Last time on the blog we looked at the basics of what family mediation is. I also shared how it’s not for everyone. If you are in a high conflict divorce mediation is unlikely to help you gain control or reach resolution, and a different approach is required. Check back here for more. In this blog, we take a look at ‘How Family Mediation Can Help You‘.
Mediation is a smart choice for many separating and divorcing couples. When I talk to women, they talk about wanting to divorce with as little hassle as possible. They also want it to be as low cost as possible. Which makes sense! And this is where mediation can make all the difference.
Using a trained mediator to help you resolve disagreements means you use solicitors much less. You’re able to instruct them more efficiently. Instructing them means that you seek legal advice and you don’t not rely on them for emotional support or non-legal advice. This saves you a LOT of money. There is often a big difference between mediation costs and solicitor’s fees (see Mediation in action below). It also means you are likely to reach an agreement you are both happy with for the longer term. This is preferable to having an order imposed by the courts. So, how can mediation help you?
Mediation encourages lower conflict communication
Tempers flare in divorce – it’s pretty much a given. For some couples, it’s a continuation from a fiery marriage. That’s how you’ve always communicated and that’s how you always will! For others, communication started out calmly, but as you’ve got further down the line things have started to unravel. Or perhaps your soon-to-be-ex-husband has misinterpreted a text, email or conversation and things have suddenly escalated. All of these are common scenarios.
When you add a mediator to the mix you take the heat out. SO many of the women I work with tell me, “He speaks so differently when the mediator’s in the room!” A mediator helps you focus on the facts and issues, without being derailed by blame games and fighting. They steer you back, and ensure both sides are heard. This means decisions you reach are mutual and clear. Mediators help to ensure that your wants and needs, and those of your soon-to-be-ex-husband, are addressed fully. You then have a solid foundation for your future, post-divorce life. This is especially important if you have children, or joint business interests and need to maintain contact with each other.
Mediation for parenting issues
One of the biggest triggers for arguments and hurt in divorce is arrangements for children. Children are sometimes used as weapons in divorce, which is no good for them or for either of you. Mediation helps you make collaborative, child-centred decisions about the future of your family. It is wise to produce a parenting plan, which covers all sorts of issues such as:
- Where your children will live, and when
- Financial arrangements
- Values and principles – at what age you are happy for children to stay over with friends, get their ears pierced etc
Mediation helps with all of this. It is wise to keep your plan flexible, as you won’t anticipate every little scenario. But a mediator will help you set an open, collaborative tone to the plan to build on as your children grow up. Your children may also find it helpful to be involved in mediation.
Older children and teenagers can speak to a mediator to share their thoughts on the future, and how their lives will be affected by divorce and separation. Your children’s views can then become part of the parenting plan, helping them feel more in control too. I will talk more about this in a future post.
Mediation and money
To ensure you and your soon-to-be-ex-husband are not financially bound after your divorce you will need to obtain a financial remedy order. A financial remedy order is separate from the actual divorce (all divorce does is end your marriage – it has nothing to do with any joint financial arrangements). Part of this process involves financial disclosure. Both you and your soon-to-be-ex-husband will need to declare your joint and individual financial circumstances to the court. You can either do this in a financial statement, or in a form known as the Form E. You will be required to submit detailed information and evidence. Either way, a mediator will be able to help you.
A mediator helps both of you take into account all of your financial issues, including those you may have missed. They help you relate your finances to the reality of your living situation, so you come up with solutions that will work for your family, both now and in the future. Working with a mediator means you retain far more control of this process than entering contested court proceedings. Fully contested proceedings may mean a decision is made on your behalf.
Keep it clear
One of the reasons communication can get heated is misunderstanding. Maybe versions of events are remembered differently. This can happen to all of us, especially when emotions are high. When you enter mediation, your mediator will keep records of your conversations and decisions. You will both be able to trust the process, knowing that each session is documented. When you do reach agreement over the future, your mediator will help you draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU is not legally binding, however it can form the basis of a consent order.
Mediation in Action
In my Amazon Best Selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves – The Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready I share the story of Rachel and Bob (not their real names). I met Rachel and Bob in my work as a mediator with my colleague. Rachel and Bob had separated acrimoniously (Rachel was still having a hard time coming to terms with the end of her marriage, and the fact that Bob had someone new). Two years into the separation and 12 months into divorce, Rachel and Bob were nowhere. They’d spent £24,000 in legal fees and the only thing that was agreed was that they couldn’t even talk to each other anymore!
Mediation was a last resort to break the impasse. It was challenging. But mediation gave Rachel the space to share her anger and upset with Bob in an environment where he was supported to listen. To really listen and to take responsibility for the way he’d handled their break up. Five sessions of mediation over 6 months saw Rachel and Bob move through the anger, pain and frustration they felt to reach a solution that honoured them both. This allowed them to move on. The total cost of mediation was less than £4000.
Getting the best out of family mediation
To get the best out of family mediation, be prepared. Think about what it is you want and need. Consider what your soon-to-be-ex-husband will want and need. Be open-minded and ready to compromise. Be willing to listen and hear.
This can be challenging and you may find yourself going to mediation before you’re ready because you feel you must. Mediation is voluntary. If you’d like a session with me on how best to prepare for mediation, contact me and I’ll let you know more about how that works.
The Divorce Alchemist
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma is featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com