Category Archives: Face to Face Mediation

Separating well

In the early stages of a separation, you can feel like you’re in a vortex: everything is swirling around, uncertain, and it’s difficult to find anything to grab on to and steady yourself.  Here are 10 things that our experience has taught us can hel

1. Put children first

If you have children, their needs should be the guiding factor while you are going through the separation.  A lot of people might take this to mean you shouldn’t separate at all, but the research is clear: it’s not separation or divorce that harms children; it’s being exposed to conflict.  The very best thing you can do for them is not to argue in front of them.  If you let their needs guide your decisions during this difficult time, you will generally be doing the right thing. 

2. Read up

Helpful resources include websites such as The Parent Connection https://theparentconnection.org.uk and the Couple Connection https://thecoupleconnection.net , both from relationship charity One Plus One, that give ideas for better communication in difficult circumstances.  The Resolution website http://www.resolution.org.uk  is an excellent source of legal information and guidance. Relate https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/self-help-tools/book-shop  have done an excellent series of books about managing the process of separation in a positive way.  Separating Well

3. Get advice

The law surrounding separation and divorce is not necessarily what you might think.  For example, it might come as a shock to people separating out of unmarried relationships that simply cohabiting with someone, no matter for how long, confers no legal rights as such: the concept of the ‘common law’ wife/husband is a myth. The law about separating out finances or property on divorce might also come as a surprise, particularly the fact that it doesn’t matter who has done what to end the marriage in 99% of cases – it’s nearly always the financial needs of family members that matter most.

4. See a therapist/counsellor

Often when a relationship is in trouble people consider seeing a counsellor, or therapist, in an attempt to ‘save’ it.   In our experience, it can also be helpful to see one together during the process of breaking up. A good couples’ therapist can facilitate you both to process any anger, hurt, disappointment, confusion in a safe space and in a constructive way that means it is less likely to spill over into the rest of your lives, or in front of any children.  A therapist can also help you work out how you will talk to any children about your separation, and think through possibilities for the future.

Many people also find that it is helpful to see a therapist on their own, separately, to work through some of the intense feelings that are inevitable. You can get a referral to a therapist via your GP, although you may find there is a waiting list.  Alternatively, you can find a good private therapist in your area via the BACP website http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk , and seeing a counsellor needn’t be costly.  Having a safe space to process complex emotions can be helpful to stop them from impinging on other areas of your life.

5. Give and take space

It’s really important to give your estranged partner or spouse space during a break-up, but often this is more difficult than it sounds, particularly if you’re still sharing the same home. Fear, suspicion or anxiety can make it difficult to keep things in perspective, but being aware of how you’re feeling can make it easier to recognise when you need to take a break.  When the pressure’s on, it’s so important to take space for yourself, and to force yourself to do things that you enjoy or that make you feel better, whether it’s going for a run, spending an evening out with friends, or anything else.

6. Be businesslike – work out the best way to communicate – project manage

You and your partner or spouse will have to continue communicating throughout your separation, particularly if you share children, pets or a living space. If early on you can take the time to work out how best you can do this to minimise stress, disruption and misunderstandings, you may save yourself a lot of trouble later.  (As family mediators, this is one of the first things we look at with the aim of reducing further stress.)  For some people, it’s main communication by email and by text in emergencies; for others, it’s limited emergency phone calls and weekly meetings about plans.  Whatever you choose, if you can remain businesslike and communicate with your former partner as if he/she were a work colleague on a project, you will make headway with arrangements much more quickly.

7. Choose carefully whom you listen to

Friends and family can be a lifeline during divorce and separation.  They love you, they want to support you and they are unquestionably on your side. However, this means that they may not always be the best source of advice or guidance about present and future dealings with your estranged spouse or partner. Divorce is not unusual and people will carry their own baggage from their own separation, or their parents’, or a friend’s.  Although delivered with the best of intentions, it is important to be aware that other people’s perspectives and experiences may not always be helpful to you – objective advice from a solicitor, or a counsellor to whom you can chat without fear of judgment, can help provide some distance.

8. Don’t worry about the divorce

The actual legal process of divorce often weighs heavily on the mind of married couples who separate. In fact, this is generally one of the smallest issues.  Legally, it matters not who divorces whom and why; the process is now done entirely on paper in most cases, and you will not need to see a judge to get a divorce unless there is something very unusual about your case.  In most cases, a mediator can help the two of you work out the formalities of divorce very quickly, leaving more space to focus on financial and children issues.

9. Seek consensus about future arrangements: litigation is a last resort

The court is, generally, the least appropriate place to work out arrangements for a family’s future after separation or divorce. Sometimes it can’t be avoided.  Most of the time, taking a practical and child-centred approach to arrangements for children’s care, and a commercial approach to matters of finance and property means that you can avoid court.  Collaborative law, mediation, negotiating through solicitors, and arbitration are all sensible options for sorting things out without going near a court.  A good legally-qualified mediator, such as those working with Focus, will save you time, money and stress while helping you keep control over your future financial arrangements.

