Category Archives: Mediation Process

Effects of Conflict Between Parents on Their Children

Conflict between separated parents can have catastrophic effects on children. That knowledge can sometimes encourage parents in conflict on to make changes to the way they relate to each other.

Anyone can make changes in the way they relate to each other, although it is not easy.

Why does conflict between parents have such a damaging impact on children?

Continue reading Effects of Conflict Between Parents on Their Children

Long Distance Mediation via Skype for Separating Couples

Ideally, mediation sessions for separating couples work best if both parties can be present in the same room with their mediator. However, this is not always possible with people living far away from each other with heavy work commitments or perhaps child care issues. Some couples may even live in different countries after they separate. Also, if the split has been particularly traumatic, one party may not feel comfortable actually being in the room with their ex-partner.

Thankfully, with modern technology there are ways to overcome the difficulties of conducting mediation sessions where it isn’t possible for all involved to be in the same place at the same time.

Skype Mediation

Mediation via skype is a popular choice, as you can join the meeting using a laptop, tablet or even just your smart phone. You would still need to prepare fully before the meeting and ensure that there would be no distractions during the session. Here are some points worth bearing in mind:

  • Be aware that arranging a time for the mediation may be a challenge in itself, especially if both parties work. You may also be dealing with different time zones which will further complicate things.
  • Make absolutely sure that you have completely uninterrupted time for the session. Just because you can take the mediation session from your sofa doesn’t mean your children should be around to walk in, listen in or distract you. If the mediation is about arrangements for them it is especially unwise for them to be privy to any sessions.
  • The great thing about Skype is that you will be able to see everybody, this is preferable to just a conference call where meaning can be lost without seeing someone’s expressions. However, be mindful of the time delay that might occur. Everyone will need to be briefed to speak slowly and clearly.
  • There may be breaks in the connection which will mean some of what you say may need to be repeated. If one person’s internet connection is very slow there may be multiple interruptions, loss of sound or visual which may be frustrating. Your mediator will check all of these aspects in a pre-briefing and will trial a Skype call to check connectivity.

As mentioned above, it may not be a geographical obstacle that makes online skype mediation the preferable option. Someone may feel very threatened by their ex-partner and whether this is well founded or not, the fact that the two people are seeing each other via video screen takes much of the stress and emotion out of the situation. In the case study below this very situation is highlighted.

Bristol and Devon Mediation Case study

Geographically Bristol and Devon are not worlds apart, but they might as well be for a divorcing couple going through a very stressful and tempestuous marriage break up. Amy (as we will call her), was so distraught by her situation that she moved herself and her four children down to Devon to be near to her parents and also put some distance between them and her soon to be ex-husband.

Whilst this alleviated tensions in the home environment for the children, it became clear very soon that Amy and Richard (as we will call him) needed help to reach resolution on every aspect of their split. The most pressing was that Richard was wanting to see his children on a regular basis, but communication had broken down so much that no arrangement could be made. Amy realised that the children were becoming distressed by the situation. But she couldn’t bring herself to even be in the same space as Richard.

Skype mediation was the perfect solution for these parents. The fact that they were not in the same room took all the trauma from the situation for Amy who was highly emotional. With careful guidance from the mediator, the couple were able to discuss a set of agreements which related to the children’s arrangements as well as the financial disputes that they were having. It meant compromise on both sides but both of them felt that the outcome was fair.

Can we Help?

Here at Progressive Mediation, we are very experienced in all aspects of family mediation and have resolved many disputes between divorcing couples, including international mediation cases. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you then please call us on 0117 924 3880.

Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

Family mediation sessions for separating parents are a good way to discuss and resolve arrangements for the children. This could be working out a rota or timetable of when each parent will spend time with the children, how school holidays can be managed between the parents, as well as any financial disputes for maintenance payments. It is important to remember that children will be affected negatively if parents argue and cannot agree on these arrangements. Working with an experienced mediator in a safe and managed way that will avoid the conflict that can often arise between separating couples.

Continue reading Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation

Custody and Access

In mediation we sometimes hear parents talking about winning ‘custody’ of their children or gaining ‘access’ to them. Nowadays UK lawyers, judges and mediators no longer use these terms, in fact their use is actively discouraged. This is because of a change of emphasis in the law itself.

