In this blog, Family Law in Partnership’s Head of Mediation Dominic Raeside outlines his top ten tips for preparing for your first mediation meeting.
Attending your first mediation meeting can be a daunting occasion. You may not have had much contact since you separated or, if you are living in the same house, you may have actively tried to avoid discussing controversial issues in order to ensure there is a calm environment at home. Your solicitor will have explained the process to you but there can still be unanswered questions – especially with regard to the way that you behave at that meeting.
In this blog I have put together a top ten tips for clients attending their first meeting. I do hope that you will find it helpful.
- Ensure that you are clear where the meeting is taking place and allow ample time to get there. It may sound obvious but having a last minute panic that you will be late, or that you are in the wrong place, is only likely to heighten any anxiety surrounding the meeting.
- Use your ex-partner, or ex spouse’s name. That might seem a strange point but there can be a temptation to say “he” or “she” or to resort to legalistic terminology such as the “petitioner” and the “respondent”. This is rarely helpful because the other person may find it upsetting and this can then mean that the meeting starts on a bad footing. Using other terms can be a way of distancing yourself from what is going on, but it is important to always remember that you are attending the meeting to try to find the best resolution for you and your family.
- Think about the language you use. Imagine how you would feel if what you’re saying was said to you. Saying “I feel very hurt and it would help if you acknowledge that” is likely to be more constructive than “you always ignore how I feel“. Using “I feel” is talking about the experiences you have had. Saying “you always” makes accusations about how the other person has behaved.
- Keep an open mind with regard to the options that you might explore during the meeting. Exploring an option doesn’t mean that will automatically be what happens, it just means you are looking at whether that might work. You may have to explore several options before you find one that will work for you (and your children) but if you dismiss options before you have properly examined them you may be missing a potential solution.
- You may be worried about one issue particularly. Ensure that your solicitor, or the mediator, is made aware of this but don’t try to dictate the agenda. Ultimately you are looking for a resolution that resolves all issues, and a resolution that resolves just one issue may not be the best long term plan.
- Listen carefully. This may sound obvious but when people feel under pressure the “flight or fright” response kicks in and this makes them less able to think rationally. Try to stay calm. If you feel you are becoming agitated then ask if you can take a quick break to help you feel calmer. Some deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques, can be helpful.
- If you are unsure of anything then ask. Lawyers and mediators should not use terminology that people don’t understand. If you hear something that is unfamiliar, or you find an explanation confusing, then say so. This can make you feel self-conscious – especially if you feel that your ex-partner is more confident with money than you – but you cannot consider a particular suggestion if you don’t understand what is being proposed.
- If you feel that more legal advice would be helpful before you can properly consider a suggestion then say so. You can arrange to discuss the matter with your lawyer before the next mediation meeting. It is often helpful to speak to your lawyer between mediation meetings to obtain further advice and to update them on your discussions.
- Speak up if you feel something about the process isn’t working for you. It may be something that is easily resolved and sitting in meetings feeling uncomfortable is unlikely to assist the situation and help you find a resolution. Even if you feel it is something very small, or silly, the mediator, or your lawyer, will be happy to help make things better for you, if they can.
- Double check any steps that you and your ex-partner need to take after a meeting. You want each meeting to be as productive as possible so it’s important that you each understand what you need to do between meetings. This can involve checking some information, or obtaining some further documentation, or just considering a particular suggestion and discussing it with your lawyer.
If you would like to know more about mediation and how it can help you to find a resolution to your family issues, then please contact Dominic Raeside, Head of Mediation at Family Law in Partnership : E: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 020 7420 5000.
For more information on mediation, visit our website page which explains how mediation works and what types of disputes it can be used to resolve.