It is obvious that where there is a dispute between parents, somesort of compromise is needed if the matter is to be resolved. Unfortunately, if dad and mum are not speaking –or at least not respecting each other’s views –then somebody else has to become involved if a solution is to be found. This can be achieved in several ways, either by a judge imposing an order on the parties (which they are disinclined to do at the outset) or by trying to find a compromise outside the courts. This can only be achieved quickly with the use of a mediation service.
Mediation services can either be professional, or in the case of minor disputes where the matter has not yet gone to court, a trusted friend can be used to negotiate a settlement between the parents. Parents can choose to use any mediation service voluntarily –but in reality very few parents do. In most cases the use of a mediation service is ordered by the court if the judge feels that the parties can resolve their disputes away from the court process and get an agreement with the use of this professional service.
In the UK very few couples who are separating use a mediation service until problems develop. They tend to assume that mediation is not required at the outset, and that they should be able to resolve any minor disagreements between themselves without the involvement of other parties.
For many divorcing or separating couples this is indeed the case, and mediation services are never required, as the parents co-operate together and compromise accordingly. Unfortunately, sometimes one parent (very often the mum) does not co-operate and respect the other’s position, and so communication breaks down. The unco-operative parent has to be brought back to the negotiating table by using a mediation service.
The dad is already in a weak negotiating position (as he is in most cases the non-resident parent), and mum controls most of the affairs relating to the child. Also inherent in this process is the fact that the people at the mediation service are the parents – the children are only represented through their views – which does not necessarily mean that the children’s thoughts and wishes will be uppermost in the parents’ minds when they sit down with the mediator. It takes the mediator’s skills to bring both parents around to acting on the best interests of the child.
The good news is that mediation services are staffed by experts. The mediator is adept at being neutral, and seeks to resolve matters from a neutral standpoint. They also consider matters from the standpoint of the children, and in most cases approach the case from the view of the child’s wants and needs, given their experience of working with children in this environment.
The bad news is that most mediators will not suffer parents who are not prepared to compromise, and are quick to terminate mediation if they feel that no progress will be made towards a solution. In short, the mediator will not waste their own time and energy on a case where progress will not be made.
If mediation breaks down, the reasons for the breakdown are not put in a report which can be submitted to a court. So if your ex-partner is intransigent, and is dragged towards mediation by the court but fails to take the process seriously and the mediator terminates the process, she will not be disadvantaged. The mediator’s report will not state that she failed to take an active part in the process – only that the process broke down. It will not say which party was the cause of the breakdown.
Is the purpose of the mediation to get dad and mum back together again?
No. Mediation is for couples who have separated, or are in the process of separating or divorcing. It offers the chance to talk about, manage and resolve issues arising from the breakdown of the marriage.
How do I go about organising mediation?
In two ways. Firstly, if you decide to go to mediation voluntarily with your ex then you can use the mediation services of an organisation simply by contacting them and setting a date for the first meeting – but this will cost you money. Or secondly, in matters of dispute over contact, you can get the court to appoint mediation (normally after a CAFCASS report) – in which case it costs you nothing.
What sort of people are mediators?
Mediators are in most cases professionally qualified or have other qualifications, eg as solicitors, counsellors or CAFCASS officers.
How long does mediation take?
Generally it takes between two and eight weeks to set up the first meeting with the mediator. They then progress matters fairly quickly, with weekly or fortnightly meetings between the parties, each usually lasting one to one and a half hours.
How long does mediation last?
Generally, mediation sessions can resolve the issues (if possible) within three to five sessions.
Is an agreement made at mediation legally binding?
No, although the summary prepared by the mediator once mediation is complete can be given to your solicitor to be incorporated into a court order or a legally binding agreement. But this is not the case if mediation is appointed by the court and breaks down.
Is mediation confidential?
Mediation is a confidential process. However, most mediation organisations reserve the right to notify the relevant authorities if the mediator feels the child is at serious harm. They also have a legal obligation to report any suspected fraud, such as benefit fraud, tax evasion or undeclared money.