10. Remember everyone has their own truth about why a relationship broke down – don’t let this stand in the way of your future

As mediators, we work with couples to stop arguments about who did what in the past from getting in the way of making arrangements for the future.  It isn’t necessary that each of you should have the same view about what caused the relationship to end.  Our job is to help you to focus on what happens next and to enable you to move forward with a workable plan.  We’ve helped thousands of separating couples do exactly this; give us a call on 01908 231132 if you’d like to have a chat about how we might be able to help you too.

For further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM). Read more about family mediation (including our client testimonials) at www.focus-mediation.co.uk. Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk

Online Mediation

In family disputes or anything more complicated than a simple disagreement over a refund or similar – remote electronic mediation creates barriers to communication and meeting your mediator face to face is infinitely better. Online may save on rent, time and travel, but when it results in a poorer understanding, then it is a false economy.

Communication critically engages a wide range of senses and exchanges, many non-verbal, some unconscious and instinctive. We are still studying human interactions; they are so complex and multi-dimensional.  Misunderstandings and conflict are frequently caused by miscommunication and miscuing. One of the mediator’s main tasks is interpreting and managing communication and interpersonal exchanges.  Digital exchanges are inevitably limited and not as effective.  Face-to-face, people can read nuances of expression, voice and body language.  Focus mediators think savings from online or Skype MIAMs or mediation are a false economy and we do not recommend choosing online mediation if it could take place in person.

Mediation intro 2

Whilst we sometimes conduct MIAMs or mediate online – we are clear about its limitations. Clients find it more difficult to tune in and technology can be a tricky distraction. Nonetheless, sometimes there may be good reasons to work online, despite its problems, so Focus mediators will do online MIAMs in the following circumstances:

  • You have had a face to face MIAMs or your mediation broke down and your FM1 certificate has expired (a form signed by a mediator confirming to the court you can issue proceedings as you have attended a MIAM); we can do a remote MIAMs and re-issue the court form
  • One of you lives at a distance and the only feasible way to mediate is electronically – this is a joint decision following a practical analysis of your situation

Anyone who wants or needs their FM1 to go to court will of course get it. A court application may often be needed, e.g. to force the engagement of the other party in any process to sort out a dispute.  However, you can also consider with the mediator how mediation might help later in the shadow of the court time-table, so ending costly and lengthy litigation. A proper MIAM gives you vital information and insights to help you – why bypass that?

Our Philosophy

Focus mediators are specialists and mediation is what we do, so we have a wealth of experience of resolving conflict at our fingertips. We offer online MIAMs to some of our clients where this is appropriate.  We know the best way to help most separating couples is to help them to mediate in a way they can manage and sort out their problems fast in mediation. Court is expensive and slow.  It is a destination of last resort for most families.

A Focus Mediation MIAMs is thorough. We will listen carefully to you and get an understanding of your problems from your perspective – and if you want/need to go to court, then we shall give you the FM1 form to make your application.  We shall explain the various options to you thoroughly, so you have a clear understanding of the full range of non-nuclear options for resolution, including during court proceedings, so if you’re litigating you don’t end up feeling you’re on a runaway train with no way out until trial. If you are going to mediate you will be given a welcome pack full of resources relevant to your situation, so you can get off to a flying start in your first session of mediation. All this for £100 + VAT or £150 + VAT if you come to a joint MIAM. Why go online if you don’t have to do so, how can it be better?

Online Mediation – why we believe in face-to-face mediation

We know poor communication is at the heart of misunderstandings and causes conflict. Understanding and managing this conflict is vital to mediation and resolving disputes.  Digital communication impedes what mediators do, making it impossible to use many mediation techniques.  Face-to-face, people can read nuances of expression, voice and body language.  Trying to establish a rapport with someone online significantly hampers understanding, interpreting dynamics and in the mediator’s case assessment and explanations are harder. We think savings from online mediation or MIAMs are a false economy and the concept is flawed.

Whilst online mediation and assessment for mediation can work for simple complaints and disputes – such as faulty goods, agreeing a refund and simply providing a neutral post-box for communication between disputants to resolve something simple. Most cases are not that simple and need the full range of mediation interpersonal skills. Occasionally, the only way to sort things out may be via Skype – if people are in different countries, for example. However, it is much harder and if a meeting is possible, why would you not mediate in person and have those advantages?

Mediation Intro pic

Frequently people think they are arguing about a specific issue or point of law. More often the root of the problem is emotional, fear and mistrust. In family cases, with their complex dynamics – remote electronic mediation is a poor substitute for meeting your mediator. Whilst it can reduce costs (specifically rent, time and travel) you are less likely to find it satisfactory.  It is less likely to work. So when it is important to sort something out – why ask your mediator to try and do it with one arm tied behind their back and a patch over one eye, if not both? It’s like going to the gym and sitting in the changing room with your coat on, refusing to meet your coach except via a screen. Why would you?

Focus mediators will offer online mediation in limited circumstances – not because we can’t do it, because we can and we have helped clients online when they are abroad, or a long way away, but it is not ideal. We don’t advise to use online mediation because it does not help people access what they most need, which is our full and present attention to them and their problems – and how best to resolve them face to face.  Then all senses, instincts and intuitions can be engaged and documents can be explained and handed over, with notes made during a conversation where two minds can meet without difficulty.