Mediation with an Abusive Ex – When to Consider It, and When to Avoid It.
Family mediation is often seen as a constructive way to resolve disputes, especially when it comes to issues involving children, finances, and property division after a divorce or separation. However, it’s important to recognise that not all situations are suitable for mediation, especially when there is a history of domestic abuse or ongoing abusive behaviour between parties. In this blog, we will explore the complex topic of family mediation with an abusive ex. We’ll discuss whether it can be a viable option, what alternatives exist and when it is not advisable due to safety concerns.
What do we mean when we talk about abuse?
Before we dive in, it might be helpful to understand that there are various forms of abuse, it is not just limited to domestic violence. Let’s take a closer look:
- Domestic Abuse: This includes physical, emotional, psychological, or financial abuse within a domestic or familial relationship. It encompasses a wide range of behaviours, from physical violence to controlling tactics.
- Coercive Control: Coercive control refers to a pattern of behaviour that seeks to dominate and control another person through tactics such as isolation, intimidation, manipulation and threats.
- Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse involves behaviours aimed at undermining an individual’s self-esteem and emotional well-being. This can include constant criticism, humiliation and manipulation to create emotional dependency.
- Psychological Abuse: Psychological abuse encompasses tactics that target a person’s mental and emotional state. It may involve gaslighting, mind games and tactics designed to make the individual doubt their own perception of reality.
- Financial Abuse: Financial abuse is the control or exploitation of an individual’s financial resources and assets. It can include withholding access to money, sabotaging the survivor’s employment, or coercing them into financial actions against their will.
- Verbal Abuse: Verbal abuse includes the use of hurtful or demeaning language, name-calling, yelling, and threats to instil fear or take control.
- Isolation: Isolation involves cutting off an individual from their support networks, such as family and friends, to increase their vulnerability and dependence on the abuser.
- Physical Abuse: Physical abuse includes any form of physical harm or violence directed toward an individual, such as hitting, spitting, pushing, or any act that causes bodily harm.
- Stalking: Stalking is the persistent and unwanted pursuit or monitoring of an individual, often with the intent to cause fear or harm.
- Dominant Behaviour: Dominant behaviour encompasses attempts to assert control or dominance over an individual, often through manipulation, intimidation, and the disregard of the individual’s needs and boundaries.
When entering family mediation, it’s important to recognise these various forms of abuse, as they can significantly impact the dynamics of family mediation and the safety of all parties involved. Addressing these issues and ensuring appropriate safeguards is essential to a fair mediation process.
Why a MIAM is so important.
A Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is a fundimental initial step in the family mediation process in England & Wales. Its primary purpose is to determine whether mediation is a suitable method for resolving the issues at hand before proceeding further.
It is important to understand that even if one party expresses a strong desire to proceed with family mediation despite a history of abuse, the mediator’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and fairness of the process. If they believe that mediation is not suitable due to safety concerns or other factors, they have a duty to communicate this to the parties involved.
Ultimately, the goal of a MIAM is to make an informed and responsible decision about whether family mediation is the right approach for a specific case. If family mediation is not suitable, there are alternative pathways to address disputes and concerns effectively.
The Importance of Safety
The safety of all parties involved must be the top priority. If there is a history of domestic abuse or ongoing abusive behaviour, family mediation may not be a safe option. The courts recognises this and generally do not require mediation in cases involving domestic abuse. This falls under one of the 15 exemptions to attending a MIAM. In such situations, it’s more important to prioritise the safety of yourself and your children. Seek legal counsel and a protection order if necessary to ensure your well-being. A court will usually need to see proof of any domestic abuse, otherwise you will need to go to a MIAM first of all.
When Can Family Mediation Be Considered?
Mediation is a voluntary process and while it’s often the preferred method for resolving disputes, it’s important to recognise that it’s not suitable for every situation, especially where there is a risk to you or your child. However, there are different types of mediation, which may help open up mediation as an option for you.
Use Shuttle Mediation
In cases where both parties are willing and it is deemed safe, shuttle mediation sessions can be explored. Shuttle mediation is a form of mediation where the parties involved are in separate rooms, and a neutral third party (mediator) shuttles between them to facilitate communication and negotiation.
