So, what are your New Year's resolutions? Getting fit, eating better, doomscrolling less often? Or something more substantial?
There is often talk in the media about an upsurge of new clients contacting lawyers in January. Whilst that can be the case, what I often find is that it is my existing clients who get in touch in the early days of the New Year, determined to find solutions efficiently and productively from now on. The difficult question is how to do that, particularly where a dispute has been lingering for many months beforehand.
One possible solution is mediation. In family cases, this is a process where the separated couple meet, both individually and together, with a mediator, who is usually a qualified family lawyer. The mediator is not there to act as a judge, or to tell the couple what to do, but instead to facilitate discussion between them. It is a simple concept, but one that often provides life-changing outcomes.
Mediation is not just an option for separated couples who are very amicable. I have been involved in mediations where there has been immense conflict between the individuals, poisoning their ongoing relations and in particular their ability to co-parent their children. Mediation can take place where there are court proceedings ongoing, or even at the instigation of the judge. And - perhaps surprisingly - mediation in even the most toxic of circumstances can be very successful.
In my view, this is because there is something very powerful about allowing space to hear what the other person in a dispute truly thinks - and then being listened to in turn. It allows for the breaking down of assumptions that you might not even realise you had, about why someone is acting in a certain way. Having done so, it offers the possibility of a shared way forward, along a route which is better for everyone. And if you are fearful about this kind of honest conversation just leading to arguments or stonewalling if you attempt it by yourselves, mediation provides a "safe space" to do so, in the presence of an objective facilitator, who will additionally be able to assess whether mediation is suitable for you before any joint session.
So if you have a renewed resolution to sort out your conflicts in 2023 - whether new or whether they have festered for many years - might mediation be worth a try?
If you wish to explore this, please contact any of our family law mediators - Lucia Clark, Rhona Adams, Karen Wylie or (for mediation in terms of English law) Savita Sharma.
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