Has your lawyer recommended Family Mediation? Unless there are reasons why mediation isn’t suitable for you, they should have discussed it with you.
So how do you feel about it? are you thinking that finally, you and your former partner are going to be able to move forward with the issues surrounding your separation? Are you dreading it because you don’t want to be in the same room as them and you think it’s all a waste of time? Is it that actually, you’ve really no idea about how it’s going to help you?
Remember that mediation will always be your choice
Know that if you are thinking and feeling any of these things, you’re not alone. But also know that more and more people are turning to mediation to sort out their relationship issues. So what is mediation about? Mediation is all about conversations. That’s all. Conversations about stuff you are going to have to talk about at some point. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets. Now sometimes, mediation genuinely isn’t appropriate for you. A mediator has to make that decision and not you. Why? Because if you are looking to the court for answers, the law says that you must see a mediator unless you are exempt.
Mediation being inappropriate for you and you not wanting to use mediation are not necessarily the same thing. You may want to use mediation but the mediator feels that it’s not safe for you. The mediator may feel that mediation would be a great way of moving your issues forward but you just don’t want to. Remember that mediation will always be your choice.
Mediation is not relationship counselling
Perhaps you don’t like the idea of Family Mediation because you’ve tried relationship counselling and it didn’t work for you? I understand, and I’d also invite you to consider that Family Mediation is not relationship counselling:
The past is not re-hashed
Family Mediation is future focused. Mediators (even if they are counsellors) don’t counsel couples. It’s not in their remit. Sometimes a brief history of the recent past is useful for understanding where you are now, but in mediation, the mediator won’t spender time with you examining what went ‘wrong’ or why.
The starting point is that your relationship is over
Once your mediator has a sense of what has led to where you are now, they will support you to look at the outcomes that are important to the two of you, from a practical point of view. If you are going through divorce, remember that all the divorce process does is end your marriage. It doesn’t deal with your financial affairs or what will happen to the children. Arrangements for the children and or decisions about money and property are therefore focused on in mediation so that by the time you are ready to divorce, decisions have been made. If you are not married, or have never been married, you can still use family mediation if you need to resolve issues around arrangements for your children.
Family Mediation is not a substitute for therapy
How you think and feel about the issues you bring to mediation is open for you to discuss if you wish, but the process isn’t therapeutic. If you feel that you need on going support from a counsellor, or indeed, you do want to use relationship counselling to support that aspect of your separation, you are welcome to do so. Your mediator may suggest it to you if they feel it would be helpful for you, but that will be your choice.
You won’t be told what to discuss
Mediation is a conversation where you decide what you want to talk about, not the mediator. You might have children and financial matters to resolve and choose only to deal with one or the other in the mediation, rather than both. You may want to discuss some aspects of settlement and not others. It’s entirely up to you.
Openness & honesty are needed
Like any conversation that you have, to the extent that you are willing to discuss matters, it’s important that you feel able and willing to be open and honest, otherwise the mediation process is a missed opportunity for both of you. You will waste time and money. If you are Publicly Funded through the Legal Aid Agency you may lose the only opportunity to be supported through the legal process. Remember that whilst a mediator CANNOT give you legal advice, they can give you legal information which includes how the law applies to your situation. If you are serious about making progress that saves you time and money, and reaching agreement without a contested court hearing, openness and honesty will prevent road blocks further ahead in your divorce.
I’m Emma Heptonstall. I’m a Family Mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York. You can contact me on 01904 697760, firstname.lastname@example.org For details of how we can help you and to download our series of leaflets on Family Mediation visit www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk