When you first learn about mediation it can seem a scary option. Being in the same room as a partner you have separated from can be the last thing you feel like doing. Emotions can be very raw and you can wonder how you will contain all the feelings that are bubbling up within you. It can also be difficult where you have been separated for some time. You may have had very limited contact with each other – or no contact at all. In this situation going back to sitting in the same room can be a source of great anxiety.
This fear can be compounded by not knowing what to expect. Some people still equate mediation with some form of relationship therapy. You can wonder how the mediator will get you to talk about all that needs to be resolved.
Sometimes you may want to say hurtful things because you feel very hurt yourself. Often some things are easier said by solicitors because you can hide behind the letters that are sent as being from someone else and not you – even though they’re written saying what you want to say.
Talking things through face to face can seem like a mountain to climb. How will you have the courage to say what you need to say? You know that you need to safeguard yours and your children’s financial future but all discussions end in arguments? How can you talk about financial matters when you have never handled anything to do with money? There may be 1001 questions racing through your head – often in the middle of the night.
The good news is that the mediator will be aware of how difficult you may find it. Here at LKW Family Mediation we meet with all clients separately to begin with. This enables us to check that mediation is suitable for you, and it also enables us to find out what your fears are and what has led you to this point. The mediator will use this information to inform how they deal with the mediation process. For example, if one person has never dealt with any of the money matters then the mediator will ensure that they understand each topic and the issues before moving on. The mediator will also suggest that each party obtains the required legal and financial advice. The mediator will, in short, ensure that the process is fair.
The mediator cannot find a resolution for you. That’s your job. But the mediator can provide lots of information and suggest options that you may not have thought about. The mediator will also help you work through different options to find out which one will work best for you in practice. In addition to this they will check how you are each feeling and ensure that breaks are taken if necessary. The mediator may also check what support network you each feel you have and whether you have had, or may need, counselling. This can help to support the process. It’s important that you have a safe place to talk about what’s happening to you. Counsellors can often be brought into the mediation process to help people deal with unresolved conflict. This can then help the process to move forward.
By talking to each other directly you can move your discussions forward much faster than waiting for solicitors to write letters. They can also be more honest as you speak for yourself. It can also help parties to take responsibility for their dispute, and for finding their own resolution. Often letters written about the “petitioner” and the “respondent” do not bring home the fact that this is a discussion about what happens next in your lives. It can seem unreal, as if you are discussing another family.
If at any point you feel uncomfortable or particularly anxious, then talk to the mediator. Mediation is a hugely flexible process, and the mediator may well be able to adjust it to help deal with a particular anxiety or fear. Whilst it may seem overwhelmingly scary at first this tends to subside a little as you attend more sessions. At the end the feeling that you have worked together to achieve a resolution that will benefit everyone makes working through that initial fear worthwhile. Mediation makes ongoing dialogue about your children, and any financial matters, much more likely to be possible in the future.