Shuttle mediation is particularly useful in situations where face-to-face interaction between the parties is not safe or conducive to productive communication due to a history of abuse or ongoing abusive behaviour. It allows for a structured and controlled environment where the mediator can help each party express their concerns and interests without direct confrontation, minimising the risk of further harm or manipulation. It works best with online mediation.
Have an Exit Strategy
Always have an exit strategy in place. If the mediation becomes too uncomfortable or unsafe, you should be prepared to leave the session. Our trained mediators are there to support you and will not tolerate abusive behaviour, making it a safer environment for addressing concerns.
Having an exit strategy empowers you to prioritise your well-being, ensuring that you have a way out if the situation becomes untenable. It’s a helpful precaution, providing peace of mind and a sense of control in potentially challenging situations. Your mediator can discuss this with you at your MIAM appointment.
Seek Therapeutic Support
You might want to consider engaging a therapist or counsellor to offer emotional support while you navigate the mediation process. Their expertise can assist you in dealing with the emotional difficulties of confronting an abusive ex-partner, helping you manage your emotions effectively outside of the mediation sessions.
Get Legal Advice
Having legal representation alongside the mediation process can help safeguard your rights and interests. This is especially helpful if there are any pre-existing judgments against the other party, such as protection orders, as it ensures that the existing conditions of the order are adhered to.
When Family Mediation is Not Advisable
In some cases, attempting family mediation with an abusive ex-partner is not advisable:
- Safety Concerns: The most significant reason to avoid mediation is safety. If there is any risk to your physical or emotional well-being, you should not engage in family mediation. Your safety is paramount.
- Manipulation: Abusers may use mediation as an opportunity to further manipulate or intimidate their victims. This can lead to coerced agreements that are not in the victim’s best interest.
- Child Safety: If there are concerns about the safety of child, especially if child services are involved, then mediation may not be suitable at this time.
While mediation is often the preferred method for resolving disputes, it’s important to understand that when dealing with an abusive ex-partner, the process requires careful consideration and sometimes involves implementing specific safety measures. Despite the desire to find amicable solutions, there are cases where mediation is simply not advisable due to safety concerns and power imbalances.
In such situations, it’s important to remember that there are alternative options available, and seeking professional guidance is helpful. Family mediation is a valuable tool, but it must always prioritise the well-being and safety of all parties involved in these challenging situations.
Speak to your mediator in confidence in your MIAM if you have been in an abusive relation with your ex. They can talk through all your options and whether mediation is suitable. If the abuse has been recent and you have proof of this, such as a police report, doctor’s report or letter from a domestic abuse charity, you may be able to apply directly to court without needing to attend a MIAM.
If you’re a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there are many different organisations that can help you. Please see some of them listed below:
ORGANISATIONS FOR WOMEN
FINDING LEGAL OPTIONS FOR WOMEN SURVIVORS (FLOWS)
FLOWS give legal advice to women who are affected by domestic abuse – they also give advice to front line workers.
Helpline: 0203 745 7707 from 9am to 5pm every day.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HELPLINE
The National Domestic Violence Helpline is a freephone 24-hour helpline which provides advice and support to women and can refer them to emergency accommodation.
The National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid.
Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
Email: email@example.com (you will receive a response within 3 working days) Website: www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk
Their helpline offers advice and support to women experiencing domestic violence.
Refuge also provides safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refuges throughout the UK, including culturally-specific services for women from minority ethnic communities and cultures.
Their website also includes some information for men who are either being abused or who are abusers.
Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
The Women’s Aid website provides a wide range of resources to help women and young people. This includes The Survivor’s Handbook which provides a range of information including legal and housing advice, tips on how to create a safety plan and advice for people with specialist housing needs. It’s available in 11 languages and in audio. They also run a website to support to children and teenagers who may be living in a home affected by domestic violence, or who may be in a violent relationship themselves.
Telephone: 0808 200 0247 (24 hours)
RIGHTS OF WOMEN
Rights of Women offers confidential legal advice on domestic and sexual violence. They produce free information sheets which can be downloaded from their website – www.rightsofwomen.org.uk.
