Category Archives: Family mediation

My thoughts on Family Mediation Week

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!

 

What I should have done…

 

Written by  Marc from London

Around 5 years ago I embarked on looking to become a co-parent. I joined an online LGTBQ social network called pride angel for finding others looking to co-parent. The site gave options for people who wish to find advice on co-parenting and somewhat like a dating site there were profiles of people looking to become parents, or sperm donors, or all manner of ways in which to have children.

I was specifically looking to co-parent, as I believe where possible it’s good to have two parents who will love and want to raise a child. On the site, which is somewhat more advanced than it was at that time, there was all sorts of advice on how a co-parenting agreement should be made. I met a lady who I felt I had much in common with who was looking to have a child and enter into a co-parenting arrangement.

We spend some time getting to know one another, together with our extended friends and family we put together a co-parenting agreement, cutting a long story short we progressed on trying to have a baby. After a miscarriage with the first pregnancy we immediately started again and a successful pregnancy ensued and 9 months later our son was born.

Almost from our sons birth things changed, the agreement we had made together was not honoured and in the first year I saw my son only 5 times. I tried many times to move things along to no avail and was left with little choice but to enter the court process. It took the best part of two years to get to the place we are now in where my son comes and stays with me and it’s taken me the last year to build a relationship with him. It has been challenging, stressful, acrimonious and very expensive however our son is now 3 and I’m pleased to say I have a good relationship with him.

So what I should have done was to have had mediation from the outset to have a third party help to make the agreement with us. We then could have had it lodged with a solicitor which would have helped should anything have not worked out. The mother and I are now entering into mediation for our son’s sake and are in a much more amicable place. I do feel a third party would have helped to really work out the agreement, perhaps in more detail than we had done and may have found out some of the things I clearly should have known about the lady with whom I was planning to have a child with. In the excitement perhaps of meeting someone willing to co-parent with you, one gets lost in the momentum and in the belief that nothing will go wrong and by taking things at face value we forget that all too often people present the person they want you to think they are, rather than who they really are in order to get the outcome they desire. A mediator could have seen this with real perspective and steered us to make informed decisions before commencing on this lifelong journey of raising a child with someone.

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Couples often have a greater sense of empowerment

Written by Alison Tremeer, FMA

When you have completed this journey and mediation has been concluded there is a greater prospect of you being able to look back and value the effort that you both made to find workable solutions that were fair and “child centred”. Couples often have a greater sense of empowerment that comes from keeping control of the important decisions that have to be made for any financial settlement and the arrangements they decide to put in place for their children. Mediation has hopefully helped you both to establish good strategies for how you will co-parent when no longer together and your ability to share information and work together to achieve positive outcomes for your children should have been enhanced by entering the mediation process. You are now able to look forward and having heard each other’s perspective you will be better able to listen and take on board differing views. In this way you are able to compromise and reach agreements that reflect the love and concern that you have for your children. You will also be able to feel proud that you have provided your children with a positive example of how to constructively manage conflict. Your children will benefit from seeing a positive change in that any conflict has been reduced and as parents you are both making decisions that are in their best interest. In this way your children are then free to get on with enjoying their childhood without worrying about you and the grown up issues associated with your separation.

Alison Tremeer. Board member of the FMA

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

“It all fell apart, when I came along”

Written by Kay, aged 15

When I came along,
it was
almost as if I was a spectator to my own life
almost as if I was never the child
almost as if I was nothing more than a product of a poisoned contract.

Because that’s all it ever was. A piece of paper.
No love to warm their hearts in the ices of winter.
No trust to carry them through the stormy seas.
Nothing.

Or so I thought.

Turns out they were happy.
Turns out they smiled.
And held hands.
And kissed.

Then I came along.

The stars in her eyes had died away,
The smile lines etched on his face turned to frown marks engraved into his increasing pallor.
Their faces grew as grey as their hair.

“It’s not your fault” I must’ve heard a million times more than any kid should.
“They’d been drifting apart for so long now”

But how long, how? Perhaps 15 years?

Because from where I’m standing, from the second I was concieved to the last second that I breathe it will be my fault.

It was always shit for them,
Its more shit for me,
I’m not strong,
Not anymore,
Cant you see?

It all fell apart

When I came along.

 

www.voicesinthemiddle.org.uk

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

“What’s it like?”

