Updated: Nov 18
There are some occasions when mediation ought not to be attempted. Your mediator will address this with you before they agree to conduct a mediation. Sometimes partners are abusive or there may be other reasons why one party might be too vulnerable to try mediation.
Nearly everyone who comes to family mediation has some negative feelings about their Ex. The breakdown of a relationship is a time of turmoil when people have to find new ways of relating to each other. People can be really difficult. And what was once a minor irritation can now seem a major wrongdoing.
But what if your Ex really does deserve the title ‘Total Nightmare’? Well then it’s unrealistic for you to be expected to mediate.
Which is why mediation is strictly voluntary. You only start if you choose to do so; if you change your mind, you are absolutely free to stop the mediation at any stage.
But choosing not to mediate is not the end of the matter. You still need answers to questions like: ‘What happens to our belongings?’ ‘How will the needs of the children be met?’ and so on. Decisions about these issues will have to be made at some stage. So sooner or later, the two of you are likely to negotiate and reach agreement. You might as well reach that agreement sooner and be done with it.
So what if you decide that it is worth trying mediation?
Well the ‘Total Nightmare’ will still be a total nightmare - but they won’t be your responsibility. The Mediator will be responsible for managing the mediation process - sometimes in separate rooms. Your only responsibility would be for yourself and your own behaviour in the mediation process.
What’s more, if the ‘Total Nightmare’ proves unwilling or unable to behave reasonably, the Mediator can and will bring the mediation process to an end.
Have a think about what should happen at your Assessment Meeting*.
There are four elements to that meeting, which is likely to last at least an hour:
A conversation about your situation - so that the Mediator understands what you are facing
An explanation of the family mediation process – what it does, and what it doesn’t do, how long it might take and what it is likely to cost – and other alternatives to Court
Importantly, an assessment of the situation to check whether there are reasons why you should not mediate
Thinking about your next steps and preparing for mediation
If the Family Mediator has conducted the Assessment Meeting well, you should be fairly clear in your own mind whether, despite your Ex being a ‘Total Nightmare,’ family mediation is worth trying.
But just a note of caution: If you don’t feel that the mediator has listened to you carefully or explained the process and satisfactorily answered your questions; if they haven’t explored with you the things that might make mediation unsuitable; or if you feel that you are being pressurised, then you should not mediate (or perhaps better, not with that mediator).
Remember that no-one has to mediate and if, having attended the Assessment Meeting, you decide that you don’t want to, then don’t.
There are alternatives, and the Mediator will explain them as part of the Assessment Meeting
You might ask your solicitors to negotiate on your behalf with each other.
Or you might go to Court.
Less commonly, but worth considering if they are available, you might feel more comfortable in Collaborative Family Law, or even try Family Arbitration with a private judge appointed to make decisions for you.
The mediator will be able to explain all of these options to you and answer your questions and explain what each is likely to cost you, and how long they are likely to take.
Two final thoughts:
Your Ex - is an ex-partner, not an ex-person (or ex-parrot!). You might think again about the language you use to describe them. This is the start of what is called empathy and a first step on the path to resolving your legal disputes.
When children hear their parents speaking ill of each other, it is toxic for them. So even if you think that your Ex is a ‘Total Nightmare,’ if you have children, try your best to make sure that they don’t hear you say it.
*The Assessment Meeting, known as a ‘MIAM’ is usually needed if you wish to make an Application to the court for a Child Arrangement Order or Financial Relief Order.