Category Archives: Separation

What’s the Use of Going to Mediation?

by Lisa Parkinson

When a couple’s relationship breaks down, their communication often breaks down as well. If there are children, it can be very hard to co-operate as parents in the midst of separating as partners. And if there are financial and property matters to sort out, legal information may be needed as a framework for negotiations. But with few exceptions, legal aid is no longer available for family matters and paying privately for legal advice can cost a great deal, especially if there is lengthy correspondence between solicitors. Going to court in person can be a nightmare and the family courts are overloaded, so judges have little time for each case and there may be little opportunity to explain difficult situations in a few words. 

So what other options are there? Mediation may be suggested, especially if a dispute is being taken to court, but many people fear having a row with their ex in the presence of a professional they hardly know, or feeling forced to give in because it is all too stressful. But mediation is not like that. It’s having a conversation with a qualified family mediator on your own first of all, to explain your circumstances and needs and consider possible ways forward with someone who can provide basic legal information and suggest sources of reliable advice. Before mediation can go ahead, your ex needs to have a similar information meeting and both (ex) partners need to be willing to take part in mediation with a mediator whom you have each met with and feel able to trust. Mediation usually takes place in joint meetings, but further separate meetings can be offered if necessary. It’s the mediator’s job to structure these meetings very carefully so that each of you has a chance to speak and be listened to and consider immediate priorities and needs, as well as needs in the longer term. 

If you have children, mediation helps to focus on each child’s feelings and needs and how parents can co-operate and support their children. Older children and young people often want an opportunity to talk about their feelings and worries and may want to offer suggestions about the arrangements their parents are making for them. With the consent of both parents, an older child or young person can be invited to come and talk with the mediator on the understanding that the conversation is confidential (unless a child is said or believed to be at risk of significant harm) and that the mediator will share with their parents only a message, suggestion or request that the child or young person asks the mediator to give their parents to take into account in their decisions.

Does mediation work?

Researchers have found that mediation ‘improves parental and parent-child relationships’. In a recent follow-up study, almost 75% of those who had used mediation said they were satisfied with their experience. They appreciated having a managed discussion’ with an agenda and the mediator keeping their discussions on track. Mediation was found to be quicker and cheaper compared with instructing lawyers. Other studies have found that almost all the children and young people who had met with a mediator had found it helpful to talk and put forward suggestions or concerns that they wanted their parents to understand better and take into account. As one boy said, ‘It’s my life too.’

Helping parents to stop putting their children in the middle of their conflict

by Penny Mansfield CBE, Director of One Plus One

The economic and emotional pressures of modern family life lead to frustrations and conflict in families. All too often children are the audience to our falling – outs with partners.

Research evidence is clear that being the object of parental conflict – or just the witnesses to it – negatively affects children’s health and wellbeing.

The good news is that when parents are aware of this, they can be helped to find ways to express their frustrations calmly, and begin to argue more constructively. Arguing is part of family communication. When parents begin to see the impact of their arguing on their families, they can be encouraged to make changes to how they argue.

Working with the Good Things Foundation Centres, we met families who shared with us real situations from their family lives. Using a behaviour modelling training design, we created videos which offer mothers and fathers the opportunity to stand back, see what their children are seeing, hear what they are hearing and feel what they are feeling.  With this awareness parents can be motivated to change their behaviour. Behaviour modelling training uses  visual demonstrations of behaviours to promote knowledge and skills acquisition and improvement in attitudes, intentions and self-efficacy. So, parents see a situation going badly, and then the same situation going better.

These videos introduce a few of the skills needed. To learn more skills, with a focus on separated parents. please go to: