The couples in question have issues that cover the full range of family law conundrums, from arguments about selling the family home and division of valuable assets, to the complexities of shared care arrangements for children.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for prime time telly, much of the footage that has made it in to the final cut includes quite dramatic exchanges between couples, or 'juicy' relationship details that would not necessarily come to the fore in all mediations. That said, the producers of the programme are to be credited with giving a fair insight in to how the mediation process works and the benefits it can bring.
To take just one episode as an example, we see a couple who are at odds in relation to the father's contact with their young child, now that the child and his mother live many miles away from the father. We see an older couple in dispute about whether their house should be sold. We are also shown a couple arguing over their very different parenting techniques. Said couple were so acrimonious that they needed to sit in separate rooms, with the mediator scurrying back and forth performing 'shuttle' mediation.
The programme did well to illustrate that mediation is not necessarily a 'quick fix', but that with commitment to the process real results can follow. Whilst many of the mediation sessions shown ended without agreement, the follow up information confirmed that in several cases things had moved on. Some couples had arrived at a settlement or agreed arrangements for their children.
What was also striking was the impact that seemingly simple statements could have. One couple in dispute over their young son suddenly managed a much more open and constructive discussion as soon as the father said of his ex partner 'I know she is a really good Mum'.
The show also managed to demonstrate the particular skill set required to be a mediator. All the 'tricks of the trade' were on display. The mediators in the programme were constantly looking for the common ground between the couples. They spotted opportunities for those involved to acknowledge each other's concerns, and used their training to maintain balance and allow each person a voice. Those who were dealing with child related matters were adept at keeping the focus on the child by asking what the child is like, what they like to do, how the child is feeling. All of this may sound obvious but takes great skill and real perseverance!
It wouldn't be a reality TV show without its fair share of tantrums and dramatic walk-outs, but all in all 'Call the Mediator' did a very decent job of turning the spotlight on a process that can be highly effective in helping separated couples find a way forward. Perhaps most importantly, it can be instrumental in helping people avoid costly and distressing court actions.
Here at Morton Fraser we have two trained lawyer mediators who would be happy to answer any questions you may have about the mediation process. Please contact Anna Forsyth on 0131 247 1025 / firstname.lastname@example.org, or Rhona Adams on 0131 247 1339 / email@example.com.
'Mrs v. Mrs: Call the Mediator' can be found on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer