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How does mediation work in family disputes, in particular around children's contact?

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Michael Cork is an accredited mediator who has worked with Family Law Group since 2014. In the first of his four blogs, he looks at how mediation can work in family disputes in particular around child arrangements. He hopes that in breaking down how our services around mediation and MIAMS can be used by our clients, Family Law Group can continue to help people through the UK.

There are lots of explanations of mediation online; the official descriptions from the professional bodies like Family Mediation Council (FMC) where your mediator will be registered to practice. The guiding principles are that the mediator will be neutral and will not take sides; the mediator will not have any input or stake in the outcome, or the agreement you might reach, and your participation as a parent will be entirely voluntary.

No-one has to submit or be pressured into undertaking this route against their will. In fact, it tends not to work very well if one party is very reluctant to discuss or even take part in the session. The only compulsory bit is where you will need to complete a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) and that is set out in my second blog. The MIAM is necessary if you wish to take your problem to court (if the case is not urgent that is) because you will need to be given a mediation exemption certificate (FM1) in order to start your court application.

Will it be confidential?

Your MIAM remains confidential and we only share information if we consider that there is a child protection risk or a possible serious crime.

The mediation needs to take place with both parties and currently this is all online via  Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Sometimes it is necessary to see people separately in a shuttle procedure (more later), but usually both of you will be on screen with the mediator. You will be asked for your agenda or topics you wish to discuss and the mediator will be in control of the passage of dialogue, making sure you both listen to the other person without interruption.

Taking turns to express yourself, your feelings and your views, listening to each other is very important to the process of finding solutions. It is normal to centre  mediations around the children in the dispute. This means we will ask you about your children together; asking about how they are and what they like to do, but also what you both consider are their needs.

How are they getting on with the transitions between your two homes?  Are they happy talking to you about their other parent? We may need to ask about how they have coped with the separation and have they been affected by the fallouts.

Sometimes the solutions are practical, and we might help by proposing some ideas to fix the dilemma which have helped in other families going through similar fixes. Other times it is best to ask you questions about the emotional blockages you might be facing. It can be hard of course.

So, it is worth doing mediation?

Mediation is worth doing because:

  1. It takes less time to get where you want to be
  2. It may mean you retain a joint control over your children’s welfare and future
  3. It is less painful for you in terms of the emotional impact (compared to court)
  4. You may end up having a better (and probably not worse) parental relationship with your ex-partner
  5. It’s cheaper (than court) usually

Michael’s second blog will examine the MIAMS process and how it can work for you as a client. Our mediation team can be contacted on 0800 1777121 or