Written by Jeremy, aged 16

Whats a story,
Without a dilemma?
What’s a family,
Without a father?
What’s it like,
Getting a full nights rest?
What’s it like,
Living with both parents?
What’s it like,
Being happy?
What’s it like,
Telling a friend?
What’s it like,
Having a reason to wake?
What’s it like,
Being able to concentrate?
What’s it like,
Feeling ‘normal’?
What’s it like,
Without cuts on your wrists?
I would tell you,
What it’s like,
But I just don’t know

www.voicesinthemiddle.org.uk

Brynne Edelsten’s ‘brutal’ divorce, a lifestyle choice over divorce mediation?

Written by Brynne Edelsten

Brynne Edelsten’s ‘brutal’ divorce, a lifestyle choice over divorce mediation?

US-Born Brynne Edelsten described her divorce as nasty and brutal”, leading her to declare she would never be friends” with the former Sydney Swans owner as she battled to finalise her financial settlement.  But conflict creates stress – both financial and emotional – which is why divorce mediation could have made Brynne’s experience of divorce very different..

Samantha Jago, Divorce Mediator and Solicitor at RHW Solicitors, believes that the emotional, health and financial costs of divorce can be transformed by making a different choice, which is why she offers a Fixed-Fee Mediation service.

The stress of an unhappy marriage has knock-on effects on health and finances, often leading to poor eating habits and, sometimes, the need to take medication for depression – all of which can lead to weight gain. Socialite Brynne Edelsten revealed recently that she put on 20kgs during her marriage to Geoffrey Edelsten, which she managed to lose after the “hideous” split. She blamed the weight gain on the medication she was taking.

But her divorce seems to have been even more unhappy than her marriage – so although Brynne lost weight and boosted her self esteem as her divorce came to a close, she also lost many thousands in legal fees.

While for many, divorces are a painful process, calls for conflict-free divorce have been on the increase since the 1990s when moves to cut legal aid began. However, a government in austerity is focused on the short-term cost savings, often at the expense of fair settlements.

Amicable settlement is certainly something to aim for, but not at the cost of fairness, and seeking legal advice in the first place is still the best way to prevent long-term heartache – and choosing your mediator wisely.
Samantha comments that: “A MIAMs is compulsory before any Court application can be made in any event, so it is worth taking it one step further and booking in for a mediation session with your ex.”
“Recent research has shown that the cost of legal services is plagued by a serious lack of transparency, and with the limited budget situation families face during separation, it’s important that they know from the outset that the costs of mediation will remain manageable. An unexpected large legal bill would only add to the stress of divorce and the negative health effects that can result.”
In reality, mediation is not about making quick easy decisions that you will later regret. It is about creating a sustainable long-term agreement on how two people will now live separately – and if they have children, how they will continue to collaborate peacefully.

Click to read the full article: https://alternativedivorcedirectory.co.uk/brynne-edelsten-brutal-divorce-lifestyle-choice-over-divorce-mediation-samantha-jago-rhw/

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

 

Amongst all the heartache and anger, there is fear!

Written by Anne Braithwaite, FMA

I have been a mediator for over 25 years. For all but the last 5 ½ of those years, I was also a divorce lawyer dealing with all the fall out when a marriage ends with a focus on money. I guess I’ve now spent going on for 35 years helping people from all walks of life sort out what to do when the world as they know it ends. I know that, amongst all the heartache and anger, there is fear about what the future will bring. Until finances are sorted out it’s impossible to live other than in limbo, a very insecure place to be.

So everybody who separates needs to resolve financial issues before they can rebuild their lives. Often having a safer place financially speaking helps focus on the emotional needs of children. It also means you can answer the questions which they have about where they will live and go to school.

Many people don’t have a clue where to start or, even if they do, feel the need of some professional help. A mediator gives that help. Mediators don’t just get couples in a room and then let them just try to sort things out. How would anyone know where to start? That’s the mediator’s job. Whilst being flexible to the needs of each couple, mediators are in charge of the actual process. Your mediator ensures that sessions have focus and that the whole process feels that it is going somewhere. Mediation has to feel safe and that it has a structure and purpose.

Separation is new to you. You need to understand what the rules are. Mediators help there by giving what we call “legal information”. That means explaining things such as what the relevant legal factors are in a neutral way. I know my clients find that knowing what a court would consider helps them talk about their own financial division and what feels like a fair outcome. Having that information enables people to start to talk with a sense of direction.

