Accredited family mediator, Samantha O’Dwyer puts forward her 5 top tips for a successful family mediation.
We are now in the midst of Family Mediation Week. This has given us time to reflect on mediation and the positive effects of resolving disputes outside of the court arena in a non-confrontational way. Statistics show that agreements reached directly between separating couples are more likely to be adhered to, and provide a more positive outcome for the family as a whole. But how can you get the most out of your family mediation sessions? Below are my top 5 for a successful mediation.
Be emotionally ready, and do not underestimate how difficult it may be.
By its voluntary nature mediation allows you to come to the process at a time which is right for you. The seven stages of grief (shock, denial, guilt, bargaining, depression, reconciliation, and finally acceptance), may help you understand if this is the right time.
Do not rush.
Accept that you may be embarking on a rocky road full of emotion. It may well be more difficult facing your former partner – even via Zoom – than you thought, and unexpected emotions may surface. Your mediator can discuss sensitively other options such as shuttle mediation which may be suitable. The current pandemic has thrown up additional problems with remote mediations especially if you are living in the same space as your former partner. Consider what will happen after the mediation session has ended, and if you feel safe.
Listen, and allow others to hear what you have to say.
It can be so very easy to ‘assume’ that your partner knows what you want, or your reasons for asking for a particular outcome.
Active listening can often be difficult. There may be firmly held myths or beliefs that are simply not correct. Disputes can end up in litigation due to a simple misunderstanding. Do not let that happen to you. It is important to take time and not rush the mediation process. Be prepared to ask questions and listen to the answers. Remember mediation is a safe environment where you will be actively encouraged to explore the Options – make sure you understand exactly what they are!
Be brave and have courage.
Mediation most certainly is not an easy option. It will require you to take an active role in finding a solution that is right for your family as a whole.
In taking back the decision making you will need to be prepared to compromise. Rarely does one party get exactly what they want. Have the courage to continue even when you feel there may be no hope of a successful outcome, and acknowledge it will be tough.
The confidential nature of mediation allows you to be imaginative, creative, and perhaps even a bit wacky with your solutions and options; without fear. Remember you are in a safe environment. Be courageous and tackle that ‘elephant in the room’. Your mediator will guide you through the options, and reality test your Option – whatever they may be.
Be honest with your disclosure and do your homework!
You will be asked to provide full and frank financial information. It is important and will help rebuild trust – especially if detail is given openly and freely.
Be on time with your disclosure. Be prepared to consider you may need the help of other professionals – pension advisors, accountants, mortgage advisors to name a few. They can help you navigate the financial maze and ensure you both have the correct level of understanding and there is no imbalance of knowledge. Ask more questions and do not be shy. You are coming up with a solution for your family’s future.If the mediator has asked you to do something, there is good reason why they have! Remember that whilst mediation is confidential, financial disclosure is an exception to that rule.
And finally ….
Look to the future.
Perhaps the most important tip of all. Mediation is future-focused. Try not to look backwards.
You will be given the opportunity in your individual sessions to speak openly with the mediator about the past, so the mediator can see things through your eyes. This is important and provides the mediator with an understanding of the situation. The mediator is however neutral. They are impartial and will not take sides. They will help you explore your options. They want you to achieve an agreement.
Ask yourself: “Where do I want to be in 2/4 years?”.
Now, let us help you get there.
About Family Mediation
Family mediation works by helping people who have decided to separate to talk things through. Mediation provides a supported opportunity to cut through the negotiation to get to the result that makes sense. Family mediators are trained to help you discuss and agree on the best arrangements for your family. These arrangements may be about your children, your home and money, or the practicalities of how life will work in the future.
If you would like to discuss our family mediation services further, please contact our Family Law department on 020 8771 5254 and ask to arrange a call with our family mediator.
About the Author
Samantha O’Dwyer is a solicitor and an accredited family mediator based at our West Wickham office. Samantha O’Dwyer is a Family Mediation Council accredited (FMCA) mediator and can therefore conduct and sign MIAMS court forms. If you would like to learn more about family mediation, please call us on 020 8771 5254 or complete the enquiry form below.