The 1989 Children Act promoted the use of concepts of ‘parental responsibility’ ‘residence’ and ‘contact.’  The aim was to shift parents from looking at their ‘rights’ to their children to their responsibilities towards them. And by ceasing to think in terms of ‘custody’ and ‘access’ it was hoped to break down the division between each parents’ role – ie the idea that one parent has primary responsibility for the children, and the other merely has ‘access’ to them. Continue reading Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation

Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation

Many of our discussions in Family Mediation are about arrangements for children. At Progressive Mediation we feel that as children grow older their views need to be increasingly taken into account in these discussions. Sometimes parents ask their children directly what they want to happen. Continue reading Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation

Everything you need to know about MIAMs

What is a MIAM?

A MIAM is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. Put more simply it’s a chance for you to meet a mediator to tell them about your situation. Between you and the mediator you can work out if mediation might be able to help you in your particular situation.

How much does it cost?

At Progressive Mediation our MIAMs are priced at £40.00, and will determine whether the mediation service we provide works for you.

Continue reading Everything you need to know about MIAMs

International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?

Around 500 British children were abducted and taken abroad by one of their parents in 2014. That’s double the number taken ten years ago.

Ease of travel and a growth in cross border relationships have meant that more break-ups result in difficult decisions for separating parents. Continue reading International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?

Mentally Preparing for Mediation

Your circumstances and the reasons for your imminent divorce or separation, both play a big part in how you will deal with mediation as a couple and therefore how you will have to mentally prepare yourself for the process.

If for example, you have had a tempestuous relationship with your spouse or partner, with lots of arguing, shouting and even violence, you may have to prepare for an emotional roller coaster. In these cases we try and ensure that the mediation process is conducted in a calm and civilised way. If there are signs of anger, raised voices or mental bullying, the mediator will call a break in the discussions until all parties have calmed down.

Continue reading Mentally Preparing for Mediation

Mediation FAQs

  1. Is Mediation compulsory?

No. Mediation is not compulsory. Since April 2014 it is compulsory for people who are divorcing or separating and who want to make an application to the court about their children or finances to attend an initial meeting (or MIAM) with a Family Mediator before using the courts. This is for them to find out whether mediation may be suitable for them. (Exceptions are made in a few cases for example where there has been domestic violence.) However if after this initial meeting either of the couple do not wish to mediate then Mediation will not proceed. The government is keen to encourage people to mediate because it is quicker and cheaper than using the courts. Mediation also helps minimise conflict between couples separating. There is no longer any legal aid for divorce cases to go to court, many people on low incomes will be eligible for legal aid for Family Mediation.

  1. What is a MIAM?

A MIAM is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. It is the first meeting between a client and Family Mediator, and the purpose of the meeting is for the Mediator to find out what the client wants to resolve, and to explain how the Mediation process works. If the client might be eligible for legal aid, the Mediator can calculate this based on the client’s income, for which they need to bring proof to the meeting. MIAMs tend to last between half an hour and an hour and usually separating couples attend them as individuals. Progressive Mediation gives free MIAMs.

Continue reading Mediation FAQs

Divorce and Separation Mediation Case Studies

Everyone’s divorce or separation is different, but I think it’s sometimes helpful to read about what other people have gone through, particularly when you are feeling that there is no good way out of your situation. These are two recent cases we have worked on which I thought would be worth sharing. When they first came in both couples were very stuck and couldn’t see a way forward. Through Mediation both couples reached settlements which, if they were not exactly happy about, they could live with. Even more importantly communication improved dramatically and they could begin to build their new relationship as separated parents.

Continue reading Divorce and Separation Mediation Case Studies

Am I Eligible for legal Aid for Mediation?

Progressive Mediation can provide free Family Mediation to clients who are eligible for legal aid. We are working in conjunction with Compass Resolution, a mediation service based in Devon who have won an outreach contract for us to provide legally aided Mediation in Bristol, Totnes and surrounding South Devon areas.

Continue reading Am I Eligible for legal Aid for Mediation?

