Category Archives: News and information

Family Mediation Services now available in Totnes

It is with great pride and excitement that we announce that we now provide all of our mediation services in Totnes and the surrounding South Devon areas. By opening a new branch of Progressive Mediation in Totnes, we are able to extend the reach of our services to a new area of the South West, whilst still supporting our clients in Bristol.

We have vast experience with family and separation mediation and in particular with child inclusive mediation. We offer all of our mediation services, with a very competitive fee structure, as we believe our services should be accessible to all, as an alternative to court proceedings.

The mediation services we offer:

MIAM (Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting) – These are the initial meetings, usually lasting an hour, where we will provide you with information regarding mediation and discuss the alternative ways to resolve the issues arising from your divorce or separation without going through court. Note, that if you are considering going to court, it is now a legal requirement to attend a MIAM first to show that you have tried to resolve or reach compromise over your differences. Read further information about our MIAM Service.

Family Mediation – If you are divorcing or separating and find that you are struggling to communicate with your former partner to arrive at decisions involving your children or other family members; mediation can help. Whilst you both might be angry, upset and determined that court is the only answer to get these issues resolved, mediation can give you a neutral space in which to both be heard. Reaching compromise through mediation, where both parties will feel happy with the outcome is far more likely than if you were to go to court. Read more about our family mediation services.

Child Inclusive Mediation – Here in the UK, it is the recommendation that children over the age of 10 should be talked to and consulted during mediation. We can see the children on their own or with their siblings, in a private meeting that is confidential. Ensuring the children’s voices are heard and their wishes and needs are taken into consideration during decision making is very important, but we also emphasise that no pressure is placed upon the children to arrive at decisions and it is really a place for them to express their feelings and feel heard. Read more about our child inclusive mediation services.

Mediation for Financial Issues – As part of any separation or divorce there will always be complex decisions to arrive at regarding the family finances and how assets are divided up. These can include incomes, pensions, land and property, vehicles and child maintenance. Here at Progressive Mediation, we can steer you through the process of arriving at an agreement on these matters, starting with the creation of an Open Financial Statement. Read more information on our mediation for finances.

Parenting Coordination Services – This is a relatively new service to the UK, but will no doubt grow in popularity. Are you in a high conflict relationship with an ex-partner? Do you find it hard to communicate and decide arrangements for the children without fighting? The arguments and stress that can arise over simple arrangements are not uncommon, they can be about anything from diet through to frequency of contact or which school the child is to attend. We will advise and make impartial suggestions to the parents to resolve issues and improve the levels of communication between them. This is very similar to the role of a family mediator, but is an ongoing and continuous support to ensure that things don’t break down over small issues as life continues. Read more about our parenting coordination services.

Can we help you?

If you live in Totnes or any surrounding area in South Devon and would like to find out more about our mediation services, please do give us a call on 0788 903 9393. We have years of experience with many different family situations and have helped many families move forward to a positive future after separation. You can read some of our case studies here or have a look at some of our testimonials.

Further Articles You May Find Helpful

Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

Understanding and Helping Under 11s through Divorce and Separation

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce and Separation

Loyalty Issues and Conflict in Children after Separation

Attachment Bonding in Parent and Child Relationships

Putting the Children First after Separation

Fun Things to do with the Kids this summer in Bristol – 2018

Schools are out and parents have a long 6 weeks to find things to do with their kids. The British weather has certainly not let us down this year, with the amazing sunshine we have been enjoying so far! Even if you are working parents there will still be time to do some fantastic things with your kids. We have compiled a list of things to do in Bristol that you may not have thought of; have a look and see what takes your fancy. Continue reading Fun Things to do with the Kids this summer in Bristol – 2018

What to do in Bristol this Summer with the Kids 2017

The Summer Holidays are nearly upon us and if you have kids you know only too well that keeping them entertained is important for your sanity, whatever their ages. To help you, we have pulled together a diverse list of events, festivals and campsites to appeal to families in Bristol and the surrounding areas.

