This week marks the beginning of International Mediation Awareness Week. It provides an opportunity to highlight that mediation can be an effective tool in resolving family law disputes, including issues concerning children. Many clients are unaware of mediation as an option or have preconceived notions of the process and effectiveness. So, what is mediation, what can it be used for and what are its benefits in relation to child law disputes?
What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process by which parents can negotiate the resolution of future arrangements affecting their children with the assistance of a professionally trained and neutral mediator. The mediator does not tell parties what to do. Instead, the process places the parties firmly at the centre of decision making. The mediator encourages parents to focus on constructive communication, mutual understanding and information gathering to identify common ground and navigate the best way forward for them and for their children. Each mediation is bespoke, taking account of the parties and their circumstances.
Who acts as a mediator?
There are a number of organisations that offer family mediation services in Scotland. CALM (Comprehensive Accredited Lawyer Mediators) Scotland is an organisation which assists individuals in Scotland access accredited family law mediation from mediators who also practise as lawyers/solicitors.
What issues can we mediate?
It is common to find that two parents, whether living together or apart, will have different views about what is best for their children on a variety of matters. Communication between parents can be strained. Mediation can assist in resolving all child related disputes, with a focus on better communication between parents. This can include child care arrangements, relocation of children (in Scotland, the rest of the UK or abroad), removal of a child from the UK for the purposes of a holiday, education (including school placements and fees), child maintenance payments and other financial matters affecting children, the relationships between children and wider family members and all other issues which affect the welfare of children.
Why should we mediate child law issues?
There are a number of advantages to mediation, when compared to other forms of dispute resolution.
- Mediation assists the parties to stay firmly in control of the process and outcome. There are no imposed decisions and the parties set the agenda of what they wish to cover in mediation. The parties can decide the dates, duration and venue for mediation sessions, which can allow flexibility around parents' work arrangements and childcare commitments.
- The focus is on working together, rather than the parties being adversaries.
- Mediation is a private and confidential process.
- Mediation allows parties to look more deeply at issues affecting their children when compared to other forms of dispute resolution.
- The cost of the process is usually cheaper than litigation.
- The process is usually less stressful than litigation.
- Mediation can allow expeditious resolution of disputes.
- The process is well designed to allow parties to explore the views of the child.
- Mediation can be an effective means of improving relations and communications between parties, which can lead to more successful future co-parenting.
- Mediation can result in creative, tailored and lasting solutions to child law issues. The parties are more likely to be content with decisions made by them together in mediation are more likely to adhere to them. Arrangements can be reviewed and changed more quickly and easily than in other forms of dispute resolution.
- The parties can participate in mediation virtually, which is particularly advantageous to parents who live far apart geographically. This can also allow parties a means of resolving disputes whilst still feeling safe during the current situation caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.
How can I find out more?
If you are in a dispute with your partner or ex-partner about matters involving your child or children, Brodies LLP boasts a number of Family Law Mediators across Scotland who would be pleased to assist you navigate towards a positive solution. Please do not hesitate to contact any member of our team in offices throughout Scotland by accessing their profile on our dedicated Divorce and Family Law page.