26th Mar 2020

Family Mediation – on the go…

By James Pirrie

Parachuted in solutions – family mediation on the go…

The scale and complexity of loss arising from the Coronavirus Pandemic are unfathomable. We are likely to see shockwaves for years to come. But we must be conscious too of the positives we can take from this awful situation. One is how the lock-down is forcing all of us to engage in the tech that has been quietly building and breaking down barriers.  And of course as we do so, we recognise what wizardry our technical colleagues have achieved.

As we all self isolate, we need to manage disputes and issues on-line and be able to set up these on-line sessions at very short notice. Parenting time and safety challenges or varying maintenance arrangements may need to be looked at quickly and efficiently because needs have changed or capacity to pay has reduced.

Gone are the days when clients in conflict were huddled side by side around their web-cam in one location whilst co-mediators were huddled around theirs in another location – hardly the room lay-out you would want to maximise settlement and progress. Now we have recorded video-conferencing, with each party in their separate room in the house and of course the set up of these arrangements is so much easier, with little waiting and no travel. Meetings can in consequence be in bite-sizes which parties may feel happier about – or be in longer sessions but with comfort and refocusing gaps.

What has not changed, however, is the element that may be needed to help clients to have a successful conversation, which a family mediator is trained to provide. These might include:

  • Ground rules to enable each side to be heard and feel able to contribute their part to the solution;
  • Legal norms, which can frame conversations so successfully and permit progress;
  • Aspiration and optimism: sometimes all that is needed is for parents or former partners to see the possibilities of life without the overhang of this unresolved issue, to realise that there is more to be lost by having no solution as opposed to the losses involved in the concessions to reach agreement; or
  • Clarity around the process alternatives, such as court or arbitration or long-running lawyer-led negotiation (often slow and expensive, which are helpful bridges to help parties come back to the mediation-‘island’ and for efforts at dialogue to re-double).

In many ways, the current restrictions on movement provide the ideal opportunity to settle disputes using this online help to enable people to get back on with their lives. If anything, Covid 19 has given us a sense of perspective and an awareness that life is for living and the days we spend locked up in endless disputes will not come back to us. Generally and at home, at business and in our communities there is a coming together, albeit virtual rather than physical!, and a positivity and creativity that are often the co-travellers to adversity.

Separating or separated partners are therefore – with input – likely to be able to find effective solutions – and many parts of the legal profession stand ready to do their bit to help the solutions click into place.

For more information on family mediation and how our expert family mediators can help you, please contact us at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000. Our Head of Mediation, Dominic Raeside is widely acknowledged to be one of the best family mediators in the country. He has been named as a leading individual for family mediation by Legal 500 UK for many years and Family Law in Partnership is the only firm to be ranked top tier for family mediation by Legal 500 UK.