It’s Family Mediation Week (18th – 24th January 2021). As always, I am flying the flag for mediation during this important week which raises awareness of the process of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively, respectfully and in a way which minimises emotional harm. Mediation is still often misunderstood, confused for relationship counselling or dismissed by some who think it might not be suitable for them without exploring it first with a mediator.
Mediation is not suitable for every circumstance but for the vast majority of separating couples’ mediation should really be the first step. Why? Because it is a process which empowers those who are facing divorce or separation or many other family relationship issues to find their own resolution, with the help of an impartial, professional mediator. It offers a cost effective, respectful way to resolve the issues you seek to discuss at a pace which works for each of you.
Living through this pandemic this past year has taught us so many things. One major aspect is that we have all had to take responsibility for our own health and well being and that of our family by social distancing and respecting the Government guidelines despite our strong emotional need to be with our friends and family. I would like to see a sea change in the way we as a society deal with divorce and separation. I would like couples to feel empowered to try and work through their issues first before engaging in a damaging conflictual court process or appointing solicitors.
There is no shame in a relationship coming to an end. However, in a world where the family courts are facing a crisis where delays are becoming more and more common place and the recent report from the Family Solutions Group ‘What about me’ highlighted the need more so than ever for parents to find ways to resolve their own disputes and conflict and take control themselves, with appropriate support. After all, who is best placed to make decisions for you and your family? I believe you are the best person.
I recognise, having worked in the family justice system as a family lawyer and mediator over the last 20 years that this is far from easy. It is not uncommon for you to feel completely flooded with emotion and to fear that you will not be able to manage finding a way to discuss things with your ex-partner. You might be feeling angry. You may be feeling completely flat. You may feel lost. Mediation offers you the opportunity to work alongside those emotions and find a way forward. Working holistically with a counsellor, divorce coach or family therapist can also help process all of these emotions which are common and help you through not only whilst you are working through your mediation but beyond to finding your feet afterwards.
The benefit of working with an impartial professional, together, is that you are able to hear what the other person thinks, you can understand each other’s point of view, learn to communicate if you have developed a pattern where you have been unable to speak without conflict and work towards a solution which will work for you personally and for your family. This really is the best way to resolve the complex issues which arise on a relationship breakdown. It creates longer lasting solutions and deals with conflict so that this does not continue years after a separation. Who benefits? You do since unresolved conflict is not healthy. Your children do because they can see that you have found a resolution and will be able to put their needs first. They are not caught in the middle of a dispute between the two people they love most in the world.
There are many helpful resources available this week at www.familymediationweek.org.uk. This will include an explanation of family mediation where your questions will be answered and any myths debunked, discuss the benefits of mediation and help decide whether mediation is for you. I am also available for a confidential chat if you just want any further information or to talk to a mediator about the process and your options.