Here at LKW Family Mediation we talk, blog and broadcast about the benefits of family mediation and we believe passionately that if most separations were dealt with through the family mediation process there would be much better outcomes for separating couples and their children. But why? What makes us say this? And well aren’t we just a teensy bit biased?
The thing about using a family mediation service is that it encourages ownership of the issues in dispute. Firstly, because you are talking to the other person directly. You can’t hide behind letters from someone’s lawyers (how many times have we heard a conversation along the lines of “Well you sent me that awful letter and it really upset me” “oh well that was my solicitor who wrote that). It also means that you have to find information and look at solutions yourself. You can’t give the responsibility for investigating options and deciding what the best way forward is to someone else. You can of course get advice and assistance from professionals to help you make the right decision but the process is structured to ensure you’re making decisions about your life with time and the best advice. If you contrast this with resolving family disputes through the court process where a judge may make a decision about what happens next for you and your family, even though they only have limited information about you. Alternatively, you could resolve matters at an earlier stage in the court proceedings meaning it is your decision but it may be an outcome that was sketched out at court and which you felt pressured to accept. You are much more likely to be happy with an outcome if you have had input into it and had the space to decide if it is the right one for you.
We also feel the fact that both parties come together to talk about things helps to iron out communication problems. It is so powerful in mediation to hear a separating couple talk about something that they have not spoken about and start to truly understand where each other are coming from and what they are trying to achieve. Sometimes it is also powerful for each person to hear what the other person has been upset and hurt about as this can start the process of understanding how to avoid pushing each other’s buttons. This is so important where there are children involved. Firstly, because even if you really can’t stand the sight of each other there will be times when your children really need you to be able to be in the same room as each other: weddings, graduations, other family events, school plays etc. It’s also important that you are able to talk to each other about your children so that you can talk about any issues that crop up. If your child is struggling at school, or has some health issues, or gets involved in drugs how are you going to deal with these problems without being able to talk to each other? The ability to communicate, and for your children, to see you communicating is also crucial in avoiding the mum v dad game.
We have honestly seen communication seeds planted and start to blossom in mediation and it is a wonderful thing and is one of the reasons we are so passionate about the work that we do. One of the greatest compliments a family mediator can get is when a couple have a couple of sessions of mediation and are then able to go away and work out all the final details themselves because they are now able to talk. Not only does this set them up for resolving any issue that crops up after the separation, it also usually means they are able to resolve all issues quickly and cost effectively.
Sometimes in mediation a couple separating are dealing with not having talked to each other about certain issues at all during the marriage and it can be difficult and emotional to unpick the important bits to give them the tools to move forward. Generally the focus in mediation is about the future and the solution but that sometimes involves each person addressing things that have happened before so that they can unpick old habits and unhelpful patterns of communication.
The mediator also has the privilege of hearing both sides of the story and whilst people can get very hung up on whose version is the truth hearing both sides helps us to understand each person’s perspective. Everyone’s view on things is informed by their own life experiences, personality and viewpoint so it is no wonder that separating couples can feel very differently about things that have happened. Human memory is a subjective thing and there is a reason that when collecting witness statements the police will often get different versions and a differing descriptions of those involved.
So yes in conclusion we probably are biased but because we have seen what family mediation is able to do for people that use it. For all the above reasons we can honestly say that we love our work and every day we see the difference family mediation can make to separating couples and to their children. It helps them to work out what happens next in their own time and their own way and we think that’s a very powerful thing.