Festivals and Events

Always great fun for the whole family, Bristol and the surrounding areas host an amazing mix of events, festivals, fairs and carnivals. Here are a few of them to check out this summer:

Bath Carnival 2017 – 15th and 16th July – FREE

A huge free party celebrating Carnival arts in the centre of Bath. A vibrant procession including South American drumming, Caribbean steel pan, Mardi Gras style brass, a range of traditional and contemporary dance choreography and crazy colourful costumes!

Corston Country Fair – 15th July – Adults £1 – Kids FREE

Corston Fair has been running for 100 years, a traditional fair with dog show, classic cars, bouncy castle and a good community vibe.

The Bristol Harbour Festival – 21st to 23rd July – FREE

A massive free event at Bristol Harbourside. If you are a fan of arts, circus, dance, music, boats, nautical capers, good food and drink and general enjoyment – this is a great event withplenty going on for younger children at the Castle Park area with Cirque Bijou. There’ll be things to make and do, inflatables, singing, storytelling, dancing and acrobatic performances. Read more information here.

Upfest 2017 – 29 to 31 July – FREE

Europe’s largest, free, street art & graffiti festival which takes place in Bedminster and Southville. 300 artists from 30 countries will paint at 35 venues live on 30,000sqft of surfaces in front of 35,000 visitors! This is delight for all ages with plenty of opportunities for hands on experience with children’s workshops including Morph making with Aardman. Find out more here.

Thai & Multi Cultural Food Festival – 29th to 30th July – Adults £4, Children £1

Held in Millennium Square, this will be a colourful and cultural event with stalls, Thai food, Thai boxing demo, fashion shows and entertainment for children. Read more about the event here.

Weston Dairy Festival 2017 – 3rd Aug to 6th Aug

A celebration of Livestock, Agriculture and Local Producers of food and crafts taking place on the Beach Lawns in Weston-Super-Mare. Expect everything from sheep shearing and milking to Shire horse displays and a dog and duck show. Find out more here.

Gloucester Road Summer Street Party – 5th Aug – FREE

Street Party hosted by Nailsea Electrical. Expect live music all day, food & drink stalls, free Gin & Wine tasting sessions, Fully Licensed bar all day and extended into the evening. Don’t miss Mr Whompy, the UK’s only DJ ice cream van!

RedFest 2017 – 5 Aug – 6 Aug – FREE

Redfest Bristol is a Community Interest Company which exists to provide a free community music and arts festival based in the Redfield and St. George areas of East Bristol. So much to do and see including an eclectic range of acts including folk, rock, dance, jazz, reggae and world music.

There is also film screenings, cabaret, photography exhibitions, street art demonstrations, children’s entertainment, workshops and storytelling. Find out more here.

South Gloucestershire Show 2017 – 5th and 6th Aug – Adults £10, kids £6, under 5s FREE

This year will see everything from motorcycle stunts, dog displays and pig racing! A huge line up of local bands, fabulous food, BMX area, kids zone and loads more. Find out more here.

Islamic Cultural Fayre – 6th Aug – FREE

Eastville Park! One of the local calendar’s largest free festivals, pulling in 12,000+ visitors each year, expect to find more than 100 stalls in the bazaar, large funfair, 5-a-side football tournament, glorious food, live stage and general family fun. Find out more here.

Hoo-Ha! 2017 – Tue 15 – Thu 17 Aug – FREE Activities (ticketed shows from around £10)

Held at the Colston Hall, the children’s shows which are ticketed include Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dino School. But there is loads of free fun in the foyer, including: Ready Sheddy Disgo, Explorer Dome Inflatable Planetarium, Singalong Band, Lets Make Art craft activities, Boris the Bookworm and Face painting. See what’s on here.

