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What my career has taught me

View profile for Michael Cork
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Michael Cork is an accredited mediator who has worked with Family Law Group since 2014. In the last of his four blogs, he looks back at his own career spanning 20+ years and how his experience can help you when considering mediation or MIAMS.

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 throughout the UK.

The past is a foreign country

You find yourself in a perpetual struggle with your ex-partner over your children. Nothing you speak about is ever resolved, they do not listen and act in their own seeming interests. I would call this conflict and post-separation conflict is usually rooted in the past.

The key to understanding familial conflict and impasse is usually looking into how things have taken shape. I have had very many years in the business of looking at family breakdown, the impact of it on children’s well-being, on children’s needs, on adult needs, the effects of loss and grief, and the process of change. If necessary, I would seek information about how long matters have been stuck, what are the causes, and when things go wrong. I seek answers to questions such as how did you and your ex-partner end your relationship if you had one at all? How does it make you feel when things go wrong for you and how are the children affected when the conflict takes place?

Following on from my MA in social work at Leicester University, I started out in Nottingham Probation in 1985 and went on to specialise in homeless offenders and, after a spell in the crown court, I moved then into family court welfare in 1993. In 2001, this role became Family Court Adviser under Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advice and Support Service).

This role covered the job of children’s guardian in public law cases and private law disputes. This meant many times spent in court and in the office, whenever possible, trying to help conflicted parents find a suitable outcome in a dispute resolution format.

In 2015, I began to use this experience as a mediator in my private time. I retired from Cafcass in 2019 and took up solely as a family mediator working just with child-only family mediation.

Direct Child Consultation

Since 2017, I have also been undertaking child inclusive mediation or direct child consultation. This is a great scheme, established in the last few years nationally in family mediation, to include children’s wishes and feelings into the mediation process.

If your children are older, say over 8 years old, and you both think that they should have a voice in your discussions with each other then we can arrange for this to take place. This completed separately from your mediation sessions. The children’s feedback will be given to you in the follow-up session orally, providing and limited to the child’s permission for this.

I have had some positive and rewarding occasions in child mediations when children have told me a great deal about how they are feeling and what they would like to happen.  Some have wanted their parents to know everything because of the strength of their feelings; others have been more circumspect and wanted their parents to stop fighting, perhaps fearing if the wrong impression were obtained it would re-start the arguments.

One child came up with his own arrangement, which he thought would appease both parents because he saw it as nicely balanced. Another child (10-year-old) did not want to see the other parent anymore, feeling too angry with them and thought they never listened. They were fed up with being accused of only saying what the other parent wanted.

Child inclusive mediation has the power to offer parents some further insight into their children’s experiences of their separation problems and maybe a way of finding a different solution. I think it also offers children a chance to express their own emotions from the changes that they have gone through and, by itself, offers them this opportunity to tell someone how it has been for them.

Our mediation team can be contacted on 0800 1777121 or mediation@familylawgroup.co.uk

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