Shared Parenting Schedules – How to work it out

Over four million children in Britain now live in separated families – that’s equal to a third of the children in the country. Some couples choose to have one resident parent, with the other parent having weekend and mid-week time with their children, but others prefer to divide up their children’s time differently and 50/50 shared parenting agreements are now becoming increasingly popular. Despite their attraction these arrangements can be complicated to plan and manage.

Mediation Can Help you Work out the  Schedules for Seeing the Children

Continue reading Shared Parenting Schedules – How to work it out

Good News – New Legally Aided Family Mediation Service

During divorce and separation the costs of solicitors and court proceedings can be expensive, and many people cannot afford such fees. Whereas the costs of mediation are significantly less, making it a more accessible process for people who cannot afford the solicitor and court proceeding fees.

To assist even more mediation can be funded by legal aid. Following the recently sad news of the closure of Bristol Family Mediation in June there has been a shortage of mediation services that offer legal aid in Bristol. But now we have some good news; Frances is now working with an organisation in Swindon who can provide legally aided mediation in Bristol.

At Progressive Mediation we don’t offer a legally aided service, but at Progressive Mediation we will assess you to see if you are eligible for legal aid and if you are eligible we can refer you to the legally aided service.

More Information

If you are interested in some further information about the costs of divorce and separation then please read our Factsheet 4 – Costs of Divorce & Separation.

Please do not hesitate to contact us today on 0117 924 3880, if you think our service could help you.

How to Get the Most out of your Mediation Sessions

Making the best use of mediation

Mediation is of its nature generally quicker, cheaper and more effective than litigation as a way of resolving disputes.  Our rates at Progressive Mediation are we believe the best available in the Bristol area. But to make the best use of your mediation sessions you need to be well prepared. Here are our top tips for preparing for mediation.

Be honest

The breakdown of an intimate relationship typically involves deceit and consequent mistrust. Dealing with the consequences effectively and fairly requires honesty. Divorce law requires a full and frank disclosure of all relevant financial information and we believe this is usually a necessary preliminary step for unmarried separating couples as well. Mediation work best if you are honest and straightforward about future plans. Then both of you can see how it may be possible for each of you to move forward, and to use the resources you have available in an effective and fair way. Where children are concerned, honesty in respect of new partners and any plans to relocate is essential. Separating partners are often extraordinarily anxious and suspicious about each other’s plans and intentions. Mediation provides an opportunity for you to reassure one another and to begin to build a platform of trust in respect of your future, separate life.

Obtain all the relevant information

If there are financial issues to be determined make sure that you have all the evidence needed for a full and frank disclosure of relevant financial information in particular you are likely to need:

  1. Evidence of the value of major assets, the family home and any other property, vehicles, any other items worth £500 or more and the cash equivalent value of all pensions. Most of this information can be obtained from e.g. estate agents, online services, pension providers without charge. But it is necessary particularly in cases involving divorce.
  2. Bank statements, payslips, evidence of self-employed or other income will also need to be shared and exchanged in mediation. Assembling all this information is a tedious but essential task. It will greatly assist the mediation process if you can bring three copies of all documentary evidence of relevant financial information to your mediation session; one for your ex, one for the mediators, and one to retain for yourself.

Take professional advice

As mediators we cannot advise you. We can give you information and ideas as to what others have done in similar situations but our commitment to impartiality prevents us from advising you what is best for you.  These days of course there is a large amount of information available online, much of which is helpful. Family and friends can be important sources of help and support during the separation process. But we believe that at a time when it is necessary that you make difficult decisions affecting you and your family’s future, it is worthwhile to obtain specific advice, informed by the facts of your circumstances in respect of the merits and drawbacks for you of options that are being considered in mediation, and indeed the implications and costs of not achieving agreement in mediation.

Have faith in mediation

The issues that confront you as separating partners, spouses and all parents are best resolved by you. Agreements reached in mediation are proven to be more enduring than those imposed by a court. You need to be willing to bring issues to mediation; not to act unilaterally, whether that is in respect of the purchase or sale of significant assets, the commitment of income in other ways, or parenting decisions, for example about moving home, schools, holidays, the introduction of a new partner to the children. Our rule is that once you have decided to enter mediation, if there are any significant financial or parenting’s decisions to be made always consider first raising them in mediation.  At Progressive Mediation we are always available between mediation sessions to discuss matters of this kind individually and in confidence.

