The Family Law Protocol requires all solicitors advising clients about family law to go through their complete list of options with them – even if they don’t offer some of the options as a firm. All clients seeking advice about a family law dispute should therefore have at least a basic understanding of mediation. But often that is all it is. You may have been told that mediation is an option, and you may have gathered that it involves talking about the arrangements for your children, or money matters, to try to find a resolution. This may well mean that you still have a great number of questions about what happens in mediation meetings.
At LKW Family Mediation we start the process by obtaining some further information from you. We then have a meeting with each person separately. This enables us to explain the process to you more fully, to get some background information from each person, and to find out what each person sees as the issues in dispute; and it enables us to check that mediation is suitable for both parties. Primarily this involves making sure that neither party is being manipulated or forced into the mediation.
If the matter is suitable then we have a meeting with both parties and the mediator. By this point there will be a list of what you both want to try to resolve in mediation. This is a great starting place for discussion and usually the couple will prioritise the issues to be resolved. This doesn’t mean you can’t move between issues but it is often helpful to identify a starting point.
The mediator will help to make your discussions as constructive as possible. Mediation is a very flexible process and the mediator can take a number of steps to make the mediation as helpful as possible to each person. This may include helping each person hear what the other is saying. Sometimes people can be so focussed on what they want to say that they do not properly hear the other person. A lawyer mediator has lots of experience in family law and so they can also provide lots of information that can assist the discussions for the couple. This can be about the divorce process, or it can include going over points that a judge would bear in mind if the matter came before the court.
The mediator will ensure that each person in the room feels comfortable and can arrange for the couple to take a break from each other if it is felt that this would be helpful. The mediator can also explain what other ways of resolving matters may be open to the parties if they find the discussions get stuck. This may mean the couple decide that they want to try harder to resolve matters in mediation, or it can mean the couple feel the time has come to try another process, such as arbitration. In which case the mediator can help the couple to move outside the mediation process. If the mediation is not successful in resolving all issues then the mediator will always ensure that the couple are aware of the next steps that they can take outside of the mediation process, and how to do this.
The mediator will usually take notes of what is being discussed on a flip chart. This gives the parties a clear visual record of what they are talking about. It can also help them remember their priority in mediation – such as making sure the effect of their separation on their children is as minimal as possible. The mediator can also provide interim or final summaries of discussions to assist the parties and enable them to take legal advice.
We hope this gives some more information about what happens in mediation. If you have any other questions then please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail. We are always happy to answer questions about the mediation process and to talk about how we can make it work for you.