Educational Exhibitions

If you are looking for something a little more educational or perhaps it’s raining, have a look at these exhibitions:

Skeletons: Our Buried Bones – 8 April—3 September 2017 – Pay what you think

M-Shed. This will possibly be of interest to older children. A fascinating exhibition of twelve human skeletons from Bristol and London, each with a unique story to tell. Find out more here.

Pliosaurus! – 17 June 2017 – 7 Jan 2018 – Pay what you think

Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Come face to face with a Jurassic beast if you dare! Discovered in Westbury, Wiltshire in 1994, this is the world’s only example of a new species of pliosaur on public display for the first time.

Pliosaurs are so big that it took ten years to prepare all the fossils that were found! Aimed at 3-11 year olds, this exhibition offers a range of activities to investigate how this special creature lived and died. Find out more here.

Family Friendly Campsites near Bristol

If you want to get the family out of town for a few days and back to nature, consider these campsites which all have playgrounds or facilities for kids:

Brook Lodge Farm Camping & Caravan ParkNear WringtonAll the facilities for a comfortable camp including wifi, washing machines, fridge, play areas all set in 4.5 acres of lovely countryside.

Greenacres Camping – Near Glastonbury – simple, clean and well looked after facilities with all the basics covered for some wholesome family fun. Showers and toilets but no loud club house or entertainment. Just proper camping in an idyllic setting. They do have fridges available for guests to share.

Netwood Farm – East Harptree – Small and friendly site for campers to come and enjoy all the countryside has to offer. Lake and woodland view fields with children’s play areas and lots of attractions and activities close by.

Petruth Paddocks – Cheddar – Very family friendly with all the facilities you need. Farmer will deliver logs and a fire pit to your pitch and sometimes local meat and sausages. If you are lucky the kids get given a ride in the link box around the field when it’s empty.

Beeches Farm Camping – Chepstow – lovely traditional camping with amazing views over the Wye Valley. Lots of space for children to run around and an ideal place for groups of families to camp together. Fresh laid eggs available too!

Have an amazing summer, whatever you decide to do!

From all of us at Progressive Mediation.

Father’s Day – How can this be handled for separated Parents?

Father’s Day is on the 18th June this year (2017), this can be difficult for separated couples to manage and possibly distressing for the children if the situation isn’t handled well. Here are some top tips to keep everyone happy and ensure in particular that the children don’t suffer:

Continue reading Father’s Day – How can this be handled for separated Parents?

Family Mediation Week 2017 – 23-27 January

This year Family Mediation Week is the 23rd to the 27th January (2017). The aim is to raise awareness of how mediation can help separating families resolve their issues in a collaborative way. January is often a time for reflection and new beginnings and this can mean couples realising their differences cannot be overcome and so decide to separate. Sometimes families have already decided to split but want to wait until after Christmas so as not to disrupt the family festivities where children are involved.

Continue reading Family Mediation Week 2017 – 23-27 January

Family Mediation Week 2016

January is often described as Divorce Month, and the Monday of the first full working week back after the holidays is often referred to as Divorce Day. One national family law firm says referrals in January are usually more than 27% up on an average month. It seems some people make appointments in December, planning to spend one last Christmas together, while others may have had a bad time over the holidays and realised that their relationship is at an end. Continue reading Family Mediation Week 2016

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

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?

Sad News – Bristol Family Mediation Closed

bristol family mediation logo - now charity is closed

After more than 30 years in operation leading mediation charity, Bristol Family Mediation has been forced to close its doors as a result of mounting debts.

Bristol Family Mediation was the first family mediation service set up in the UK and it pioneered the use of mediation to help resolve family disputes rather than through the courts at a time when it was unheard of and unrecognised.

BFM has struggled since cuts to legal aid for solicitors came into effect last April. Although the government’s aim was to encourage more people to try the mediation process the cuts caused a steep dip in referrals to the charity, as people did not realise that legally aided mediation was still available.

