Category Archives: Mediation Process

Costs Of Mediation – Can I Get Free Mediation?

The costs of family mediation can vary dramatically depending on the hourly rate of the mediator and the number of sessions required. The complexity of the dispute and how willing each party is to compromise will also vary from case to case. According to the Family Mediation Council’s survey from 2019, the proportion of mediation cases where the issue was around children was 46%. 25% was around property and finance. And 29% was a combination of both issues.

As an example, a separating couple with children who have disagreed over the arrangements for their children could, if they were willing, resolve their issue in a few sessions. On the other hand, a high conflict couple with many different points of disagreement might take many more sessions.

Let’s take a closer look at the costs:

Cost Of A MIAM

The first part of any mediation process is to attend a MIAM  – a mediation information and assessment meeting. Costs for this initial meeting will vary but check what is included in the price because the issue of signed court forms will often be an extra cost.

Average UK Cost of MIAM* Progressive Mediation MIAM Costs
 

£107 per person for the MIAM

£58 extra cost for signed court form.

 

Face To Face MIAM: £40.

£15 extra for the signed court form.

Online MIAM: Starts from £45.

 

* Family Mediation Council’s survey from 2019

Cost Of Family Mediation

When you compare the costs of mediation against going to court, mediation is invariably the least expensive option. You are also much more likely to get an outcome that both parties are happy with and arrive at a compromise. In the Family Mediation Council’s survey we reference that 75% of the 37,000 mediation cases had whole or partial agreement and would be considered a success.

How Much Does a Mediator Cost?

Again, the total costs for family mediation will depend on how many sessions are required to resolve the issues and reach agreement. The average cost for family mediation (including mediation for separation, divorce and children’s arrangements) are £140 per hour.

However, mediators also vary their pricing structure, with some using sliding scale fees according to income or fixed fee packages which include the paperwork. When you are researching mediators be sure to check for hidden costs and if the pricing is per person or per couple.

 

Average UK Costs of Mediation* Progressive Mediation Fees
 

£140 per person per hour.

 

The average total cost for both participants to attend a MIAM, a successful mediation, and any relevant outcome documentation was £1641.

 

Joint Sessions – £70 per person per hour.

Letters summarising mediation sessions – Free.

Open Financial Statement – £50 per person.

Memorandum of Understanding – £50 per person.

Completion of C100 or Form A – £55.

*Family Mediation Council’s survey from 2019

Read further details on our mediation fees and costs at Progressive Mediation. Be in no doubt that even though we are reasonably priced, you will receive a quality service. We do not compromise on professional standards and uphold the code of professional practice set out by the Family Mediation Council. We have been mediating for over 20 years with many hundreds of successful outcomes over a range of circumstances.

Can I Get Free Mediation?

Am I Eligible For Legal Aid For Mediation?

It is possible that you and/or your ex-partner may be eligible for legal aid, in which case you would not pay for your mediation. Read our comprehensive guide to see if you might be eligible for free mediation. The criteria are based on a few financial factors such as whether you are in receipt of benefits, you have savings or a certain level of disposable income.

As part of a government initiative if just one of you is eligible for legal aid, we can now offer you both the first mediation session free.

Online Mediation Services

With Covid-19 being very much a feature in all our lives, we can conduct mediation sessions and MIAMs online. We can use video calls, Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp.

This isn’t a new way of working for us as over the years we have found that many separating couples either live too far away from each other or would simply rather not be in the same room.

Can We Help You?

If you are looking for a mediation service, would like further advice or to find out if you are eligible for free mediation through legal aid then please get in touch. Call Progressive Mediation on 0788 903 9393 and we will advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances. We can provide all of our services online, there is no need for face to face meetings.

Separated Parents and Children’s Arrangements on Lockdown During the Covid-19 Pandemic

As we approach the seventh week of lockdown there has been an increase in reports of separated parents in conflict over arrangements for their children. Whilst some parents have continued with the contact arrangements previously agreed, there has been an increase in some parents either finding it hard to adhere to their Child Arrangement Orders (CAO) during lockdown or cases where the lockdown has been used as an excuse to prevent the other parent from seeing their children.

 

 

Child Contact Arrangements During Lockdown – The Official Guidance

On the 23rd March the government issued the ‘stay at home and away from others’ rule which included:

“Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes”.

This didn’t mean however that the children must be moved between homes. On the 24th March additional guidance was published on compliance with Family Court Child Arrangement Orders. Within this guidance it states that ‘parents must abide by the rules on staying at home and away from others’. However, the ‘expectation must be that parents will care for children by acting sensibly and safely when making decisions regarding the arrangements for their children’.

So, the decision was to be made between the parents to make a sensible assessment and take the best approach that would keep everyone safe by taking into account the risk of any more vulnerable individuals in each of the homes. And here within lies the problem for many parents who do not have the benefit of good communication between them.

Cafcass and the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary have continued with cases and assessments during the lockdown by using Skype and other means of video conferencing in order to continue with their services. If your case or assessment is imminent you will be contacted in plenty of time and advised on the new arrangements.

Changing Your Children’s Arrangements During Lockdown

If someone in either household is in the high-risk category for Coronavirus, a decision must be made between you as the responsible parents as to how best change the arrangements for the children. In some cases, a parent may be a key worker and therefore at a higher risk of coming into contact with the virus. Parents are free to temporarily vary a CAO if the changes made are;

  • Reasonable
  • In the spirit of the original order
  • Communicated to the other party with suitable alternative arrangements put in place for the children to maintain regular contact with the other parent

The safety and welfare of the children is the most important aspect of these decisions and where there is good communication between separated parents, these decisions can be arrived at and new arrangements made without disruption or emotional upheaval.

