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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Who, what, when, why and how

With the continued backlog of cases mediation is now more than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute.  Get your dispute resolved now so you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.

Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes should we add we also do live in person mediation too!  So please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.

I was asked to do a quick q and a this week about family mediation, I hope the below is of assistance, it's the open questions used in court and referred to back in my training days as Mr H and his five Ws, I’ve also copied over from something I wrote a while ago the ABC of mediation.

What, who, when, why, how

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is method of alternative dispute resolution, alternative to the court process.  It is an assisted conversation normally between two people (often parents) to enable them to come to decisions by agreement rather than handing over control of their lives to a judge.

Who comes to family mediation?

Our clients are generally couples who are either separating or have separated.  The typical topics in family mediation are dealing with finances on divorce (as well as unmarried couples with jointly owned assets who have gone their separate ways) and arrangements for children, often the mediation will cover both of these areas.

When can and when should people think about mediation?

The earlier people consider mediation the better.  Divorcing couples and parents in dispute should be directed at the earliest opportunity to mediation by their solicitors, but they can choose to approach professional Family Mediation Council registered mediators directly without involving lawyers at all.

Clients can come to mediation at any stage of a dispute, preferably before but also during and after court proceedings.

Why should family mediation be considered?

Mediation is considerably quicker and cheaper than resolving disputes via the court process.

The process is aimed at helping people work together in the case of child disputes to become co-parents which ensures that children’s rights to know their parents and be, as far as possible, equally involved with them throughout their childhoods is achieved and so the children are cared for by the parents together even though they are now apart from each other.

In financial issues mediation’s confidential nature means discussions can be had regarding various options for the division of assets and the mediator ensures that at each stage of the process both parties have access to the same information about decision making.

How does family mediation proceed and how is it funded? (and also rather sneakily where does it take place)

The first party to contact our mediation service will be invited to a confidential one to one meeting for an exchange of information, this is the Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting (known as a MIAM).  The client is given information on mediation so they can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with mediation itself and the mediator makes an assessment of suitability of the issues.

The other party will be advised that they are entitled to attend their own confidential MIAM, but no other information is shared at this stage.

Only once both parties have attended a MIAM, agreed to proceed to mediation and the mediator has assessed the issues as suitable is the first joint session arranged.

Joint sessions can be in person or online, the clients are not obliged to be in the same room as each other or even on screen at the same time.

Currently there is government funding available for parents discussing child arrangements which covers the first joint session after the MIAMs.  Legal Aid may be available in very limited circumstances but set against the potential cost of solicitors, barristers and court fees mediation remains significantly cheaper than court even where clients are paying privately.

The ABC of mediation

This is unashamedly borrowed from the ABC of police investigation work, mediation isn’t an investigation but some of the same tactics apply when dealing appropriately with clients.

Assume nothing

No two clients are the same, no two issues are equally weighted and most importantly how you the mediator feels about a situation may not be the same way as your client.  Getting to know your clients so they have trust in you is key to making progress so you have to listen, it can become too easy to rattle off the same trite pieces of information or comment without checking how the clients react.  Likewise don’t assume clients know anything about the process, even those that do may have a different understanding or approach, especially if they have read about mediation they may have their own assumptions which you need to address.

Believe nothing

OK this is a bit harsh for mediation (especially family mediation) but really it’s about not taking one party’s word over the others.  As I say you don’t search for evidence of behaviour or fault in mediation but you do need to be sceptical and questioning when it comes to parties’ stated reasons and objectives, is it what they really think/want? Which of course leads to…

Check everything

Check back with the client you have understood their point, that what they have said is what they mean, often when talking freely clients will trip themselves up using a phrase that doesn’t mean what they think it does so check.  Then feedback what you hear form them what the other party may have understood and check that both are if not on the same page at least on the same chapter of the same book! When nit comes to figures draft a document knock it back and forth between the parties checking each has noted the amendments and they are agreed.

It's a handy TLA which along with the VIP of mediation assists in every day practice.

Meanwhile in mediation news 23andme the genetic testing company are meeting with lawyers for upwards of20 claimants who allege breaches of security allowed genetic data held by the company to be stolen and placed for sale on the dark web.

The lead lawyers for the claimants have suggested the mediation will be a waste of time and a sell out, with all due respect to that bit of grandstanding that will very much depend on them acting in their clients’ best interest and working with the mediator to reach an acceptable solution.  Lawyers who belittle the prospects of mediation either don’t understand the process or choose to ignore the benefits.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On the international mediation front China has reportedly refused to assist in mediation in any capacity despite requests from US President Biden for assistance with the ongoing difficulties with Houthis and Iran.

Although when you consider the press release from the US it confirms China had agreed to raise the issue with Tehran, for what that is worth it is at least evidence of ongoing communications of some sort.

In international discussions there are (so I am told) always back room talks and back channels left open between even openly warring parties one can only hope that this remains the case in the middle east as the conflict appears to already be spreading despite assurances from Biden and the lame duck UK PM Sunak.

And finally in a good news bad news, it looks like mediation cases regarding special educational needs are back to pre-pandemic levels, the Centre for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in special Education (CADRE) has released figures to show that following a dip in numbers during and after the pandemic cases (by which we mean complaints against the school system) are back to pre-covid levels.

Sad that there’s still so many but good news that there is a mediation process in place and available to assist complainants.

The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary (at the moment), it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress. 

In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever-changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact me at Northwest Mediation on 0161 667 4418 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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