Here at Family Matters, we know how effective mediation is. However, despite government and other widespread support for the effectiveness of mediation, we still encounter people with misconceptions about how mediation will work and how it can help. Here Family Matters’ director, Juliette Dalrymple, discuss some of those.
I can’t get into the office to take part in a MIAM
MIAMS usually work best if they are face to face but are also successful when undertaken online. Online mediation is a convenient way to hold your first MIAM. Family Matters offers online mediation via Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime from our Doncaster office, or one of our outreach locations. Online appointments are currently only available for private paying clients. You can find out more on our website.
Mediation is used by the other person to delay the process
Mediators are aware that people worry about this and it is part of their responsibility to end the mediation process if it is being misused by either person.
It is widely understood that mediation is the most cost-effective way of dealing with relationship breakdown. For many people, the first meeting – the MIAM – can be funded by legal aid.
As mediation avoids the need to go to court, it is faster, easier and cheaper than traditional ways of dealing with divorce and separation issues, like going through the court process. Your mediation will normally take between two and four meetings, which can be paid on a ‘pay per meeting’ basis, or Family Matters can agree a fixed fee.
Children cannot take part in mediation
At Family Matters, trained child consultants can meet with your children if both parents agree it will help. They will work to understand your children’s views and concerns and will feed these back to you in one of your mediation sessions. This will really help your children to know that you are listening to them and that their feelings are important.
The mediator will tell us what to do
Mediators do not impose decisions on people. They are impartial and neutral and help people make their own decisions about issues which affect their future, such as their family and finances. Mediation is focussed on you, the client, and is driven by you. You are in control. You decide the pace and direction of the discussions. Unlike the court process, in which a judge makes the decisions, within mediation, you can discuss and agree solutions that will work for everyone and that are workable and practical.
I have to be in the same room as my ex-partner
Whilst family mediation often takes place with both people being in the same room with a mediator, there are alternatives if you are uncomfortable being in the same room with the other person. Family Matters will ask you about this at your MIAM and you can talk about your worries. We can arrange for each person to sit in separate rooms and the mediator will shuttle between you. This takes longer than meetings with both of you together, but it is just as effective.
We can also arrange separate arrival and departure times if you are worried about meeting in the car park or having to leave at the same time.
Mediation will try to get us to get back together
Mediation and counselling are different. Mediation focusses on finding solutions for the things you want to agree upon. Mediators will not offer counselling. Nor are they there to help you get back together. If it appears to the mediator that this is what you need, they will be able to signpost you to an appropriate marriage guidance counsellor or other professional.
Mediation isn’t legally binding
It is true that mediators cannot offer legal advice during mediation. Family mediators have a duty to act as impartial facilitators for a couple. This enables them to focus on issues that relate directly to the family they are helping.
At Family Matters, we will always encourage you to take legal advice on the decisions you have made. Once your mediation is completed, your mediator will prepare a document that can be sent to a solicitor so they can put your decisions into a legally binding format. From mediation, you will get a document that can be made into a legally binding document.
Mediation will only work if my ex and I already agree
This is not true. Mediation is there to help you find a way forward – whether you are already halfway there or miles apart. In comparison to going to court, where agreements will be imposed on you by a judge – who will not know your own family situation – mediation means you can discuss and agree solutions that will work for you and your family.
Mediation is only for those on a low income
Again, this is not true. Whilst mediation is inevitably a more cost-effective and quicker process than going through the court system, the true value of mediation is the ability for couples to identify and agree their own solutions with the help and support of the mediation process. Mediation is used by wealthy and high-profile couples because it is confidential and they remain in control of the outcome. It is likely that many of the “agreed outcomes” presented by celebrity couples have been achieved through behind the scenes mediations.
Mediation is equally helpful in cases where there are high-value assets as the same principles of open disclosure and development and consideration of the options apply.
Mediation is too emotional and difficult. It will be easier to let my solicitor and the court deal with it
Going through the court process is always costly in terms of time, emotion and finances. Discussing and making decisions about your children and your financial future is stressful and it can be hard to think clearly. During court proceedings, conversations become heated, blocking your ability to think clearly and think about and find solutions that will work now and in the future. As the mediation process helps to reduce conflict, emotions do not run so high and it is easier to have these conversations, making it more likely that you can see and agree sensible solutions more quickly.
Many people self-report that they feel empowered in mediation and that it helps reduce stress. The NHS agrees.
I can’t go to mediation as our divorce will be complex
Most divorces have some complex issues, such as children, finances, a business or pension. Whatever issue you have, if a judge is able to make a decision on it, we can discuss it in mediation and you can come to an agreement – at a fraction of the cost of going to court.
So, if you are separating or divorcing, whatever issues you have, mediation could work for you. Contact us now to talk to one of our experts to find out how.