A Review by Dominic Raeside: Family Mediation: Contemporary Issues


Head of Family Mediation at Family Law in Partnership, Dominic Raeside, provides a book review of  Marian Roberts’ & Maria Federica Moscati’s recent publication Family Mediation: Contemporary Issues, published by Bloomsbury Professional. 

This impressive book is a must read for all dispute resolution practitioners particularly family mediators and all of those individuals and professionals who are stakeholders in the family justice system.

The book is both an academic and theoretical tour de force but also an answer to many practice issues such as:

  • What is the appropriate role of children and young people in mediation?
  • Where are we in relation to the evolution of mediation in England and Wales?
  • How do we best manage the journey from being a trained mediator to an accredited and experienced mediator?
  • How has our growing awareness of LGBTQ+ informed our mediation practice?
  • How does family mediation work with cases involving child abduction and international contact within cross border family disputes?

There are 16 chapters in this book where Marian and Maria have persuaded the leading practitioners and academics in our field to share their wisdom and experience under a range of subject headings.  I should perhaps express a personal connection where I too was asked to provide a chapter but knowing that I would disappoint and delay the project, I declined.  Indeed, whilst I have read every page of this 335 page book, it has taken me nearly a year to write this review.

According to a well-known and ubiquitous online provider, the book can be purchased for £68 and I recommend it for all those serious about developing their knowledge about family mediation.

As the Family Mediation Council’s Chief Assessor for 16 years, I have read approaching 1,000 portfolios.  One of my most common complaints of family mediators is their paucity of reading particularly in relation to theory and the underpinning models relating to the family mediation field.  Barbara Wilson has written a marvelous chapter on models, styles and third parties recognizing the eclectic nature of mediation theory including disciplines “as disparate as law, international relations, anthropology, political science, mathematics, psychology and organizational science”.  If you are a practitioner, where would you place yourself on a continuum that has transformative mediation at one end and evaluative mediation at the other?

Anne Barlow and Rosemary Hunter (academic colleagues when I too sat on the Family Justice Council) describe in their chapter the effects of LASPO and the removal of Legal Aid with the theoretical paradigms of neo-liberal remoralization following their research on “mapping paths to family justice”. They include a description of the Dutch Legal Aid Board’s developments in this area and in Australia, Victoria’s process of using out of court dispute resolution in cases deemed inappropriate for mediation with the assistance of a specialist lawyer experienced in the dynamics of domestic abuse.  Speaking of  jurisdictions other than England and Wales, Sinead Conneely and Roisin O’Shea reflect on the rapid social changes in Ireland where divorce was only being legalized in 1996 and Anne Hall-Dicks describes the development of mediation in Scotland where solicitors are trained and accredited separately from other professionals with a different professional background.

Lesley Saunders, one of FMC’s assessors (and who we are all indebted to for keeping us up to date through her Family Mediator Monthly Issues) writes a comprehensive historical description of our journey in England and Wales to a regulatory framework and the implications for family mediators.  I loved Neil Robinson’s chapter on “Whose Truth is it Anyway? An Imaginative Reflection on the Place of Truth in Family Mediation”.  He reminds us “on the one hand, truth is discernible, fact and evidence based; black and white.  We do a disservice to the victims of abuse to try to reconcile their truth with other perceptions.  On the other hand, truth is complex, sophisticated and multi-faceted”.  Marian Roberts own chapter entitled “The Meaning of Power in Family Mediation: New Forms and Functions”, whilst acknowledging that a feminist critique would view gender constructed dichotomies as not being innate, reminds us that “women tend to associate power with the capacity and strength to nurture; while for men, power is associated with assertion and aggression”.

Andrew Simms following Maria Federica Moscati’s chapter on family mediation within the LGBTQ+ community reminds us that family mediation is not simply about resolving disputes around children and finances in the context of separation and divorce but can be applied to addressing disputes relating to a much wider definition of family including family inheritance, public law, child protection, medical issues involving children and elder mediation.

Time and space prohibits me from sharing with you an overview of each chapter and apologies to the writers who I have not mentioned.  I am truly grateful to the editors Marian Roberts and Maria Federica Moscati in encouraging and cajoling the many impressive authors into producing this marvelous book which I truly recommend.

If you would like to know more about family mediation and how it can help you to find a resolution to your family issues, please contact Wendy Hoare, our family mediation coordinator or contact us at E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000.

For more information on mediation, visit our mediation page below which explains how mediation works and what types of disputes it can be used to resolve.