Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Child Maintenance Service – suggestions for reform

We are not talking about the majority of non-resident parents, who mostly pay all they should pay and often more. We are talking about those parents who are determined to avoid supporting their children, even when they could easily afford to do so.  They see the avoidance of supporting their children as a type of game – or a battle, perhaps because they want to do the other parent down, to ‘win,’ even though as a result their offspring suffer. We saw this in the recent case of the pensioner father with over £5m in assets who avoids supporting his son by depressing his income. He does this by not earning or drawing from his pension funds or paying support from his capital.

Child Maintenance Service

There are sadly too many such cases. The self-employed working for cash and under-declaring their income to HMRC may pay little child support on the low income the tax authorities are aware of. Worse still are those who don’t work and live off substantial capital investments and gains. They may pay virtually nothing to support their children and be millionaires. The tax-payer props up their families with tax credits and universal credit. Unfair.

Judge Mostyn is calling for reform. The government say it is too complicated to make it fair for everyone. Yet there are some simple options as follows:

  1. Capital gains inside and over the exempt amount for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) must be declared on your tax returns. This could be added to income and child maintenance could be levied on it. If not in all circumstances, in cases where maintenance of less than a certain amount is being paid
  2. Child maintenance could be payable from unearned income such as rent and dividends, interest and the rest of it. It’s already payable on pension incomes – but some people avoid drawing their pension income to avoid paying child maintenance, so
  3. In circumstances where no child maintenance or very little is being paid, it should be ordered as a percentage of the capital value of the liable parent’s pensions. 3% would arguably be right.

If the parent responsible for supporting their child won’t co-operate, then there must be penalties that benefit the child. So in the event of non-disclosure and failure to co-operate then there should be power to order an attachment of a pension fund or other asset, such as a bank account. Much of the requisite information will be on such wealthy parents’ tax returns. Many of them would not defraud HMRC – this being a criminal offence for which they could be jailed. We also need a public information exercise. Not supporting your children is unacceptable and anti-social. Society and children deserve better.

Why mediation?

The National Audit Office Report into Family Mediation in 2007, found that mediation was better for families than litigation and was also faster and cheaper than court proceedings:

National Audit Office Report into Family Mediation 2007 (download here)

“Mediation is faster, cheaper and less adversarial than the courts – it is the duty of legal advisers to tell clients about mediation, but they have a financial disincentive to do so and many bypass it.” N.A.O. 2007.

1/3 clients interviewed by the NAO had not been told about mediation by lawyers – of which 40% said they would have tried it.

Mediated legal aid case                                                       Non mediated legal aid case

£754                                                Average Cost                  £1682

110 Days                                        Duration                         435 Days

Why Mediation NAO

The N.A.O. concluded the Legal Services Commission should promote mediation. In 2014, the government introduced the compulsory Mediation Intake Assessment Meeting, which had to be undertaken prior to issuing court proceedings for ALL applicants to the family courts.  MIAMs are intended to help separating families hear how they can resolve their arrangements in mediation before applying to court. Many people then choose to mediate.

The purpose of MIAMs (to help people avoid the stress, costs and delays of litigation), is being eroded by MIAMs being bypassed wholesale. The courts are failing to enforce the requirement for the MIAM, even though many people attending a MIAM will mediate. Now MIAMs are being subverted into token online processes that do little to fulfil their original purpose of a very worthwhile pre-issue safety net.

The market bias towards court proceedings is faltering and more disputants are coming direct to mediation. They realise that fighting may feel best but it rarely is best. For those who still think they will get a better result at court. The fact is that the reverse is mostly true because:

  • In property and financial cases couples often spend more than the value of the difference between them in costs. If the net assets are worth £500,000 and there is a starting point of equal division – and you are likely to spend £20-25,000 each getting to trial – so a tenth of your joint assets on litigation, when only a tenth might be at issue! Money you need to house your family has gone. Mediation fees are likely to be under a tenth of legal costs and mediation is FAST.
  • In children cases, litigation turns parents into opponents in an adversarial process which damages their ability to co-parent effectively
  • In civil cases people routinely spend more than their cases is worth on costs, e.g. £300,000 costs over a £4,000 dispute over drains in a garden! There is no pre-proceedings requirement to see a mediator in civil litigation, consequently a tiny number of civil cases mediate an agreement, despite costs and time savings

Focus mediators are accredited, experienced and mediation is what we do – day in day out. There are different types of mediation and different ways of working, because one size does not fit all cases. Come and meet us and help us understand your situation and dispute thoroughly – then we can consider together potential routes, timing and options to help you settle matters.

