Thoughts on Family Mediation Week
It hurts to be a child of divorce. I know because I am one. My parents waited until I was an adult to go their separate ways but nevertheless, their separation was still painful, for each member of the family. If such a thing as mediation existed in the nineties, my parents weren’t aware of it. They muddled along and did the best they could, and, as my sister and I were both adults, there was no bitter custody battle to be part of, no screaming arguments to witness. This certainly isn’t the case for many separating families.
When I was approached to provide social media support for the Family Mediation Association’s Mediation Week, I had little understanding of the nature of mediation – including what is involved, that it can be a non-conflict alternative to court proceedings, and that, in some cases, legal aid is still available to pay for it.
There can be very few, if any, of us who haven’t been touched by divorce in some way or another, whether it is our parents, siblings, friends, children or work colleagues. Now that I have a greater understanding of the benefits of mediation, I wonder how many of them might have been spared the doubtless pain and difficulty of the divorce process, had they been able to use mediation.
Watching some of those I love go through divorce what has struck me most has been that it is a destructive process. Literally. Something is being destroyed. Not just a marriage but a family, a home, a way of life, a social circle, and a dream. And I have seen how this process, this ‘uncoupling’ is incredibly painful for everyone, not least children of the separating couple.
In learning more about mediation, I have realised just how devastating divorce must be for children. Not only the logistics of who will live where and how often a child will see his or her absent parent, but also the emotional impact of readjusting to a new ‘family’ life. For me this is one of the major benefits of mediation, that it is child-focused; that the welfare of any children will be the most important consideration in any discussion. That a mediator will help those involved work towards a final outcome which enables them to find a good working relationship as parents who live apart.
In Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy famously wrote “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Now I am an adult with my own family I understand this to mean that, in order to be happy, a family must be successful in each and every one of a range of criteria e.g. sexual attraction, money issues, parenting, religion, in-laws. Failure on only one of these counts leads to unhappiness, and thus there are more ways for a family to be unhappy than happy. And yet, none of us deserves to be unhappy, particularly our children.
The objective of this week’s campaign has been to raise awareness of mediation, and the role of the mediator. From the material I have worked with I can see the real benefits of mediation in enabling a separating couple, and their children, to achieve a place of happiness more quickly and easily than going through the courts. Hopefully you can too!