What’s great about family mediation

The prospect of sitting down with your previous partner to talk about dividing your belongings and the time you each spend with the children, can be seen on par with root canal work. We know we have to do it, but it’s excruciating. Provided some fundamental, core human needs are met, mediation doesn’t have to be an onerous experience. For some this might be hard to imagine.

There are two primary needs that humans require that family mediation can attend to. One is to be acknowledged, which engenders a sense of inclusion and therefore safety, and the other is to know that our own gene pool, our kids, will continue to thrive. Family mediation takes parents from a position of anger and blame to making amicable and harmonious decisions about the care of their children. When our good intent as a parent is acknowledged and appreciated, we are motivated to consider change, such as a parental alliance, especially if we think our children will benefit. The great thing about parental harmony is that it increases the children’s ability to have good relationships themselves, allowing the next generation to prosper.

Anger and recrimination naturally follow deep disappointment, but these are ultimately unhelpful responses to the incredibly sad fact that the relationship simply didn’t work out. Blame, which so often bedevils the process of separation and is unfortunately stimulated by adversarial processes, is understandable when a relationship has broken down, but finding fault ultimately allows us to dodge our own accountability. We are not going to come to good, long lasting, mutually maintained, harmonious arrangements for the care of our children until we are able to take some degree of personal responsibility.

As a fluid process that honours the good intentions of both parents, family mediation has the capacity to stay clear of blame and to enhance the parents’ ability to hear their child’s request for harmony and peace. Parents can experience the support and structure they need to disentangle themselves from the wreckage of a broken relationship and can begin to consider the possibilities of an amicable post-separation parenting alliance with each other. Such an alliance, which would once have appeared impossible, starts to become a real possibility as the parents begin progressively to better understand themselves and each other. Through family mediation, parents can be assisted gradually to see that fault never really resided with either of them but rather that their relationship was insufficiently equipped to manage their differences.

So while it might be initially hard for some to imagine a time where there is no acrimony, just the same as it might be hard to imagine a painful toothache ever ending, a family mediator can help parents create a positive, new alliance. New arrangements will help weather the challenges that come with new partners, financial constraints and other aspects of life, while a unified approach to raising their children will ensure ongoing harmony. Children will be forever grateful and parents can pride themselves on their commendable behaviour.

Bill Hewlett

Clinical Services Specialist, Family Dispute Resolution | Relationships Australia