Why Choosing Family Mediation Works
Choosing Family Mediation is a good decision. Well I would say that wouldn’t I, I’m a Family Mediator!
But hear me out.
Whilst it is true that Mediation isn’t for everyone, in the vast majority of cases, it will be helpful to you. Mediation will be helpful even if you can’t resolve every issue in the mediation room; if you get just some of them resolved, you’ll see how worthwhile it is. The more you resolve in the mediation room, the fewer letters your lawyers will send and the fewer disputes you’ll have. This saves you time and money.
You see, many people want to dismiss mediation because they’d rather deal with a lawyer. They miss that they can still use a lawyer and come to mediation. They don’t think forward to the time when the lawyers are no longer there and they have to manage the residual relationship with their former partner all on their own. They pray for the day they never have to see them again. Not very realistic for the majority of people, if they have children (and yes, there will always be exceptions).
Negotiating exclusively with a lawyer is expensive. Even if you can afford it, there is only so much your lawyer can do. They can’t fix the communication issues that the two of you have. They can’t be there at hand over times. They can’t be there when you’re making decisions about schooling or health care.
Choosing Family Mediation is the stepping stone to learning how to co-parent. It’s the place where you can say what you think and feel with the support of a mediator so that you explain yourself as clearly as you can and your former partner is supported to hear what you are saying, not what they think you are saying.
Mediation will be helpful even if you can’t resolve every issue in the mediation room
Choosing to stay in control
Choosing Family Mediation means that you get to stay in control. What you talk about in mediation and the decisions that you make will always be yours. You know your family best. You know what your children enjoy doing and the routines they have. You know the discussions and agreements that you and your former partner made in your relationship. Some of these values may still be important to you both and you can use those as the basis of your discussions if you wish.
A court will only make decisions for you if you really can’t. The decisions of the court may be something neither of you like. Want to run the risk?
Separating couples are often surprised just how challenging co-parenting can be. Think that it’ll be just like when you were together but in separate homes? Think again. Is a good co-parenting relationship possible? Yes, and it takes a lot of work for most people. You see, co-parenting doesn’t take place in a bubble, it takes place in the context of real life. Your real life. And because of that, it comes with all the emotions that you carry as a separating or divorcing person. Anger, sadness, frustration, bitterness, guilt, denial. All of them. And, with the best will in the world, you’re only human. Being able to put those emotions to one side whilst you co-parent to the highest good of your children, AND your co-parent is willing and ABLE to do the same, takes practice. Family Mediation helps with that and it keeps you on track to be child focused. One of the ways in which that happens, is allowing you the space to share those emotions in a way that doesn’t allow them to get out of hand (on either side).
Dealing with Change
Whether separation and divorce is your idea or not, you have to deal with change. Not only from your point of view, but from your former partner’s point of view too. This can be tricky. Mediation helps you to recognise where you are in respect of dealing with change and can also highlight where your former partner is. Recognising this is the first step to making to making progress in your communication, even if that’s a recognition that a further period of adjustment is needed before negotiations can start.
The thing is, when the two of you are in very different emotional spaces, having a discussion about emotional issues such as the children or finances is much harder. It’s likely to fail. Imagine being lost in a foreign country. You’re asking a local who only speaks Spanish for directions. You don’t speak Spanish. You’re desperate for help but frustratingly, as willing as the local might be, you don’t understand each other. Its the same when two people are in differing emotional spaces on separation. Mediation highlights the gap and helps you bridge it.
Co-parenting doesn’t take place in a bubble, it takes place in the context of real life. Your real life.
Keeping it real
Family Mediation is a great place to help you keep it real. When emotions are heightened, its easy to lose perspective. It’s easy to get entrenched in your point of view and be unwilling to compromise. There’s nothing wrong with that you might think, but that’s a recipe for a very costly divorce. Choosing mediation keeps your feet on the ground. It supports you to consider another point of view and to look at the benefits and consequences of compromising or not. This is both in emotional and financial terms. Family Mediation follows structure, it isn’t just an emotional free-for-all, ‘he-said’ ‘she-said’ boxing match. The structure is to start where you are now, and move forward. The past doesn’t get unpicked, mediation is not relationship counselling.
So there you have it. Choosing Family Mediation will always be open to you. It will never be ‘forced’ upon you. It’s important that you find the right mediator for you and that you shop around and talk to a few before you make your decision. I wrote about the benefits of using a lawyer mediator which goes into more detail.
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