Mediation does work; Coronation Street doesn’t get its portrayal
Tonight on Coronation Street the characters Nick and Leanne had a meeting with a mediator; traded insults and stormed out to find Nick’s car being clamped.
I have spent years groaning about how family law is portrayed in TV drama, and now mediation gets the treatment.
Where they got it wrong
- Before the mediation started the mediator should have met with both Nick and Leanne first in separate meetings to explain what was involved and to check that that mediation was a process which would help them
- Nick has given Leanne a black eye and has not that long since had a head injury and anger issues. The case might not be suitable for mediation at all, but if so. it might work better with 2 mediators or with separate rooms as a shuttle mediation, or using the “hybrid model of mediation” where there is a longer meeting (which is properly planned for) and where Solicitors also come along
- In Coronation Street it appeared the Mediator was meeting Nick and Leanne for the first time at the first session! I suppose that could happen with a larger mediation practice if a different mediator undertook the assessment or MIAM meeting; but definitely not with my service.
- They didn’t sign an agreement to mediate; At the start of a mediation, everyone signs the mediation contract which is called the agreement to mediate. This confirms the confidentiality of the process and the ground rules. The Mediator talks the couple through the agreement before it is signed. On one level this is a bit slow, but the idea is that the couple are able to get used to being in the room and each others company before they start talking. Hopefully they can relax a little.
- With a good preliminary meeting or MIAM the mediator will know what the issues are in advance. This will help when they ask both what they want to talk about and set an agenda. Generally the agenda is written up on the flip-chart. Usually there is common ground; If not it is decided what is going to talk about in what order and for how long.
- If there are going to be financial matters under discussion, generally the mediator will send to both in advance the forms requiring financial disclosure. The couple bring their financial information with them. A good amount of time is then spent clarifying this, and establishing a common picture. There are lots of little agreements; most of the work is non contentious; again this relaxes the couple and gets them working together. Where things are not agreed, we can work out what extra information is needed to to enable both to make informed decisions together…
I could go on…
What makes mediation work?
In short the answer is preparation
The Mediator needs to meet both separately first to establish if there is a viable process
The Mediator needs to check for abuse issues or mental health issues or other factors which would rule the process out completely, or which would only make it viable if an alternative model was used.
The Mediator needs to prepare the couple properly for the joint meeting
The Mediator needs to keep discussions focused
The Mediator needs to help the couple to identify the problems that need to be resolved and then assist them to gather the information to help them to find solutions
Understanding what is needed comes with experience.
Even then not every case does succeed, but many do, if the couple recognise the problem and are willing to negotiate
If you saw tonight’s Coronation Street; Please do not be put off: Mediation could still work for you