parents talk to their son and tell him everything will be ok. James says he wrote the song after a young drummer he was teaching told him his parents were getting divorced. He said in a statement to Huffpost, “The first thing I thought was how are they going to explain it to him in a positive way and one where he would understand. I wanted there to be a song that he could listen to which would make him feel better about everything that was going on.”


The Lyrics;

Come home early after class

Don’t be hanging ’round the back of the schoolyard I’ve been called up by a teacher. She says she can’t even reach you ’cause you’re so far. You’ve been talking with your fist. We didn’t raise you up like this, now did we? There have been changes in this house. Things that you don’t know about in this family. It don’t make sense, but nevertheless. You gotta believe us, it’s all for the best It don’t make sense The way things go Son you should know


Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love. Sometimes two homes are better than one. Some things you can’t tell your sister ’cause she’s still too young. Yeah you’ll understand When you love someone

There ain’t no one here to blame

Nothing’s going to change with your old friends. Your room will stay the same ‘Cause you’ll only be away on the weekends. It don’t make sense but nevertheless You gotta believe us, it’s all for the best It don’t make sense It don’t add up. We’ll always love you no matter what

Come home early after class

Don’t be hanging ’round the back of the schoolyard And if we’re crying on the couch Don’t let it freak you out. This has been so hard.

The video depicts a teenage boy’s parents having a number of heated arguments at the end of their marriage whilst he watches the marriage unravel. The boy doesn’t know how to handle his emotions and gets into trouble at school. Eventually he breaks down and cries and his mother comforts him. She then drives him to see his father and watches as his father hugs him and reassures him. The message is a positive one. The reality is that 1 in 2 marriages fail and inevitably many children will experience their parents breaking up. Sometimes it is better for parents to live in separate households, as they can then be happier individuals and better parents.

It’s vital that children aren’t drawn into any arguments, confided in or asked to take sides. They need to be shielded from any hostility. The best way parents can help children to feel safe and secure is to continue co-parenting their children. That’s not easy when parents may be feeling hurt, angry and scared. Mediation can help parents improve their communication, plan their futures and find some peace. Children need their parents to do this as soon as possible so they know that they will be ok and that both their parents will still be there for them.

At Focus Mediation, we have specially trained mediators who can talk directly with children so they can have a voice and this helps them to feel heard and understood. Call us today to take the first step towards a more settled future for your family.

Some useful resources for helping children during separation: – a website for children whose parents are separating/ divorcing

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 

Truth, Half Truths, Lies and Illusions

Getting at the Truth

Family mediators help clients achieve full and frank financial disclosure when mediating financial settlements and it is the client’s responsibility to disclose fully and honestly.  Mediators are not obliged to examine the documents forensically; the agreement to mediate says so. Mostly this is not a problem, as the couple knows what their assets are. Sometimes issues arise as to the value of a business, shares in private unlisted companies, share options – a plethora of complex issues on which even family lawyers will bring in experts. Well, family mediators can bring in experts as well. If they either still are or were family lawyers, then they should know their way around all this comfortably. However, if someone is lying or failing to disclose all the assets, then mediation will have to stop until disclosure has been compelled, probably via court proceedings when the judge can order disclosure and then mediation may be re-commenced. If necessary some cases may go to trial in the hope that cross examination at trial will expose the truth. If a case settles with assets remaining hidden, then the settlement can be overturned.

Truth Lies Illusions and a mediator's role Focus Mediation Blog

Illusions, Misconceptions and Wishful Thinking – Challenging and Reality Testing

The first stage of any family financial mediation is to identify then value the assets. Only then can options for a deal be evaluated in the full financial context. Then the couple’s respective beliefs and feelings about who should have what overlay their approach to who should have what. They may believe one should have less because something or other was ‘their fault’ or that they should have more because the other wasted money drinking or gambling or because they must look after the children. People’s very understandable deeply held beliefs and feelings may or may not have any influence over the eventual outcome, however strongly felt. To move two implacable opponents from irreconcilable poles to a deal will take some effort. Yet it is what the mediator is tasked to do.

Necessarily therefore, some of a mediator’s main tools are extremely uncomfortable – even occasionally painful. Challenging and reality testing beliefs, arguments and options for settlement can fall into the ‘Ouch’ category, as does delivering unwelcome but essential legal information that a client may not want to hear. Some examples may help:

Mediator: ‘Ok Mrs X – I’m hearing you saying you will take over the mortgage if you have the house – but how can you release Mr X from the mortgage – the mortgage is over £300,000 and you are a part-time carer, surely it cannot be done? Where will Mr X live?’

Client A: ‘We’ve agreed whose having the pensions and whose having the children – she’s having the children and I’m having the pensions . . ‘

Mediator: ‘ . . but those issues are dealt with separately and the pension sharing issue is only looked at in the context of the overall assets, the children aren’t relevant to that.’

Client B ‘I know we are married – but I want a settlement based on co-habitation law, not divorce law.’

Mediator: ‘Well you’re either married or not and if you are married those are the laws that apply  . . .‘

OK – so here’s the nub of it – the more effective, knowledgeable and honest your mediator is, the more uncomfortable your mediation may be.  An effective mediator knows it is her task ‘to boldly go’ to the ravines you have been papering over – with a view to sorting them out properly. It’s no help if you let people pursue hopeless, impractical and unfair options for settlement, as they won’t work and it will fall apart after you have spent money on the mediation, which helps no one. So yes, it is the mediator’s job to help you reality-check your proposed settlement, to make sure it will work. Sometimes that busts illusions, but that was always going to happen and the sooner the better for all concerned, even if there is the odd ‘Ouch!’

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