Summer holidays-Entertaining teenagers in those long school holidays

 “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!!”

It is always a challenge to spark the imagination of teenagers in the summer holidays. Gone are the days when a trip to the zoo or a puppet theatre may have done the trick. But can this really be true for teenagers living in London, one of the world’s most dynamic capital cities?

With a month to go, some teenagers in the city may have exhausted all ideas and may be trailing around the house with a despondent look.

At Focus, we see families struggling with the long summer holidays and the pressures this can put on parents short on ideas, time and or money.

We have recently been directing clients to Eventbrite, the site selling tickets to all kinds of events across the capital; from games, to music events to art and plenty more

Many events are low cost or even free. For example, see the Walala X exhibition at the NOW Gallery which is free and you can book a time slot through Eventbrite. The event takes place at: Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London, SE10 0SQ View Map (nearest tube North Greenwich).

As Eventbrite explains, the artist Camille Walala has created: a labyrinthine network of corridors and enclosed spaces in a temple of wonder. A key part of this installation will be an imaginative puzzle which invites the solver to identify the inconsistencies between two otherwise identical images. WALALA x PLAY brings this concept off the page and into three- dimensional space, inviting visitors to linger and explore colour, shape and scale, contemplating formidable pattern to find the differences.

Teens in London 1

 

The artist has also worked her magic on a couple of ping pong tables and visitors can have a game outside after checking out the exhibition. All for free!

Teens in London 2

If nothing else, it gets the teens out of the house, off to Greenwich, with maybe a boat trip or (for those who have some birthday money to spend) a climb; a spot of urban mountaineering on the roof of the O2 Centre!

Or for those thinking about their future, why not inspire your older kids and book a ticket to The Idea

“It’s easy to have ideas – but it’s a different story when it comes to making them happen. That’s what this month’s Underground Session is here to solve. We’ve gathered together a panel of some of London’s most inspiring entrepreneurs who’ll be sharing their journeys, challenges and advice on how to get your idea out there.”

You might even get some inspiration yourself! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/underground-session-the-idea-tickets-36448833442

There are also paid football events for kids, singing in aid of Water Aid and the Hackney Games (in aid of charity). All on Eventbrite where your teens can compete against their friends in a host of sporting events and less challenging events reminiscent of school sport’s day (think egg and spoon race!) and so on.

Challenge your teenagers (or even your children back for university holidays) to create a summer full of everything that the capital has to offer!

Good Value Mediation

People sometimes ring us and just want a price list, the assumption being all mediators are the same and the price is the determining factor. Clearly if you stop to consider for a moment, this is not the case.

However, it is hard to explain in a brief telephone call why Focus mediators are best value, so we sometimes email this information to inquirers. The facts are:

  • Focus family mediators are Family Mediation Council accredited (FMCA) or are working towards that Gold Standard, a hard won accolade following substantial mediation experience and training.
  • Focus family mediators are lawyers by background and they keep up to date with the Law so are better equipped to give clients good quality legal information about the range of options relevant to their situation. This means that in family cases we can offer excellent legal information + mediation.
  • Our mediators are specialist mediators with a wealth of experience to help them to help you. They mediate full-time, honing their skills and building their repertoire every mediation they do. Conducting the odd mediation sometimes is not the same thing.
  • Focus mediators benefit from heavy-weight support in house, including, four full days a year devoted to professional practice issues and sharing team knowledge and experience.

Good Value Mediation

Clients share the cost of mediation – and it takes a fraction of the time it will take to get to court. As a rough guide it costs about an eighth to a tenth of the costs of proceedings and a trial. That is surely good value. We also know mediated agreements are more likely to be kept than imposed decisions – simply because people are more likely to do what they’ve said they’ll do. So if you compare mediation with litigation it is extremely good value and costs less in terms of money, emotions, stress and time.

Focus mediators understand the psychology of conflict and the natural human instinct to fight your corner – which actually costs the most and does the most damage – and takes longest, often locking people into a mind-set of conflict that can have them litigating repeatedly over years over anything and everything, because they just don’t believe anything can be agreed. We are committed to helping you sort things out fast, with the minimum acrimony and suffering. All this is surely good value.