Mediators also help to explain what you might do about pensions for example, a subject of great importance where most people feel at least a little at sea. Mediators make suggestions about how to achieve agreed valuations and get mortgage advice. They help you pull all the threads together. This is all new to clients but many mediators have years of experience in the family law field. We are guides through the process who can pass on knowledge so that you realise that you actually can be in control of what happens. Crucially a mediator will help you work out the shape of your future.

This is all against the background of full financial disclosure. There has to be evidence about income and capital, not just taking each other’s words for things. Apart from the fact that nobody can start to talk about dividing everything up without establishing what is there in the first place, mediators realise that trust is usually in short supply. Clients only feel safe to negotiate when they are sure of the facts.

A mediator will also listen to what is important to you both and may help you take into consideration things that haven’t even occurred to you, or at least not to both of you, such as being able to live in areas which offer a chance of getting children into good schools and how to help your children through higher education and to afford the school trips that their friends will go on.

When you decide on what you want to do, the mediator sets that out in a memorandum of understanding. This isn’t legally binding yet as it is the last step in negotiations. It’s also a good idea to have legal advice before making your proposals legally binding. I always strongly suggest to my clients that they take that advice in between our mediation sessions and not wait until the mediation is concluded. The terms in the memorandum are made legally binding by having either a separation agreement or a consent order made in divorce proceedings.

Mediation is a professionally led means of negotiation, a negotiation where you are assisted by a neutral third party who will be able to give you legal information and practical pointers whilst ensuring an equality of bargaining power between the two of you. It is a process where the two of you determine the shape of your futures for yourselves. After all only the two of you know what will best suit you and your family. What mediation is not, is remotely fluffy.

Anne Braithwaite

Treasurer on the board of The Family Mediators Association

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

So why should children be included in mediation?

Written by Bill Hewlett

I have been thinking about the many reasons that separating parents in mediation should be encouraged to give their children an opportunity to talk about how they’re feeling. Giving children a voice in mediation allows the parents to make decisions from an informed position. If they know how their children are feeling, they can, with the help of the mediator, work to make things better for all the family, creating a better parenting relationship that will leave the children free to grow and develop without concerns about how their parents are getting on with each other.

Parents usually try to shield their children from conflict, but invariably the children know that something big is happening when their parents separate and they can often feel left out. Including children in the process and letting them feel that their views and feelings are important is a very positive thing and can help alleviate their anxiety and confusion.

Bear in mind that these parents are probably struggling to understand and appreciate each other’s perspectives and they may also be finding it hard to focus on how their children are coping. The challenge is that, even though these parents are currently unable to talk to each other constructively and reassuringly about their children, they still have responsibility for making decisions that influence where the children live, what they eat, what school they go to, how they feel about themselves, how well they sleep, the list goes on. It appears that nothing matters more to children than what their parents think of each other.

When parents are fighting with each other they seem to lose their ability to be fully aware of how their children are feeling. The children may not want to say anything because they don’t want to add to an already stressful situation.

I often feel when we hear parents speaking harshly about each other, that we are hearing a description of a world that must be very difficult and dangerously stressful for their child and I feel that we should be reacting with immediate and urgent concern. This is what we should be thinking about when we hear the lack of respect that the parents have for each other, when we hear them question each other’s morality, when they tell us that they hate each other. The dangerously toxic environment that these children are living in could cause them lifelong harm, seriously compromising their wellbeing and their capacity to thrive now and in the future. We know that these parents are often so stressed and full of anxiety, thinking catastrophic thoughts, terrified about their future and afraid of what the other parent might do, that they are often only barely coping. And, while they are going through all this, they have absolute and ultimate responsibility for the mental, emotional, physical wellbeing of their children. In mediation, we take these concerns really seriously and want to do all we can to help the parents make a safer world for their children.

The Bottom line is, that regardless of how the children are choosing to talk about how their parents are managing their separation, if things aren’t good between their parents, then they won’t be good for the children. The reality is that ‘there’s no such thing as a still child around chaotic parents’ (Winnecott).

We need some way to draw the attention of the parents to what is happening to their children. When the parents are aware as to how their relationship is impacting on their children they will naturally be concerned and want to create an environment where their children can thrive

Children don’t want to be the decision makers on what arrangements are made for their care and welfare, but generally, (if they don’t think it’s going to make things worse), they would like to talk about it. If they could talk to someone who is committed to taking their perspectives into discussion with the parents, someone who they can feel confident will not make it worse, someone who can tell their parents things that maybe they haven’t been able to, then they often feel like a heavy burden has been lifted.

