Family mediation helps you sort out the disputes that may arise during your separation. Here are some top tips on how to get the most out of mediation for your family:
- Be prepared Beforehand you should not only think about what your family needs from mediation but also how you want it to work. Think about your priorities and those of your ex. What matters to you when making decisions about your family?
- Do your homework You are likely to need to gather information or prepare proposals between sessions, particularly when discussing finances.
- Be honest Share any concerns you have, both about the mediation sessions themselves and about the dispute you want to resolve. Discuss these with the mediator at your initial meeting and throughout the process. Mediation is flexible and can be adapted to deal with all sorts of concerns and situations. For example, if you feel your ex will dominate sessions or you cannot speak freely then the mediator might suggest speaking to you both separately or involving a co-mediator so sessions are more balanced.
- Communicate Mediation is not relationship counselling. But you will both need to talk and listen. One of the strengths of mediation is that it can help keep lines of communication open, rather than increasing hostility.
- Get support outside mediation A mediator is there to facilitate and support you both, but getting individual support and advice is still important. Consider who will provide emotional support for you. You may also benefit from taking advice from other experts, for example about sharing pensions or tax issues.
- Prepare to be challenged The mediator is impartial and cannot take sides but will encourage you to try and see other perspectives on the situation. It is a mediator’s role to challenge whether the proposals you both put forward will work long term and help you both think through all the options. Try to remember this is not the mediator taking sides but an important part of helping you find a solution that will work for your family.
- Be realistic To reach an agreement there has to be compromise and this may take some time. You may find that you and your ex want or need to work at different paces. The mediator should be able to help manage sessions so that you can all make progress. If you find that you just have one or two issues unresolved, consider getting someone to decide those for you, perhaps by combining mediation with arbitration or early neutral evaluation, rather than tearing up all the progress you have made.
- Don’t assume it is too late Even if you have tried mediation before and were not able to resolve your issues or even if you are involved in court proceedings, you may still be able to sort out matters fully or partially in mediation.
Remember that although the mediator will be giving you information on legal issues they will not advise you and it is still important to take advice between sessions from your solicitor to help you assess your options and formulate a settlement that works.