If both of you are willing to move ahead to a first mediation session, and your mediator thinks your case is suitable for mediation, they will fix a first mediation session.
It will depend on the issues you face as to the timing of a first session following the MIAMs.
Our role is to offer you a safe and neutral environment where you feel able to express the issues that have been blocking for example parental arrangements or a financial settlement.
I like to bring parents together as soon as possible to start to talk about the issues they face. The flexibility of mediation means you can bring any issues to the first session you wish to discuss.
When dealing with child arrangements we aren’t just looking at whether arrangements are possible, you can talk about the softer issues.
Why the arrangements aren’t working is often around issues of parental communication – the way parents speak to each other, or the timing of pick ups and drop offs, working up to overnight staying contact can be an issue between parents, so too the introduction of new partners particularly if you are only recently separated.
I describe the process in the first session as building a bridge, and any bridge needs firm foundations. In the first session we aim to put the foundation stones in place. Arrangements both parents are willing to sign up to for a short period of time say 4 – 6 weeks.
I ask parents to come back to another session at that point to talk about what went well and what didn’t go so well. Sometimes after the second session parents feel able to move ahead together without needing to return, and sometimes they need to know they can come back for a third session.
As they start to work well together as parents they start to build their own bridge of trust and understanding to provide that essential framework and support for their children.
Property and Finance
Couples coming to mediation to talk through property and finance are often keen to get to a resolution.
The first mediation session for property and finance follows pretty much the same financial procedures as those laid down by the court.
I usually wait 4 – 6 weeks before fixing a first mediation session. It is important that you have as much financial information as possible for the first meeting and often pension information – cash equivalent values – can take several weeks to obtain. You are paying for the sessions so it is important they are not wasted.
A bit like a jigsaw puzzle you can’t create the picture without looking at all the pieces and in the first mediation session we need you to turn over all the pieces by completing the Form E, so we can see “what’s in the financial pot”, just as you would if each of you was working with a solicitor.
Once we know what your assets and liabilities are we ask you to start to look at your needs set against what can be afforded.
Mediation is not suitable in some cases and it won’t work if one or both of you is not upfront and honest about your finances. You can’t complete a jigsaw with some of the pieces missing.
However, if you both want to get through to the other side of your financial issues and move ahead with your lives, mediation offers a collaborative and expedited way forward.
Some couples have full financial information at the first session and have already considered possible ways of splitting assets and sharing liabilities. Some couples need time to assemble their information and think about options, those couples will need more sessions.
I usually run 1 ½ hour sessions for couples in property and finance matters but if couples would like to spend half a day or a day working through issues I can do this too.
I also offer One Day Lawyer Assisted Mediation – a topic for another time.
Author: Joanna Chawla LLB FMCA , Family Mediator, London & Watford
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