When children are helped to talk about their feelings, they begin to understand more and more about what’s going on for them. Children have a need to talk through things so that they can get a sense of how they should think and feel. They are designed to link up their young brains with a grown up adult brain to help make sense of things, to get a bigger picture perspective. When someone helps them to put a word to something they have been feeling but not perhaps not fully understanding, they feel better. We call it ‘naming it (the emotion) and taming it (the fear)’ (Seigel).

If you are thinking of using mediation to help you work out your parenting arrangements for your children now that you have separated, why don’t you ask your mediator to arrange for a child consultant to meet with your children? This will help you both to make plans that will allow your children to thrive, safe in the knowledge that they will appreciate being asked.

Bill Hewlett

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

“It was strange to begin with living with my dad, I’d never had that much to do with him before”.

Written by  Sally aged 16

There are no fixed rules!

When my parents split up it felt like the end of the world to me and that nothing would ever be the same again. I was right in thinking it would not be the same but little did I know that I would be happier now than I ever was when they were together.

I thought I had a perfect family, I had a sister who was two years older than me that I always looked up to, we went on holiday every year together….in my eyes everything was okay but when I was 12 my dad found out that my mum had been having an affair with another man. When I found out I was heartbroken and couldn’t believe what had happened.

That night, my mum left and decided to move in with her other man and I sat and talked to my dad all night about what had happened. A few weeks later my sister decided that she wanted to live with our mum so she left me and my dad.

It was strange to begin with living with my dad, I’d never had that much to do with him before. But we both knew that if we were going to get through this hard time we had to do it together. Neither one of us had ever done a weekly food shop before or bought school clothes for me etc so for the first year everything was a huge adventure!!

Until my mum left I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or who I was as a person but given the freedom and support from my dad within six months I was well on my way to becoming the person I wanted to be.  By the time the divorce had all gone through me and my dad gave my mum her cats and went to the rescue home to get a dog….we both fell in love with the craziest, happiest dog there and took her home a week later.

Almost five years later I still live with my dad and my dog! I began my dream of riding racehorses and would not have been able to become the person I am today if my parents hadn’t split up.

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

“I should buy the mediator Christmas presents every year”

Written by Robert

“I should buy the mediator Christmas presents every year”

Robert went through years of conflict in order to be able to see his children after a bitter divorce, and despite having to go to court on more than one occasion, mediation was what finally helped end those years of stress and misery.

Robert, his wife and the children all suffered physical and mental repercussions due to the stress, but Robert’s experience proves that even if one party insists on using the courts, if you can remain calm and focused, a healthy end result can be achieved, since it’s never too late to tap into using mediation.

In this podcast, Robert shares some of his story:

Robert is currently training to become a Mediator himself, and he supports other fathers via the national charity Families Need Fathers.  Through his own experiences, and those of others he has supported via the Families Need Fathers helpline, Robert has noticed how little support there is from Government for parents.

“Essentially, it’s much better for all the family if parents work together for their children’s benefit rather than to work against each other in the courts. The best way to support children is for their parents to be supportive of each other. The problem is that immediately after separation it’s more likely separating parents will be feeling very sore and wanting to score ‘hits’ over the other rather than being in the mood for cooperation!

Loss of communication, and therefore trust (or vice versa), is often the reason relationships fail. For effective collaboration post family breakdown it is essential to rebuild that communication and trust. Mediators are there to facilitate that process and play an essential part in helping children of broken families escape relatively unscathed by their parent’s misfortunes. There <i>does</i> have to be a will for success on both sides for mediation to be effective though, and this can be very hard to achieve.

A great proportion of parents in broken families come from broken families themselves, and so it goes on through generation to generation. One parent I spoke to said he’d been stopped seeing his children after he’d stuffed a bar of soap in his son’s mouth when he was being naughty – just as his parents did to him as a child. All he wanted to do now was to learn to be a good parent, but parenting courses offered were so expensive there was no chance he could afford them. Lots of government education advertising on what we should eat and drink, smoking etc, but not a lot on the importance of good parenting. Children learn parenting skills from their parents, so if their parents are lacking, generally speaking, their children will be as well.”

Robert

Family Mediation Week 2018, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.