Lib Dem Justice Minister Simon Hughes met with family mediators in Bristol just a few weeks ago in an effort to try and promote mediation as a first port of call for separating couples.This April the government made it compulsory for all separating and divorcing couples to meet with mediators before using the courts. Sadly the law change has come too late for this venerable Bristol institution.

It is ironic that Bristol Family Mediation has had to close at a time when mediation is finally becoming a mainstream option for separating and divorcing couples.

Progressive Mediation has had a long standing relationship with Bristol Family Mediation, with Frances working for them for many years on a part time basis, and we would encourage anyone considering mediation to call us. We do not have a contract to provide legally aided mediation however we are supporting the transition of both existing and potential clients, who are eligible for legal aid, to another mediation service holding a contract with the Legal Aid Agency.

Until this transition takes place within the next few weeks, we will try and help anyone who wants to talk to someone generally about mediation, and if they are not eligible for legal aid, we can make an appointment to see them.


Mediation Fact Sheets – Useful Information for Separating Couples

As mediators we cannot give anyone advice, but we can provide people with a lot of useful information based on research and our extensive experience as a solicitor (Frances), working for Cafcass (Charles) and as mediators. We can provide you with, for instance, information about the divorce process, about factors the court will take into account when making orders, the effects of separation on children, about how to communicate better as parents.

To help you access this information easily we have written a number of fact sheets that you can find on our website here, along with  our other mediation resources. We hope you find them useful.

Children’s Arrangements

Children’s Arrangements and the Children and Families Act 2014

We are sometimes surprised by how many separated parents still talk about ‘custody’ and ‘access’. These terms lost any legal currency more than 20 years ago following the 1989 Children Act. This introduced into law the concept of ‘parental responsibility,’ which all mothers, married fathers, and fathers named on the birth certificate (after 2003) now share. Continue reading Children’s Arrangements

Children & Families Act Implemented 22nd April 2014

The Children and Families Act will be implemented on 22nd April 2014; part of its intention is to promote a wider use of mediation. Anyone wanting to make an application to the court to sort out arrangements for their children or a financial settlement will first of all have to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) where they can find out more about mediation and whether it might be a way for them to sort out their dispute.

This morning I and some other Bristol mediators met with Simon Hughes, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties at the Bristol Court – not a place where we mediators often like to be!  Simon was full of enthusiasm for mediation as a way for couples to resolve disputes quickly, without acrimony and at minimum cost.

He suggests people should first go and see a mediator rather than a solicitor when they separate.  The government, which has been criticised for failing to promote mediation over the last year, will now be focusing on improving awareness of mediation.

If you would like to speak to me about mediation please call 0117 924 3880



January -divorce and separation month

It is a sad fact that many relationships break up in January. Over Christmas, families and couples often spend long periods together, highlighting underlying tensions. Overexcited children, parents in law, too much alcohol and heavy spending don’t help either.

Thinking about separation or divorce is not easy but the New Year is often a time for reflection and new resolutions and so it can feel the right time to take that huge decision to end the relationship.

If you are one of those people contemplating taking this step consider making your first port of call  coming to see us for an assessment to see if family mediation might be a way of helping you separate in a dignified, amicable way; particularly important if you have children who can very easily get caught up in bitter battles between the two of you.

Talk to us; we are available to see you at short notice at a time to suit you, daytime, evenings or weekends.

Family Mediation at Christmas Time for Separated Parents

Christmas can be a particularly difficult time of year for separated parents; it is meant to be ‘family’ time, everyone getting on together and being happy.  Mediation can assist by helping parents find a way of sharing Christmas between them and making sure their children are not stuck in the middle of conflict at a time when they want to enjoy themselves.
Christmas Day itself can cause a lot of bitter emotion.  Both parents want to see the children.  How can you make the festive season work for you and your children?

