Happy being the 2nd best option: A mediator’s perspective on the options to resolve a dispute
We know family mediation is not just a conflict resolution tool; it’s a catalyst for positive change within families. Done well, we not only help people reach an agreement on their divorce or separation, but also set a tone that allows families to work together moving forward. This can have significant positive impacts on the lives of their children.
Similar to driving instructors, the better we do our job, the less we get paid! Taking clients through a process that we have confidence meets both the legal requirements to get to an agreement and the client’s needs will usually take 3-4 joint sessions on parenting or finances. A less experienced mediator may take longer than this and, therefore, by association, perhaps get paid more.
Our primary goal is to guide divorcing and separating couples towards resolving their issues amicably. We know that is what helps families move on. While it might be natural for individuals to initially turn to other avenues before seeking our assistance, as family mediators, we understand and embrace the significance of being the second choice. In this blog, we’ll explain why we don’t mind being the second choice and highlight the privilege we have in making a positive impact during a challenging period in people’s lives.
What is the first choice?
The preferred choice is for families to resolve issues on their own. This was the method used by Gary Lineker when he divorced his wife, Danielle Bux in 2016.
The reality is that self-resolution is a powerful and commendable method. It is the method many couples attempt initially before approaching a professional. For parenting arrangements, it is the parents who are best placed to make decisions about how they want to raise their children whilst living separately. It is certainly better they do this than offload the decision onto a judge, who really does not want to be making a judgement on which junction on the M4 motorway their handovers should be taking place.
For finances, legal advice can be helpful, but if the couple understand it is all about meeting their needs moving forward and not getting what they can out of the deal, there is no reason why couples cannot decide how to divide up their assets fairly.
Doing so will keep far more money in the family pot and ultimately benefit the children. When clients contact us to ask how to resolve a dispute, we always say to try to do so between yourselves initially. And if that does not work, then always keep it open as an option to return to.
If they cannot do that or have tried and failed, then the next logical step is family mediation.
Family Mediation – The second-best choice
As family mediators, we see ourselves as the second choice, not as a failure but as an opportunity to support families when they encounter challenges beyond their control. By following through a family mediation process that has been used over and over again, by hundreds of mediators across England & Wales, the couple are engaging in a methodology that keeps them as the decision makers for the future finances and child arrangements, whilst keeping firmly within the boundaries of family law.
11 ways to reach an agreement
Mediate UK put together a list of the 11 ways to resolve disputes on a divorce or separation. Many people previously believed there were only one to two options. But we encourage clients to look at all options and see if they can agree on which one to attempt first. If they can just agree on that one thing, it can set the tone for a more amicable divorce.
Some situations we encounter can only be resolved at court. Other people need the help and guidance of a family law solicitor to take them through the process. People who have experienced domestic abuse may need to avoid resolving matters themselves with their ex as they could open themselves up to more abuse.
But, for most situations, our strongly held belief is to encourage couples to get as much as possible resolved between themselves, using family mediation only where required as the next option, alongside good legal advice.
We believe that the only difference between a divorce that costs half a million pounds in legal fees and one that costs £593 for the court fees, is the two people involved. Starting off well is all the difference it takes to go down an alternative, more amicable path.
The AA famously promotes itself as the fourth emergency service to its members. As a former police officer, this still raises some smiles (and really they are the fifth as they seem to have forgotten about HM Coastguard, or sixth if you include Mountain Rescue). But to us at Mediate UK, we are the second-best option to resolve a dispute on parenting or finances as part of a divorce or separation. And we are more than happy to be second!