When a relationship breaks down, mediation can be useful in helping the people in that relationship to deal with communication breakdown and come to agreement on practicalities such as finances, property, living arrangements and contact. Mediation can be very useful in a family situation where children are involved.
Mediation is when an impartial, non-judgemental, trained professional meets with all the individuals involved in the conflict or communication breakdown and helps them to agree on the decisions they need to make. In this way, mediation can reduce the need for legal battles, which are often long, painful and expensive. At the end of mediation, all parties are usually given a document outlining recommendations for how to proceed in the future.
Mediation should not be confused with counselling or couple or family counselling. While relationship therapy can be useful when exploring whether or not the couple want to stay together and the reasons behind this, mediation is useful once the relationship has broken down and both parties have agreed to separate.
When children are involved in mediation, they often see the mediator on their own before seeing the mediator again with their families/other parties. They can discuss their concerns with the mediator, and decide which aspects of what they say they are happy to be shared with the other people involved in the process.
Mediation is confidential and can’t be used in civil proceedings unless both parties agree, or if there is concern about a child’s safety or criminal activities.
Relate offer mediation services, and some centres have a contract with Legal Aid Agency, which means they can offer publicly funded mediation. Those who aren’t eligible will need to pay fees, but this is usually much cheaper and quicker than going to court.