  • Organise in advance and discuss arrangements together. If either of you have a particular plan or reason for doing something, explain clearly why this is, for instance a visit from a relative from abroad.
  • Focus on the children. They should not have to witness arguments and they should be able to spend time with both of you. If you feel that you can avoid arguments, sometimes you can spend time together but if you do not usually do this and there is a risk that arguments might occur it might be better to do things entirely separately.
  • Children do not necessarily attach as much significance to Christmas Day as you might think. As long as they have an opportunity to celebrate with both of you and open presents with both of you, the ‘special day’ could be either side of Christmas Day.
  • Don’t try and make Christmas presents a competition between the two of you. Sometimes if you can share the cost, you can get something the children really want and they may appreciate that it is a present from both of you.
  • Don’t forget to consult the children, particularly when they are older. Children do not want plans being thrust upon them.  But be wary of letting them decide who they want to spend Christmas with.
  • Don’t forget the extended family. Christmas is often a time to see relatives that the children don’t often see.
  • Consider the long-term rather than just focusing on this Christmas. There will be many Christmases in the future, sometimes the fairest approach is to alternate from one year to the next.
  • Remember Christmas should be about peace love and goodwill so enter into the spirit of Christmas. Be prepared to compromise so that your children can enjoy the excitement of Christmas

If having read the above you want to discuss anything in confidence to see how mediation can help you sort arrangements out, get in touch 0117 9243880 or 07889039393 or email   It is never too late to discuss arrangements  about children, you will both be parents for ever. If there are problems this year, don’t despair, try not to make the same mistakes next year. Consider the possibility of negotiating parenting arrangements with us in mediation.

National Dispute Resolution Week – 25th to 29th November 2013

The idea of this week long national awareness campaign is to highlight the benefits of alternatives to court for separating and divorcing couples.

Divorce and separation affect almost everybody. Most people know somebody close to them who has been divorced or separated. Large numbers of people who separate or divorce go straight to a solicitor or a court, not necessarily appreciating the value of mediation as a way of helping them resolve their dispute.

The aim of mediation is for a couple to resolve their differences in a non-confrontational manner, to help them reach an agreement and, particularly when they have children,  find a way of being able to communicate as parents into the future despite no longer being together as a couple.

At Progressive Mediation we have been supporting couples whilst they resolve their family disputes through mediation for many years and welcome this national campaign as a way to further highlight the benefits of mediation.

We will be available all week on the telephone to talk to you about how mediation could work for you or alternatively you can arrange to come to see us for an initial free assessment meeting.  Call us on 0788 903 9393 or 0117 924 3880.

You can find out further information about National Family Dispute Resolution Week by looking at:

New! Changes from April 1st 2013

As of 1 April this year, the government is hoping to trim some £350m from the £2bn Legal Aid budget by scrapping almost all Legal Aid for private family law cases.
Legal Aid will only be available for Family Law cases involving allegations of domestic violence and abuse. The government is placing new emphasis on family mediation as a way to resolve family disputes, hoping that fewer of these cases will end up in court.
Family mediation is the process by which separating couples can side-step traumatic and divisive courtroom battles, by working with an independent mediator to resolve disagreements over arrangements for their children and how to divide up finances.

Quicker and cheaper

The government has said it will increase the amount of money it provides for legally aided family mediation, upping spending by £10m, taking the total spent on mediation to £25m. National Audit Office figures show that, on average, mediated cases are resolved around four-times quicker and cheaper than cases that go to court.

Family mediators are pleased by the change of direction, but worried about how people will access their services. Mediation is still relatively unknown to the general public. How will people know that legal aid is available for mediation? And how will people find reputable qualified family mediators?

Judges are concerned that the cuts in legal aid will mean there will be a rise in the number of litigants in person who inevitably take up more court time and may increase the backlog of family law cases. And some solicitors say that focusing legal aid on family law cases involving accusations of domestic violence may provide a perverse incentive for these allegations.

As someone who has worked as a family mediator for more than 15 years, I see this April as a time of uncertainty, but also of great possibility that in the future mediation will become the norm. Mediation will be first port of call for separating couples.
Another reason why mediation looks set to grow are rules that came into effect in April 2011, which meant that judges are supposed to ensure that all separating couples who are embarking on the court process have at least considered mediation.

