Category Archives: Family

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

 

A Safe Place to Talk? – 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children and Court Orders Both Age!

Parents attending mediation may already have a Child Arrangements Order. This doesn’t surprise mediators. One or both may believe the existing court order is out of date. That’s a problem with child arrangements orders; they can become less relevant as the child grows older and their needs change. For example, if an order provides a toddler will spend 9am – 4pm with a parent every Wednesday, that’s fine until the child begins school. If the child starts school at 9am and finishes at 3.15pm, and the parents can’t amend and update the arrangement by agreement, then there’s a problem. Litigation is expensive and time consuming – plus it’s impractical to return to court every time an arrangement needs to be altered.

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Parental Conflict

When parents are in conflict, one may feel the only option is to apply to court for an order. Sometimes this is a necessary step – it depends on the individual circumstances of each case. However, a court order alone won’t improve parental communication. Court proceedings also often increase conflict as they are adversarial in nature. Some parents tell me they don’t need to communicate and it’s best they don’t. Sometimes parallel parenting, (parallel parenting is when separated parents co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner), is best for a short amount of time. However, research tells us that it’s not parental separation that causes children the greatest emotional distress; it’s prolonged parental conflict. This doesn’t just include shouting or negative conversations; children also find it very upsetting when parents ignore each other and don’t communicate at all. It can make them insecure, different from their friends and most children dislike passing messages between parents.

Our involvement with our children doesn’t end when they reach 18. Separate birthday parties might work at 7 or 8 years of age, but an 18-year-old will probably want one party with both parents present. They may also go on to graduate, possibly marry and have children… How will the events be managed? Will the adult child be forced to choose which parent can attend?

You Never Have To See Your Ex Again

If we split with an ex and don’t have children, we never have to see them again; or at least we can cross the street if we do! Co-parents share an unbreakable bond. To their child, a mum and dad will both always be family. Family mediation can enable parents to move forward and focus on the future and not the past that can’t be changed. I’m often told that it won’t work as he/she won’t listen and won’t change. I reply that if they are right, they can later tell me that they told me so. However, mediation has a proven track record and what is there to lose apart from the conflict? There’s no magic involved. The mediator is trained to improve parental communication. The parents work hard between sessions and return to discuss what worked and what didn’t. Arrangements are made that are child focused, clear and practical. Some parents later return to amend arrangements if they struggle and that’s fine. However, they often leave equipped to deal with differences of opinions, without the need for third party or court intervention.

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

Squirrels Can’t Undo Safety pins – and they get the nuts whatever you do! – 2019

Ok it’s my turn to write the blog and all I can think about is the wretched squirrels! They have now penetrated two squirrel-proof bird-feeders in the garden. They can undo wire bags ties holding the lid down, they can chew through the string tying it down. When they failed to undo the safety pin holding the lid down, (my genius solution) they simply jiggled the whole thing until they broke the bottom and got the nuts that way. Squirrels one, Mary zero.

Squirrels Focus Mediation Blog

So I bought another squirrel proof birdfeeder. This one was really clever and I watched smugly as they attacked it in every way imaginable. The top screwed into the bottom – they could not undo that screw and separate the top and bottom, it had a very long thread, they could not get the nuts. The birds came, the tits (blue, great and coal), gold finches, the robin, sparrows, even a lesser spotted woodpecker. The crows gave up. The squirrels didn’t. I watched them come back again and again until one morning the top of the squirrel proof bird feeder was hanging there and the bottom and all the nuts in it, was on the ground. At least the bottom was, the nuts had gone. Squirrels two, Mary zero.

So how did they do it? The only answer must be they worked out they had to unscrew the top from the bottom and like acrobats in a circus they made that top spin around so unscrewing the top. I have this picture of them, tails behind in the wind, spinning around with the feeder lid until – Success! The feeder top is unscrewed and it splits in two and the prize of nuts is revealed on the ground, along with the bottom of the bird-feeder.

