Information from our Mediators and Counsellors
My ex will never agree to anything I say. So why should I think mediation will help?
Probably most people approaching mediation have this question in their heads, even if they do not actually spell it out. When a dispute is ongoing, it is entirely human for each side to focus on their conflict, and to give up hope of the possibility of agreement. They may feel that any concession would be (or has already been) brushed aside, since the other side are entirely committed to getting their own way. In short, the issue has become ‘who wins?’, rather than anything connected with the substance of the argument.
Hope is not lost
And it might be true that if the debate was left solely to the two people in dispute, there might be no solution for them – ever. It is human and understandable to be unable to resolve a really important issue – when you have a failed relationship with the person you are in dispute with. It is only the involvement of a third party that can unlock the door to potential solutions.
Unlock the situation
Here is the key revelation for both people locked in dispute: the notion that someone else – a qualified someone else! – could help them, if they are both willing to give it a try. This willingness, the ‘agreement to mediate’, is the vital expression that each party is prepared to seek a solution, informally, in discussion, assisted by a qualified professional. This voluntary decision is essentially an admission, not stated overtly, that there might be a compromise solution, where neither party may get precisely what they want, but will be willing to accept the final outcome.
This, then, is the all-important principle of the voluntary nature of mediation: no-one can be forced to do it, even by a judge, if they don’t want to. Thus, each party knows that if the other party is there, they are there of their own free will; this provides the reassurance that they too would prefer a negotiated settlement, to one imposed on them by a court.
An agreement can be reached
So we as mediators know that if two people have at least devoted the time and money to try mediation, there is at least a chance of agreement – whatever they have said to each other beforehand. We assume they are in disagreement – they would not be present otherwise! – but the chances are that the nature of that disagreement, however difficult and sensitive, is one we have faced many times before (perhaps with different details), and we feel confident we can help with.
Another way of looking at it is to consider the alternatives: broadly, there are two ways of settling family disputes, aside from the different forms of ‘alternative dispute resolution’, of which mediation is one:
- Employ solicitors to negotiate for you, in writing, with the other side’s solicitors. This process has the advantage of retaining decision-making power for the two clients, but the process can be lengthy, acrimonious and costly.
- Go to court, which has the immediate downside of giving up decision-making power to a judge. Neither party may like the judgements handed down! Going to court is stressful, can be very expensive, and does not often provide long-term certainty, for either side, very quickly.
Both of those routes, in difficult disputes, will tend to emphasise differences, exaggerate human faults, and reinforce adversarial attitudes and language. If you have a solicitor, they only work for the person paying them, to help their case.
Mediation is different
The mediator is there to help each party see the other’s point of view, and to seek solutions which will constructively help a separated future.
At MiD (NFM), our mediators, all highly skilled and expert in all the areas family disputes normally touch on – asset division, property, financial support, legal process, legal principles followed by judges – have the additional virtue of patience, understanding, and a willingness to listen, as people express their feelings.
We give you the power to shape your future
With us, mediation is a safe place where each party will be encouraged to speak, explain their reactions to what has happened, and to express their hopes, fears, and needs for reassurance. We do not rush people to settlements, we do not let people puzzle over legal terms, we do not allow one side to bully the other or dominate by superior knowledge or a louder voice. We help people, perhaps rather distressed and upset, to retain their power to make their decisions for their own futures, but in safety, and with due concern for their individual points of view.
We do this for the simple reason that we believe that it is only if agreements are reached this way, with due regard for all the sensitivities, that they have a chance of lasting, and helping any children who might be affected.