Family Mediation – A good thing, but does it suit everyone? by Sara Barnes | Blogs | The Law House


Family Mediation – A good thing, but does it suit everyone? by Sara Barnes

By in All Blogs, Family Law Category on February 10th, 2014

Mediation is good and in the right circumstances it works. It helps you and an ex partner resolve your difficulties without the need to go through contested court proceedings.It is far more cost effective than going through the court process and enables you to reach a solution which is acceptable to you and your ex partner rather than one which is imposed on you.

But, is it right for everyone?Currently in most cases before making an application to court to resolve children or financial matters, a referral should be made to a mediator so that they can assess whether your case is suitable for mediation (thereby avoiding court proceedings).The government is now proposing that this become compulsory.I have a problem with this.As much as I am a strong believer in the benefits of mediation, and would encourage it as much as possible, I frequently come across cases where I know mediation is simply not going to work at that time or at all. Sometimes the other party to the dispute is refusing to co-operate or engage generally, and it is clear that they are not going to do so with a mediator.Sometimes the parties are just too entrenched in their opposing positions, the issues involved are simply too complex or the parties have already done all they can themselves to resolve the difficulties.The obligatory referral then becomes a form filling exercise causing frustration and delay in obtaining a much needed remedy from the court.Thankfully, with the increasing availability of arbitration in family cases there is however a third way to counteract some of these issues but that is for another blog!

What I do think is that there should perhaps be a shift of focus so that rather than forcing those warring couples to attend mediation at a time when they are perhaps at their most anxious, or bitter, or confused, the court does take a much more ongoing proactive approach as is arguably their duty to do so, in considering whether mediation becomes a viable and sensible step to aid resolution of a dispute as your case progresses.Once involved in the court process, an unrepresented party or a party who was initially very entrenched in their position can alter their perspective considerably, particularly when the costs of litigation hit home or the court’s initial indications as to their view of the case is not as they had anticipated.  It is important that parties are made more aware of the possibility of mediating or returning to mediation, that the ‘ship hasn’t sailed’.I have had several cases where parties can be close to agreement and the case is crying out for mediation but is instead listed for a fully contested final hearing and it is left more to chance rather than direction that the parties negotiate a settlement.The tide is turning and there are many judges who are taking a more robust and proactive approach, but in some courts this simply isn’t happening quick enough.

In conclusion, mediation is preferable to contested court proceedings and in most cases is the best option for all parties concerned. There are some cases when it is not going to work, and compelling the parties in those cases to attend mediation is not going to help, but perhaps instead cause more anxiety and tension.

If you have separated from your partner, and have financial or children issues upon which you need good sensible advice, please contact me, Sara Barnes on 01245 809556 or sbarnes@thelawhouse.com