So what conceivable lesson is there for mediators or conflict resolution in this story of my squirrels (who are by the way enormous – fat, like overfed cats). Several actually, and anyway it’s a good story. So here are my conclusions – learned from my squirrels:

  • Never give up. However unlikely something is to work, it just may – and even really intractable disputes can be resolved if you get the right squirrel with enough persistence (did I say squirrel? – I meant mediator)
  • Just because it’s described itself as squirrel-proof it doesn’t mean it is. Just because something is described as impossible for mediation, because the parties are too far apart, or too conflicted or the dispute is intractable – doesn’t mean it is. Indeed the more emotional and irrational the dispute the more mediation has to offer, as it deals with emotions and wades into the non-legal area of feelings and beliefs the law cannot solve
  • Check the assumptions. I thought that I had squirrel-proof bird-feeders – how wrong was that? There are so many possibilities we cannot see. It took the squirrels to find them out. I expect a mediator could have done it – if they were small and light and liked nuts enough. That rules me out, too fat!
  • Someone, somewhere once said that a prisoner thinks more on his release than his jailor does on keeping him captive. That is also the case with people in conflict, which is a type of prison. The answers to our mediations are often there right under everyone’s noses. Mediators as facilitators are well placed to spot these possibilities; it is what we are trained to do – to be open, alert and tuned in – a bit like squirrels. Just as everyone else is ready to give up, there is the mediator, bright eyed and bushy tailed . . . whizzing about resolving the dispute.

By the way, all advice regarding squirrels gratefully received.

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

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

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

The Power of Listening when in Conflict

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

Speak Less, Listen More

Speak Less, Listen More

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

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

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

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

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

 

What To Expect In The First Mediation Session

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

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

What to expect in the first mediation Focus Mediation Blog

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

Parental Arrangements

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

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

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

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

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

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

Property and Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Society Must Make Divorce Less Stressful For Children

It’s Family Mediation Week. The Family Mediation Association ‘FMAaims to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively. We support Family Mediation Week and thank the FMA for all their hard work. – #FamilyMediationWeek – #ABetterWay -.

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So why don’t more separating couples mediate?

Clients tell us that they find the mediation process supportive and that it not only resolves their issues, but also improves their communication. However, there are many separating couples still battling in court. Litigation is very expensive and the court route is full of delay and uncertainty. Finances and child arrangements can be agreed quickly and cost efficiently in mediation. Mediation creates a safe space to have difficult but necessary conversations. So why don’t more separating couples mediate? Fear. They worry that mediation won’t result in an agreement that adequately meets their needs. They may believe that their spouse knows more about their finances or is a more persuasive communicator and will convince the mediator to take their side. However, the mediator is trained to ensure the process is fair and each participant is updated and fully informed. Each spouse is listened to and their concerns are taken into consideration. Power imbalances are also identified and addressed. The participants make their own decisions and retain full control. Mediators welcome solicitor’s advice so clients feel safe to make decisions about their future. Sadly, many cases that are suitable for mediation end up in court. The court looks for fairness and not winners and so often the financial and emotional investment is disproportionate to any gain.

Divorce is a huge trauma – let’s all support separating couples

Divorce/separation is a huge trauma for spouses and their children. Very few take the decision to divorce lightly. Family Law needs to respect their difficult decision and the divorce process should facilitate an amicable end to each marriage. To children their separated parents will always be their family. Blaming one person for the demise of the relationship promotes conflict not peace. Reform is coming and not before time. However, society as a whole also needs to support separating couple. Whilst a family member or friend may be hurting and need a shoulder to cry on, we also need to support them in their transition from spouse to co-parent. This means focusing on the future and not a past that cant be changed. Co-parents are parents who are each actively involved in their children’s lives after separation. These parents communicate respectfully and exchange info to keep children emotionally and physically safe. It isn’t always easy but they persevere. Children need both parents and its parental conflict that harms them more than the divorce. Children learn from their parents and divorcing well teaches children that whilst not every marriage lasts forever, there is a dignified way to separate that keeps children safe and protected. Mediation supports and facilitates this. Entering into a court battle over finances and children should always be seen as a last resort. It’s important that all family law professionals regularly ask themselves if all their advice or interventions are child focused and likely to promote the transition from spouse to co-parent. It’s the duty of parents, friends, family, professionals, The Ministry of Justice and the media, to make divorce less stressful for children and promote more amicable divorces that create co-parents and not long term conflicted parents.

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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