Communication Breakdown and Child Contact Issues

Where parents may have separated recently or perhaps there is high conflict, the Coronavirus lockdown has caused many issues where children’s arrangements have been disrupted. Here are some examples:

Contact Refusal

A separated couple in Totnes with a 3 year old daughter had recently settled on a schedule where the Dad would see his daughter every other weekend from Friday night to Sunday morning. However, when the social distancing and stay at home measures were introduced, the mother refused the weekend visit to take place saying that she felt the Dad wouldn’t be taking the social distancing seriously and would put his daughter and therefore herself in danger of contracting the virus.

Contact Not Possible Due to Distance

A mother of three living in Plymouth has found herself isolating alone with the children with no respite as the children’s father lives in Newcastle. The children used to travel by train to visit their dad and he would meet them off the train. He has now become unemployed and train travel is no longer safe for the children.

Shielding Elderly Relatives at Home

One Dad we spoke with is now longer able to see his children as he had to take the decision to isolate with his ageing mother who he must care for. Unfortunately, his children’s mother has turned this situation against him and is refusing phone and video calls with him, telling him the children no longer want to speak with him.

New Partner Moved In During Lockdown

At the beginning of the ‘stay at home’ guidance from the government, couples who were not cohabiting were told to make a choice as to whether to live together through the lockdown period. In this instance, the mother of two young children aged 2 and 6 decided to move her new boyfriend in for the lockdown, having only met him online a few weeks before. The father has become increasingly worried about the safety of his children as the new boyfriend is continually drinking and taking drugs. He has heard reports from neighbours with whom he is still in contact that there is a lot of shouting and uproar coming from the former family home.

Children Scared to Go to Dad’s

One family we spoke with have stopped physical contact with the Dad as he works in a supermarket. The mother has become very paranoid and fixated that he will have the virus, but she has made her children absolutely petrified that he has it and if they come into contact with him, they will catch it and die.

 From the Children’s Perspective

At the heart of all of these situations, we have the innocent children who are experiencing a very frightening and uncertain time. Even if they are maintaining contact schedules with both parents and move between two loving households, they are still feeling scared. It is important to remember how they are experiencing lockdown. Children pick up on atmosphere and emotion around them, this can really affect them deeply and they may not be able to voice their fears and feelings.

Every child, whatever their age is missing their peers, their friends and their school environment. What started off as a week or two off school and seemed quite fun, is now confusing and lonely. Nothing beats messing about with friends, playing in the park and playing those imaginative games that only children can.

Children will also be experiencing the stress and frustration from their parents, who are possibly trying to work from home whilst juggling home learning for their kids. Money worries and concerns for the future may make parents behave differently which will be worrying and upsetting for children.

Many children are experiencing fear of the virus, particularly if someone they know has been affected and sadly passed away. Children always have natural a fear of a parent or carer dying, these feelings are of course going to be magnified during this time. Kids have also become infinitely more aware of their own mortality and may fear their own death.

During these strange times, it is even more important to take the time to talk with your children about their feelings and worries. Explain things and reassure in a way that is appropriate for their age and understanding.

Will the lockdown be relaxed on Sunday? As a nation we await the announcements on Sunday which will define how we all may be able to live a little more freely, but we are all acutely aware that if restrictions are relaxed it will be a very slow and tentative easing and by no means a return to life as we knew it. It is highly unlikely that schools will be reopening anytime soon. So, how do we cope? How do we make things as easy as possible for ourselves and our children? Let go of anger and embrace kindness and compassion. Open the lines of communication between everyone in your children’s lives.

Online Mediation Services During Lockdown

As experienced family mediators we can help you during lockdown to mediate with ex partners and family members to resolve conflict and any issues arising from separation or arrangements for children. We are able to do this via skype, WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom or any other video conferencing method.

We have found that video or online mediation can be even more successful than it is in person, face to face. Each parent can join the video call from the comfort of their home, at a time that suits them. The pressure of having to be in the same room as your ex is removed. Separate sessions for individuals can be arranged prior to the joint session if that makes things easier. It is also possible to put you in separate breakout rooms during the session, mute one of you while the other is talking or turn off the video.

If you are struggling to agree on the arrangements for your children, or any aspect of joint parenting during lockdown, we can help. Call Frances now on 0788 903 9393 to find out more.

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 greater distances apart 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 being in the room with their ex-partner.

Thankfully, with modern technology there are ways to overcome the difficulties of conducting mediation sessions at long distance.

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.

Making Skype Mediation Work

The great thing about Skype is that you will be able to see everybody on the call, this is preferable to just a conference call where meaning can be lost without seeing someone’s expressions.

However, here are some points worth bearing in mind to make the session as successful as possible:

  1. Be aware that arranging a time for the mediation may be a challenge, especially if both parties work. You may also be dealing with different time zones which will further complicate things.
  2. Make 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.
  3. Be mindful of the time delay that might occur. Everyone will need to be briefed to speak slowly and clearly.
  4. 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 these aspects in a pre-briefing and will trial a Skype call to check connectivity.

Using Skype Mediation for High Conflict Couples

As mentioned above, it may not be a geographical obstacle that makes online skype mediation the preferable option. Sometimes there is so much emotion and ill feeling between separating couples that they would really prefer not to be in the same room.

Someone may feel very threatened by their ex-partner and whether this is well founded or not, the communication via video screen takes much of the stress and emotion out of the situation. The case study below highlights this situation.

Devon Skype Mediation Case study

Geographically Totnes and Plymouth are not worlds apart, but they might as well be for a divorcing couple going through a very stressful and high conflict 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 Totnes to be near to her parents and put some distance between herself 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. The result was arrangements that were agreed by both Amy and Richard as they had set aside their feelings for each other to focus on what was best for the children.

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 0788 903 9393.

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

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.