Mediation information and assessment meeting

Couples are supposed to try what is called a ‘MIAM’ (a mediation information and assessment meeting), during which the benefits of mediation are explained and the couples’ suitability for mediation assessed. In fact, in many parts of the country judges have been ignoring this directive and it is planned that from April 2014 legislation will be introduced to make MIAMs compulsory.

A Ministry of Justice study has shown that when couples use mediation first, before getting to court, they are more likely to be able to continue to mediate their disagreements. The report also showed that fewer people needed further assistance with arrangements for their children after using mediation.

Family mediation is not only quicker and cheaper than litigation.  It is able to provide solutions to family disputes that are tailor made to individual needs, as opposed to Court imposed decisions which tend to be formulaic. Frances Place who runs Progressive Mediation, a  family mediation service based in Bristol, describes the way in which mediation can address the minutiae of how a separation will work:. ‘With one couple we talked about nurseries, bedtimes, dropping off plans, birthdays, holidays, extended families and telephone calls’. The formal legal process is wholly ill-equipped to do this sort of thing.

Mediators can also work with parents on to how to break the news of separation or divorce to their children, a difficult issue for separating couples, but one that is always best planned jointly.

Research shows that twelve years after separation, couples who have gone through the mediation process are still reaping the rewards. Both parents are more likely to have a good relationship with their children, and an ability to communicate as parents in the interests of their children. So rather than being seen simply as a way to cut costs, or to ‘keep things out of court’ the real value of mediation can be seen in the way in which it helps to improve outcomes for the children of separated parents.

Far too many of our children today have been scarred by the effects of parental conflict exacerbated by an adversarial court system. Divorce and parental separation is a fact of modern life which will not go away.  Family mediation provides parents with an effective way of managing the process and it consequences.  The evidence is now overwhelming that, in cases in which a marriage or conjugal relationship has irretrievably broken down, family mediation offers all concerned, and in particular the children, the best chance of moving on to new life challenges in the most constructive way. . As one of my former clients once put it: “If it hadn’t been for mediation, we’d still be fighting now.”

Separated Parent Information Programme

If you are separating or divorcing and you have made an application to the court to sort out living arrangements for your children the court may have ordered you to attend a Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP). You may feel reluctant to attend. You may want to know more what is involved.

Attending a SPIP will give you the opportunity to meet other people in conflict with their ex-partners over arrangements for the children and give you the opportunity to hear from two experienced trainers, often mediators, about the impact of divorce and separation on children and to discuss ideas to help reduce conflict and improve communication between you and your ex-partner. Research has shown the separation doesn’t have to harm children if it is handled well; it is conflict that has a negative effect.

You will watch a DVD made by children, following a family through a separation. The DVD focuses on what children feel as their parents separate and what they need from their parents.

There are discussions and tips on how you can try and communicate better with your former partner, even if they are being very difficult and do not seem to be cooperating. There are discussions about the emotional aspects of divorce and separation, tips on helping you look after yourself and on how you can move forward, putting the past behind you.

Parents are sometimes reluctant to attend but most parents who do attend find it a very helpful experience.

Putting the past conflict as a couple behind you isn’t always easy; talking to other parents in similar situations and hearing from experienced trainers can sometimes help give you ideas on how to move forward and find ways of working together as separated parents.

You will learn amongst other things:

  • That you should try not to fight in front of the children or ask them to choose sides
  • That your children may have different feelings to yours
  • That you should think about what you can do, not what your ex-partner should or shouldn’t do
  • That you should focus on what has worked, not on what hasn’t worked
  • That small steps can lead to big changes
  • To look after yourself and be the best parent you can

So if you are ordered to attend a SPIP don’t be negative or try and avoid going; you will hopefully find it a useful and informative day.