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.

Free Family days out in Hertfordshire

The school summer holidays are a few days away. At Focus Mediation, we appreciate entertaining the children over the summer can seriously stretch family finances. Days out don’t have to cost a fortune to be entertaining and memorable though. Sara Stoner, Lawyer mediator at our Potters Bar and St Albans office, has compiled a list of some of her children’s favourite free days out. “After some family days out I have felt like I have spent a small fortune. However, some of the best days out with my children have been free and very simple. Visiting large open spaces and bringing a picnic, football and friends for them to run around with, has created some very happy memories. My favourite days involve joining in with the children’s games and then watching them play. My top tip is to buy a cheap foldable chair and watch the children in comfort! Now that does make me sound old, doesn’t it?”

Free Entry

  • Stanborough Park Activity Centre, Stanborough Road, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6DF. Whilst there are some paid for attractions within the park, entry is free and there are plenty of open spaces and a stream for paddling in. Bring towels and water proof shoes. Dogs allowed. It’s website says the park includes, Fishing, Nature Trails, Children’s Play Area, Water sports Activity Centre, Rowing Boats, Pedal Boats & Water Walkers, Model Boating Lake, Terranova Restaurant (south side), Stanborough Coffee Shop (south side), Kiosk providing drinks and snack (north side only), Bouncy Castles and Healthy Walks’.

http://www.finesseleisure.com/parks/stanborough-park

  • Rye Meads Nature Reserve, Rye Road Stanstead Abbotts Hertfordshire, Stanstead Abbots SG12 8JS

The RSPB website describes the nature reserve as;

A great family trip; visit this delightful wetland reserve beside the River Lee. Rye Meads is a favourite with walkers, birdwatchers and photographers too. There are wheelchair-friendly trails, and 10 hides (come just to see the amazing murals!) look out over the reed beds, wet meadows, open water and artificial sandbanks, which are a great place to spot the blue flash of a kingfisher.’

Read more at; http://www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/rye-meads

  • Tring Natural History Museum, The Walter Rothschild Building, Akeman Street, Tring, HP23 6AP

Explore the museum which houses one of the largest collections of stuffed mammals, birds, reptiles and insects in the United Kingdom. There is a drop-in session for toddlers and group sessions for children to explore natural history in the grounds of the museum.

Discover more at; http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/tring.html

  • Lee Valley Regional Parks

10,000 acres to explore. Walking and cycle paths are surrounded by nature. Explore and discover new sights on each visit. Not to be missed; Amwell Nature Reserve (SG12 9SN), Stanstead Innings (SG12 8HL), Flen Fabo and Dobbs weir (CM19 5EX) and River Lee Country Park   (EN10 6LQ). Children are fascinated by the colourful barges moored along the canal and they may even get the opportunity to help open a canal lock.

This year Lee Valley Parks are marking their 50th Anniversary. There are lots of family events planned for the summer holidays. The website lists routes for popular walks. My children’s favourite is the Artworks Route number three, as the giant wooden chair is located on this route.  Lee Valley Farm isn’t free, but at £16 per person for entry for the whole summer, it may be worth the investment.  The farm has many summer activities planned. Visit the Lea Valley White Water Centre. Entry is free and you can watch the white water rafting. There is a free large sand pit for children to play in. The centre has a great atmosphere and you may even catch a glimpse of an Olympian training! https://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/, https://www.lvfarms.co.uk/visit, https://www.gowhitewater.co.uk/visitor-info.

gREAT dAYS oUT

The giant wooden chair; Artworks Route number three
  • Fairland Valley Park, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts, SG2 0BL.

120 acres of Parklands with 4 linked lakes. Plenty of free fun for children including; two well equipped children’s play areas, splash park, (bring swim wear, water guns, buckets…), woodlands, sailing centre and cafe.

http://www.stevenage.gov.uk/about-stevenage/fairlands-valley-park/

Survival of the Fittest: Interpersonal skills and communication:

I recently attended a three day conference which looked at attachment, neuroscience and the effects of stress and trauma on a person’s ability to communicate.

One of the key messages of the conference reminded me a lot about the role of a good mediator.

The first speaker, a psychologist and neuroscience researcher called Louis Cozolino told us about the neuroscience of interpersonal relationships.