Administration: 020 7251 6575
ORGANISATIONS FOR MEN
The Everyman Project offers counselling to men in the London area who want to change their violent or abusive behaviour. It also has a national helpline which offers advice to anyone worried about their own, or someone else’s, violent or abusive behaviour.
Helpline: 0207 263 8884 (Tuesday 6.30pm to 9pm and Wednesday 6.30pm to 9pm)
The ManKind Initiative is a charity offering information and support to men who are victims of domestic abuse or violence. This can include information and support on reporting incidents, police procedures, housing, benefits and injunctions. They can refer you to a refuge, local authority or other another support service if you need it.
Telephone: 01823 334 244
(Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm (except Friday evenings)
MEN’S ADVICE LINE
The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. They provide emotional support and practical advice and can give you details of specialist services that can give you advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.
Helpline: 0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm)
A national helpline for men who have who have been raped, assaulted or abused in childhood or adult life. The helpline also supports partners (male and female) and family members of abused men.
Tel: 0808 808 4321 (Thursday evenings, 8pm to 10pm)
This is a helpline for men who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse.
They may be able to arrange counselling or a support group if you live in the London area, or provide details of an appropriate service if you don’t.
You can contact the SurvivorsUK helpline through an online chat service, text message or WhatsApp. Online chat: www.survivorsuk.org/ways-we-can-help/online-helpline/
Text message: 020 3322 1860
WhatsApp: 07491 816064 (Monday to Sunday, 12pm to 8pm)
Admin: 0203 598 3898 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm)
ORGANISATIONS FOR WOMEN AND MEN
ACTION ON ELDER ABUSE
Action on Elder Abuse gives confidential advice and information to older people who are victims of violence or abuse. A relative or friend of the person being abused can also contact the helpline on behalf of the older person. The helpline can be used in the case of older people who live at home, in a care home or who are in hospital.
Helpline: 0808 808 8141 (freephone Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 020 8835 9280
HONOUR NETWORK HELPLINE
The Honour Network Helpline is a national helpline run by Karma Nirvana, a national charity which advises victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse.
Helpline: 0800 599 9247 (Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm)
MONTGOMERYSHIRE FAMILY CRISIS CENTRE HELPLINE
The Montgomeryshire Family Crisis Centre provides a confidential 24-hour helpline every day of the year for people who have experienced, or are experiencing, domestic violence. The centre helps men and women and takes calls from all over the UK. They also provide other services, for example safe accommodation for both men and women.
Helpline: 01686 629 114 (24 hours, every day of the year)
NATIONAL CENTRE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
The National Centre for Domestic Violence helps people get protection from their abuser. They provide free legal support to all survivors of domestic violence, for example by helping individuals get injunctions from their local court.
Telephone: 0800 970 2070
NATIONAL STALKING HELPLINE
The National Stalking Helpline can provide advice on how to deal with any type of stalking behaviour. This includes advice on how to report the behaviour to the police, and what you can expect if you report something.
Helpline: 0808 802 0300 (Monday – Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)
Rape Crisis (England and Wales) is an umbrella organisation for Rape Crisis Centres across England and Wales. The website has contact details for centres and gives basic information about rape and sexual violence for survivors, friends, family, students and professionals. Rape Crisis (England and Wales) also runs a freephone helpline.
National Freephone Helpline: 0808 802 9999
(12 noon to 2.30pm and 7.00pm to 9.30pm every day)
Respect Phoneline offers information and advice to men and women in heterosexual or same-sex relationships who want to stop their violent behaviour.
Telephone: 0808 802 4040 (free from landlines and most mobiles)
Monday to Friday 10am to 1 pm and 2pm to 5pm)
GALOP LGBT DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE
Galop provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.
Helpline: 0300 999 5428 or freephone 0800 999 5428
(Monday and Thursday 10am to 8pm, Wednesday and Tuesday 10 am to 8pm).
Tuesday 1pm-5pm is a trans specific service.
Can be found through this link where there is a comprehensive list of organisations that can support and help.