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Family mediation is an alternative to using the courts to decide upon specific aspects of your divorce or separation.

 

It is a much more dignified and less confrontational way to reach agreement when parting ways, but of course, can still be daunting and stressful for some people to go through.

 

During Family Mediation Week our specialist family lawyers are looking to share information and give people support to promote this alternative tool. In this article we look at some tips to help prepare you for your first or subsequent mediation sessions.

 

Before Your First Mediation Session:

 

Your first session is normally a one-to-one individual session with the mediator. It is intended to ease you into the process and can feel less daunting, as your ex-partner or spouse won’t be present; the only objective is to give you all the information you need to know before taking the next steps. It is also used to assess whether your circumstances are suitable for mediation, so that we can be confident this is the right route for you before everyone gets round the table.

 

There is very little preparation that you need to do. It is advisable to take a note pad and pen to any meetings that you have with a solicitor or mediator so that you can take notes. You could bring a list of any questions or concerns that you have so that you don’t forget to raise them.

 

If at this point you have any paperwork, such as court orders, you could bring these along but do bear in mind that the mediator cannot give legal advice, as this remains the responsibility of your solicitor.

 

If you have not already done so by this point, then bring along some photo ID and proof of address. A driver’s licence or passport, along with a utility bill or recent bank statement would suffice.

 

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive, look up in advance how to reach the mediator’s office and where to park, and by all means bring a trusted friend or relative along with you (although they may not be allowed into the individual session itself).

 

Before Your First Joint Session:

 

If you are feeling nervous about seeing your ex-partner and discussing matters together, then you are by no means alone. They are likely to be feeling the same nerves that you are. Remember that Family Mediators see people in your situation every week and will be understanding and welcoming.

 

Try to prepare yourself in advance. If you have paperwork to bring with you, then have this packed and ready the night before. Decide on what you are wearing, check travel updates and parking if you are not local to the mediator’s office and give yourself plenty of time to get ready and make your way to your appointment. You don’t want to arrive stressed and flustered as you will not get the most out of your session. Having a good sleep and a healthy breakfast may also help your brain function and help you concentrate during the discussions – it is important to try and have something to eat as the joint sessions take that bit longer and you may need to keep your energy and concentration levels up.

 

If you are discussing finances then it is a good idea to bring a calculator and a summary of your financial position with you – this could include things like your mortgage payments, bills, debts, savings, pensions, payslips and any other incomings / outgoings. If you have your own proposals it is worth bringing these along for discussion.

 

If your session will cover children arrangements, then bring with you any ideas or suggestions that you have for how you see things working going forward. Discussing children can be very emotional, so try to think rationally about what is fair for both parties and what is best for your children’s welfare.

Don’t Put Pressure On Yourself

 

Don’t expect the session to run perfectly and for you to walk out with an agreement straight away. Sometimes it will take a few sessions to get warmed up to the process before any solid resolutions can be reached. It is also sometime advisable to ‘road-test’ ideas and proposals that arise out of mediation before committing to any arrangement permanently. So this might mean taking a break from the mediation process to give something a try or to have a period of reflection, and then returning in a week or so to review matters before finalising anything.

 

What to Wear

 

The priority during mediation is the focused conversations rather than what to wear. Sessions are more relaxed than attending court and there is no dress code to adhere to. Some people will feel more productive and professional if they wear something smart like work attire or a suit, but wearing jeans and trainers is equally fine. Wear what makes you feel comfortable.

 

 

Feeling Awkward, Anxious or Uncomfortable

 

It is usual to feel uncomfortable seeing your ex and discussing sensitive matters, particularly if you are feeling emotional.

 

Your mediator will do whatever they can to put you at ease and is happy to make any special arrangements. You may feel more comfortable arriving at slightly different times to avoid an awkward moment in the car park or waiting area – this can be arranged.

 

If you need to take a break at any time or would prefer to mediate from separate rooms then always let your mediator know – ahead of time where possible and this can be organised.

 

If you are having trouble with anxiety or depression, then it could affect how productive your sessions are. Get advice from your GP, a counsellor or your own solicitor for guidance. Practicing mindfulness, mediation or other relaxation techniques prior to your meeting may help you cope.

 

Starting the Process

 

If you are interested in finding out more about how mediation can help your family dispute, please contact our mediation administrator Julia McGuigan on 01256 305 596 or julia.mcguigan@lambbrooks.com

 

 

Other Articles That May Interest You:

Could Mediation be the Key to Resolving your Issues?

Taking Parental Alienation Seriously

Top Tips: First Meeting with a Family Lawyer

 

 

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.