Finding a fair compromise in divorce through mediation

Chris Lloyd-Smith

By Chris Lloyd-Smith, who is a member of the life-stage planning team and an accredited family mediator at Anthony Collins Solicitors.

The new year brings with it a sense of clarity. Unhealthy eating, alcohol, even snoozing the alarm clock become targets for our restored minds. Promises of ‘dry January’ are easily fashioned up, and this hunger for change is often transferred to other areas of life, with relationships also unable to escape the microscope.

While we dealt with ‘Divorce Day’ and its perpetuation in the media in our last article, it cannot be ignored that the festive period sees more people consider separation. The Ministry of Justice revealed that 13 individuals applied online to divorce their partners on Christmas Day. 455 lodged the same request between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

Unlike improving eating habits, divorce is not instantaneous. Though it may seem like celebrities are married one day, separated the next, court proceedings are lengthy and fraught with pain inflicted by blame and battles over assets or children.

In my own experience as a solicitor, I have witnessed many suffer as a result of litigation. I have also discovered that there are other, less painful, ways to separate.

Mediation finds amicable solutions to separation in an informative, but neutral way. This process, delivered by accredited experts, encourages participants to take control of their separation through communication and collaboration. The first session, while often initially heated, gives participants the opportunity to focus on the issues that need resolving and which require urgent discussion, with subsequent sessions focussing on specific areas, such as family finances or children.

Mediation aims to allow separating individuals time to evaluate and test different proposals and find a new perspective — one that the courtroom does not allow for. Importantly, it also allows participants to find their own solutions rather than follow those the court imposes.

Discussion can range from who remains in the family home, to who takes care of the pets or looks after children on the weekdays. Assets are also considered openly, with both participants disclosing their financial circumstances to each other and the mediator. The mediator’s role is not to referee, but help find a ‘middle ground’ that involves fair compromise and meets both parties’ respective needs as well as those of any children from the relationship.

The thoughts of children, which can be easily forgotten in the middle of a parental dispute, are paramount to mediation. Children of appropriate age have the opportunity to meet with the mediator so that their voice can be heard. With the child’s permission, their views are fed back to the parents and incorporated into subsequent discussions.

We find that mediation helps take the sting out of a divorce. It can preserve the wellbeing of adults and children while making the process more affordable and time efficient.

Importantly, mediation offers participants an opportunity to begin to rebuild the bridges of their relationship and, while feelings of acrimony may remain, it demonstrates that future issues such as co-parenting can be worked through, and a solution found.

If you would like more information about family mediation, direct consultation with children or simply wish to speak to one of the Anthony Collins Solicitors team, please contact 0121 200 3242. You can find more information on the website or via Twitter on @ACSPrivateCL