Family breakdown can, for many, be one of the most stressful life events. The inevitable conflict and uncertainty which it involves can lead to significant upset and distress, particularly where children are concerned. In many ways, the traditional legal process is ill-equipped to deal with the fall-out of a failed relationship.

Lawyers, in fulfilling their role of protecting their clients’ positions, can often fuel their clients’ natural desire for revenge or justice, leading to the entrenchment of views and positions, and often protracted, stressful and costly litigation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an alternative process for resolving family disputes. It helps couples make decisions together. Mediators are impartial and offer a safe and confidential forum for family members to discuss the issues they face and come to agreements which will work best for everyone.

Advantages of mediation

Research has proved that using mediation to resolve disputes has a number of advantages over litigation. The parties involved retain control over decisions made, rather than handing them over to a third party, such as a judge, who, however well-meaning, simply cannot understand the family dynamics as well as the family themselves. Further, people are more likely to abide by a mediated settlement, because they consent to it voluntarily, than an order that is imposed upon them which may be wholly undesired.

Another advantage of mediation is that it can often help a former couple to communicate better. The mediator’s role is simply to facilitate discussions, rather than lead those discussions. The parties have to work together to find solutions. Very often, where children are involved, the parents will face years of parenting together even if they no longer wish to live together. The more parents are able to communicate effectively about decisions which relate to their children, the less conflict the children will be exposed to. Mediation is also very often a more cost-effective and swifter option than pursuing matters through the court system.