Family mediation provides a valuable opportunity to try and bring divorce agreements, children’s custody arrangements or family disputes to a mutually acceptable conclusion without having to resort to going to court. Mediation can resolve matters more quickly than a lengthy court process. It also helps diffuse negative or heightened emotions with a (hopefully) calmer, more measured approach.
To get the most out of a family mediation session, it is wise to be as prepared as possible. Speak to your solicitor to find out what will be involved, who will be present and what will be expected of you during the session. Take a look at the following five questions too, that will help you prepare fully for your family mediation.
What do you want to get out of family mediation?
There is very little point in attending family mediation without knowing what you want to get out of it, and being able to list the issues that need to be resolved. Without this focus prepared in advance, it is too easy to become distracted during the session or to allow emotions to take over, rather than practical discussion. Write down what you want to achieve and list each point in order of priority. That way, you know what the most important aspects are for you, and where you may be able to give slightly more leeway during the mediation.
What information do you need to provide?
Again, meetings of all kinds are far more successful when people come to them armed with the information they are going to need to present or use to get their point across. In family mediations, this can include financial information, details of properties to be shared between parties and dates for children’s school holidays, birthdays and other unmissable commitments to help agree on access days. Other pieces of information could include any prenuptial agreements, plus emails, text messages or official letters relating to your issues at hand.
How can you prepare mentally for family mediation?
Family mediations can make people feel apprehensive or nervous. The best way to prepare mentally for them is to make sure that you are as calm and collected as possible on the day. This means working out well in advance how you are going to get there and how long the journey will take – build in extra time to allow for emergencies on the way. Speak to your family solicitor about the session and ask questions about what to expect. Focus on what you want to achieve, rather than dwelling on any negative emotions around your ex-partner or the situation under discussion. Keep things business-like and practical, while keeping an open mind about what is going to be raised.
What are you willing to compromise on and how?
Mediation works best when both sides are willing to listen to each other and compromise where necessary to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved. This is especially important when children are involved. In this case, the adults involved must do their utmost to set their own emotions aside to work out what’s best. Think in advance about what you might be happy to compromise on, if necessary, to get to an agreement. Access during school holidays, for example, or decisions on how assets are distributed. Not ‘sweating the small stuff’ can sometimes pay dividends, as showing that you are willing to compromise can help get the bigger decisions made with more goodwill on both sides. However, this can become overly emotional if you have not worked out in advance what you are willing to offer up for negotiation.
Am I happy with what happens next?
Finally, it is important to think about what will happen after the mediation. Think about what you would consider to be a fair resolution and work out how you might be able to get there. Can you see things working out at the family mediation session, or do you think you will have to go to court for a final decision? Going to court can be a costly, complicated process, so it is certainly worth asking yourself whether it would be worth it, or whether reaching an amicable agreement during mediation would suit both sides of the dispute better. Your family solicitor can help you beforehand by talking through potential outcomes and how they might work, as well as ways in which arrangements could evolve – for example when children grow older and their needs and preferences change.