Why choose mediation?
For me, the quick answer was to save money. I’d heard so many terrible stories of vicious long-drawn-out battles, and money haemorrhaging away while relations became more and more bitter and fraught.
I’m pleased to say that I did indeed save a lot of money, but there are many reasons, not all financial, why mediation can help, and I hope to set out a few of them for you here.
What Mediation isn’t
It’s not a fight with a referee. Feelings can run high, and your mediator is there to make sure that you both feel safe and comfortable, and able to express yourselves without interruption or abuse. We agree ground rules at the outset, and treat each other with politeness and respect, and either of you can call a halt or take a break at any time.
It’s not therapy, though some clients say that they find the process therapeutic. Mediation provides the chance to listen and to be heard in a calm and non-judgmental environment, to take a look at the current situation, test out various scenarios, and plan to build a new future.
It’s not advice – legal or otherwise. Your mediator is completely impartial. They won’t judge you or your ex. And they won’t tell you what to do. They will have plenty of knowledge and information to share, and they can make suggestions, but the decisions are yours.
What Mediation is
Mediation is a confidential way of resolving difficulties and reaching agreement. Your mediator will first meet each of you individually to explain the process and find out about you, and whether mediation will be suitable for you.
You will then meet together with your mediator for a joint session. This is when we assess your family and financial situations, so that you can make plans for future living arrangements, maintenance, pensions and other needs. For parents it is a way to work together on practical arrangements for your children, from what will happen tomorrow and next week, to weekend and holiday times, and the longer term.
Unless you resolve everything you need in one session – this does sometimes happen! – your mediator will send you a written summary of the discussion, the proposals you made, and any ‘homework’ – things like obtaining bank statements, getting property valuations, or looking at properties and schools.
When you are both ready the mediator will arrange another joint meeting to draw together the information and suggestions, and to build a plan and basis for your divorce agreement. This will probably take two or three sessions in total, though everyone is of course different.
Once you are both content with your proposed arrangements your mediator can summarise them in a Memorandum of Understanding and an Open Financial Summary. Then you’re ready to go.
So where do you see yourself in a year?
This may seem a frivolous question, but it’s one my mediator asked me at the outset, and one which I often put to my own clients. I won’t give away my own answer, except to say that it seemed far more hopeful than I felt at the time, but it gave me a goal, and I got there. Miracles may not always happen, but mediation gives them a helping hand.
This article was written by Jane Mace – Family Mediator
Jane Mace bio
Jane grew up in Norfolk and after university, joined the Civil Service fast stream and trained as a tax inspector. She investigated all types and sizes of business, and interviewed thousands of people. Her legal and accounting knowledge inform her mediation, and she is a seasoned negotiator. She attributes her ability to assimilate large amounts of complex information to this part of her career, and is delighted now to combine her hard skills with a natural warmth and empathy.
Jane cares passionately about justice and fairness, and her experience as a Mackenzie Friend in several race equality complaint cases helped her obtain a post as the Chairman’s right-hand person in what was then the Commission for Racial Equality. Jane continued to work in equalities, heading up the diversity drive for two government departments for several years, before taking a career break to spend time with her two teenage children.
When her marriage ended, followed by a successfully mediated divorce, Jane was so impressed by the mediation process that she decided to take up the profession herself, and now mediates online and in person.
Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.