Louis drew our attention to the gaps between neurons called synapses. These gaps are not empty spaces. They are filled with a variety of chemical gasses which are busy carrying out complicated interactions which result in ’synaptic transmission’. This synaptic transmission stimulates neurons to grow, to survive and to be effected by that experience.

Brain_-_14600401142

Aboutmodafinil.com Picture by Allan Ajifo

Louis then said that social communication is the same. It takes place in the gaps between us; the social synapses: a smile, a wave, eye contact, body language. These all transmit messages via the gap between people. These messages are received by our senses and translated into electrical and chemical signals within our nervous system. Causing us to be able to engage, converse, think, work things through. Or alternatively to panic, shut down, retreat.

So, you can start feeling really terrible really quickly if the social interaction is not good.

A good mediator can ‘rescue the dynamic’ by communicating across the synapses to regulate the behaviour of the other person. By modelling a certain behaviour and letting the mirror neurons do the rest, the mediator can become an ‘amygdala whisperer’, bringing an element of calm to fraught people and situations.

A good mediator will be aware of the effect of the social communication that he or she models and brings into the room.  Where the people in the room are on a high state of alert, prepared to wrestle over children/finances, the mediator can be steady, balanced and they can listen in a consistent and assured way, letting the people in the room know ‘ it is OK. You will be heard.’

Try it at home. When you partner, daughter, friend turns up enraged, anxious, stressed out, try using the social synapses to bounce some positive messages through. Really listen to what they say. Reflect back what they have said calmly and in a balanced and measured way. You may be surprised at the change as you become the amygdala whisperer. Soothing and helping them to regain their balance.

Another speaker quoted, an evolutionary biologist and genetesist called Theodosius Dobzhansky who said: ’the fittest may also be the gentlest because survival often requires mutual help and cooperation.‘

Food for neuro-thought!

 

“Power parting”

According to a certain magazine, the divorce euphemism ‘conscious uncoupling’, made popular by actor Gwynneth Paltrow during her separation from musician Chris Martin, has been cast aside by today’s disengaging celebrity couples in favour of the more dynamic ‘power parting’.  Over here in reality, the leader of our crumbling family courts system has proposed a similar notion to help stop the family justice system’s continuing slide into overburdened chaos.

Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division of the courts in England & Wales, has written that he would like to see a swift administrative split between the process of divorce and the process of making a financial claim after divorce.  He indicates that he feels the government’s centralisation of divorce processing has led to significant problems with the number and allocation of finance and property disputes, and as a result the administrative and practical burden on the family courts has increased at a time when the system is already stretched.

Sir James would also like to see the family financial court forms and processes simplified, so no matter what kind of application someone needs to make in law, there’s one form and one procedure. As the courts are inundated with a flood of people seeking complicated financial orders without legal advice or assistance, simplifying the process will mean less time is taken in court amending application forms, drawing out the specific problems needing solutions, and explaining in detail what those solutions might be.  He would like to see a network of expert financial remedies courts set up to deal with relationship-based money claims.

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These proposals make good sense. However, this is all tinkering around the edges of a fractured system.  We are in a position where financial claims after divorce and separation are taking many months to get to a first directions appointment, increasing costs exponentially for those with lawyers, and exacerbating pressure and stress for everyone involved – including, in many cases, for children.

Mediation is also unquestionably a tough process, but it provides a sensible and practical alternative to court for former partners who need to sort out what happens next in financial and property terms.  Rather than waiting for months to start to get things sorted out, you can get an appointment in the next couple of weeks and start making decisions that will move you toward resolution.  Rather that spending money on solicitors’ letters to your ex, you can spend it on using your solicitors to support the mediation process when you choose: to ensure you know what’s in your interests and what’s fair, and to assist you in making your own decisions. You remain in control in mediation, in contrast to a court process that can make you feel that everything is sliding away from you.  An impartial and specially-trained third party mediator can help you talk together with your ex in a businesslike way, to find solutions that are fair and work for both of you and any children.

If you don’t fancy court proceedings to sort things out with your ex – and few people do, knowing the current constraints of and pressures on the system – remember, you have choices. Mediation with a specialist lawyer mediator who understands law and finance, and can give you sensible information to help you make the decisions that are right for you, really is worth investigating.

Welcome Failure – an Essential Ingredient of Success!

 

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Successful people are usually well acquainted with failure. This is simply because successful people are triers, experimenters, optimists and they don’t give up easily. They’re not afraid of being first, of falling flat on their faces, making people laugh or crow. It might just work and that’s enough to get us going and keep us going.