Mediation is about dealing with the issues that need to be dealt with in a way that allows both of you to move on with your lives but you do need first to mediate the relevant financial and parenting issues then you will be able to move on confidently and independently to the next phase of your life.

The Costs of Divorce, Separation and Mediation

For nearly all separating couples the unavoidable cost of establishing two households instead of one is a formidable prospect. How this cost can be met, and how the children’s living arrangements can best be organised to meet their needs has to be given careful thought. But the cost of achieving a solution to this is hugely variable.  In the final analysis, it’s up to you.

If you can reach a sensible agreement around the kitchen table and are able fully to trust one another to put it into practice the cost could be nothing at all. But not many people can do this.

The Ministry of Justice tells us that going to court to sort out finances and other issues in divorce costs on average £4000, whereas resolving things through mediation costs on average £1000.  These are broad brush figures that beg all sorts of questions but may help to give a rough estimate. It seems likely that resolving matters by negotiating through solicitors or collaborative law will cost something in between.

I looked at the costs of family mediation in Bristol.  As quoted by five services listed on a Google search the average amounted to £150 per person per hour.
At Progressive Mediation our costs are £50 per person per session.

How do we do it?
Not by compromising our professional standards. Family mediation is carefully regulated by the Family Mediation Council. Like all reputable family mediators, we belong to organisations that subscribe to the council and uphold its code of professional practice.
Nor do we lack experience. Frances qualified as a family mediator in 1990 Charles in 2000. Progressive Mediation has been providing family mediation services for more than 15 years. Both of us have experience in related fields, Frances as a family solicitor and Charles in Cafcass, the court welfare service. We do believe, in this field, that there is no substitute for experience.

Nor do we offer less of a service. We offer free individual initial appointments. We don’t charge for letters summarising sessions. Nor do we charge, within reason, for telephone calls and emails between sessions.

In most cases, we co-mediate; two mediators in each session. Our mediation is, therefore gender-balanced; we offer a wide professional perspective on the issues and the best possible assurance of impartiality. Two heads surely are better than one.

So How Do We Do It?
Firstly we do not offer publicly funded mediation – legal aid. Publicly funded services are required by the government to submit to a whole raft of time-consuming and therefore costly procedures and requirements. It is unlikely if you are not eligible for legal aid that you will benefit much from these.

We work from our home. We have a comfortable fully equipped mediation room for roundtable discussions and can make other rooms available if required. You are not paying for high street or city centre offices. Nor are you paying any staff costs except for us, your mediators. Our turnover is low so we are not required to register or charge for VAT. And you can park for free outside our premises!

We work at your convenience. We understand that for most separating couples work, childcare and other commitments impose real constraints on availability. We, therefore, offer appointments during the working day in the evenings and at weekends. Usually, we can offer appointments within days. We are dedicated to providing the kind of service that larger organisations can rarely offer; not least because we really believe in what we are doing.

Of course, mediation is rarely easy.  You need to be well-prepared, willing to listen and willing to compromise.  You need, above all to set aside all the emotions that the break-up of a relationship may have unleashed, and bring to the table a business-like approach, an eye to the future and to the needs of any children involved.  If you can do that we believe that our mediation service offers the most sensible and affordable way of sorting out the issues arising from divorce or separation. That is apart, of course, from your kitchen table!

The happy medium

When your relationship has crumbled, and you want to cut your ties as soon as possible, it seems easy to head straight to a divorce solicitor. But there is another way.

Mediation is a calmer and cheaper way forward. As part of a radical rethink in the way that divorces are handled in this country mediation is being promoted as the first port of call for anyone considering separation. The Family Justice Review which was published on the 3rd November 2011 has recommended the creation of a Family Justice Service to include increased provision of mediation at an early stage to prevent cases going to court unnecessarily.

Anyone considering making an application to the court to sort out arrangements for children or finances following separation will be required to attend an initial Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting(MIAM) with a mediator so that an assessment can be made on the most appropriate way forward, for instance by working through a parenting agreement in mediation. If there are children involved the parents will have to attend a Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP) to discuss ways of minimising conflict and increasing communication between parents, with the expectation they will then attend mediation after. It is only after they have attended a MIAM and SPIP that they can make an application to the court. There is concern not only about the huge amount of public money that is spent on divorce and separation but also about the long-term effect on children and society of separating couples who remain in conflict for years after their separation.