Swept along by an idea, we become excited, enthusiastic and before we know it we have jumped. We have embarked on whatever seemingly madcap scheme we are convinced is brilliant.

Our friends and family may roll their eyes, smile at us fondly, get exasperated, infuriated or plain bored. ‘Oh, she’s off again, fasten your seat belts!’

Yet the world needs agents for change, otherwise nothing improves, nothing is learned – we stultify. So here are my tips for getting over your fear of failure and making your (little or big) mark on the world:

  1. Give it a go! You have a dream, an idea, a passion and it might just work – give it a go! Don’t let fear of failure stop you. Nothing ventured nothing gained. Yes, sometimes you’ll fail, it’ll hurt, you may feel silly, but if you never try anything in case you may fail you’ll never succeed either. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin.
  2. If you want your children, friends and work colleagues to succeed – then you must make it safe to fail. Tell them to try, it doesn’t matter. If people are to win it must be safe to lose.
  3. Competition is tough. There’s often someone better, faster, cleverer, but that doesn’t detract from the satisfaction of your personal best. The satisfaction of just having climbed Everest is amazing. However, even if you had to stop 1000 metres from the summit because you had altitude sickness – you have still climbed Everest. You have had that experience and that is not failure.
  4. Laugh! Laugh lots, at yourself, your weaknesses and failures. If you laugh it doesn’t hurt so much and guess what? Other people don’t laugh at you. You may think they will, but they won’t. They secretly admire your courage and they won’t laugh, I promise.
  5. You fear snide comments, ridicule and loss of face. I know this is tough, you’d feel diminished, humiliated, embarrassed and stupid. Well don’t! Such behaviour says far more about the attacker than it does about you. People hearing them will not like them, they will fear and avoid them. The sympathy will be with you.
  6. Everyone loves a down-to-earth trier. Especially us Brits! Think Eddie the Eagle, or the cheers for the man who comes last in the marathon. It’s the taking part, the massive effort we admire. As for failure, we all fear it and admire those who brave it to try.
  7. Detach your sense of identity from your endeavour. Then you can give something your all and not be extinguished if you fail. You have tried your best and failed by whatever measure you were using. You’re still a brave, strong, positive power in the world. That gets a big tick and is not a failure of you. Your failed endeavour is just something you tried that didn’t work out.

Ok so I expect you’re wondering in what ways I have tried and failed. You want me to come clean so you can judge by what authority and personal knowledge I can say success and failure are two sides of the same coin. I should own up to my own successes and failures, and not mind too much if you point and laugh. Well actually I don’t. Mind, I mean.

I suppose it has been said by others that I’m a successful family lawyer and mediator, so I should not feel too squeamish about repeating that (though I do, feel squeamish that is). Several years ago, I realised family law could do with some improvement, so in the 1990s I became a mediator, set up Focus Mediation in 1999, which has grown and grown so that my main work has become mediation.

It turned out that it was the right decision and a big success for me – despite all those people who told me mediation would never catch on and was a waste of time. I followed my heart and ignored them. If I didn’t try I wouldn’t know would I?

I wrote a novel about one family’s divorce. By any normal external measures such as how many  books has it sold, it has failed, because it hasn’t sold many copies really and has not yet been turned into a film (Yes, I know, in my dreams). However, many people have read it and raved about it and some clients found their way to me because of it.

My understanding of the psychology of family break-down and how best to manage it has grown. Can you hear how I’m thinking about this? By external book-world measures I have failed – I have not got a best-seller on my hands, but all is not lost, some good has definitely come of it.

Then there was my campaign on Change.org. It called for the court rule that says costs must be proportionate to the value of cases to be made to work – sadly this rule is often ignored. As a result we end up with cases like the dispute over £4,000 worth of drain repairs which ran up £300,000 of legal costs.

I was asking for a compulsory referral point to mediation when legal costs reach 20% of case value – to help people do a deal without having to establish the evidence, the truth, the legalities or the rights and wrongs.

This campaign didn’t attract the attention I was hoping for despite being featured on several media. It fascinates me how often the obvious and commonsensical falls on deaf ears. But, despite this, I’m right out there in front shouting ‘It’s glaring – just give it a go, sometime it’s worth upsetting the status quo. Anyway it can’t succeed if you don’t try it – and failure is always an option when you try something new.”