A family mediator will sit down, and work out with a separating couple how to divide any assets up in a practical, realistic and fair way. We start by setting out certain guidelines, neither party is allowed to interrupt or speak over the other person for example, it is important that people listen to each other. A major goal is to make sure children’s views are taken into account and that they are listened to. There is increasing evidence that children’s needs will be met by minimising conflict between their parents and assisting parents to communicate in a constructive way together about their children.

Research shows that 12 years after separation, couples who have gone through the mediation process are still reaping the rewards with a much happier outcome and an ability to communicate as parents in the interests of their children.

Family affairs

Sally and Brian came to see me recently. They were still living in the same house. Sally wanted to stay in the family home with their two children, a six-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl. Tension was rising because Brian was refusing to move out of the house. Brian told me he was terrified he was going to lose the children and that is why he wouldn’t move out. He said he did not want to be a ‘Saturday’ parent. Putting legal terminology aside, such as custody, access, residence and contact we spent the session focusing on the reality of their day-to-day lives and what arrangements were possible. Using a flip chart, we worked out a schedule of arrangements for the children which suited both parents working patterns and the children’s activities.

A sense of equality

Sarah and Tom came to mediation. They wanted to separate and reach a financial settlement and work through the idea of a shared arrangement for their two-year-old daughter.

The couple spent the sessions looking into the practical side of how 50-50 shared care pattern would work in reality. They talked about nurseries, bedtimes, dropping off plans, birthdays, holidays extended families and telephone calls.

Splitting the sessions in half, Sarah and Tom were able to work through financial issues too and reach an agreement to move them both forward, enabling them both to buy a new property.

If you think family mediation might help you or anyone you know look at my website and get in touch.

 

Separation or divorce: why mediation may help you do the sums

Dividing up assets

When a married couple separate or divorce they often need to divide up their assets and deal with any liabilities so that they can both move forward. The law considers marriage a partnership and if a couple resort to the courts, the courts will take into account all assets the couple possess, whether  together or separately.  Below is a summary of the ‘section 25 factors’ which are enshrined in the Matrimonial Causes Act.  In particular the court will consider:

  1. The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each of them has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  2. The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each of the parties to the marriage has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future
  3. The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage
  4. The age of each party to the marriage and the duration of the marriage
  5. Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties the marriage
  6. The contribution which each of the couple has made or is likely to make to the welfare of the family and this includes looking after the home or caring for the family
  7. In extreme cases, the conduct of either spouse
  8. The value of any benefit which will be lost on divorce, for instance pension rights.

It is better both financially and emotionally for couples to negotiate if at all possible either between themselves or through mediation rather than resorting to the courts, and the above factors can be taken into account in the negotiations. Together a couple can decide which factors are most important to them in order to achieve a realistic settlement rather than leaving it to the court to decide on an arrangement which may be less attractive to both parties.  But the court is always a last resort.

If you are an unmarried couple do not go to court

From a legal point of view the situation for unmarried couples separating is very different in terms of division of assets.

The law focuses on property rights, rather than taking into account the above factors to help achieve a fair and realistic settlement.

For unmarried couples it is sometimes possible for an individual to argue that they made a contribution to an asset  not in joint names.  They can go to court to try and prove it but litigation can be very expensive, can take a long time and the outcome can be very uncertain.

For an unmarried couple mediation can be very beneficial because there they can consider whether they have they to all intents and purposes lived together as if they were married.  If the answer to this is ‘yes’ then it is perfectly possible to negotiate a settlement together which to them seems realistic and fair, taking into account some of the above factors rather than just looking at property rights.

If a couple has children, and both parents are really putting the interests of the children first, they will want to find a fair financial outcome that everyone can live with and will want to maintain a reasonable relationship where they can continue to communicate as parents. Simply dividing up finances looking at the law and property rights may make this hard to achieve.   Where there are children often one partner’s earning power is greater than the other but the law as it stands would not take this into account for an unmarried couple.  Justice, it seems, is not always fair.