Mediation and Safety
Before Mediation is arranged we will consider very carefully whether Mediation is suitable for a family and that it is safe for the participants and their children. It needs to be safe before during and after any mediation meeting.
Our screening process is rigorous and we will meet with each of the participants separately to check suitability for mediation and to assess safety issues.
Safety is an on-going priority and we will end mediation if it became unsafe.
We are able to look at options, such as staggered arrival and departure or the couple remaining in separate rooms and or being accompanied by a friend or their Solicitor, in order to make mediation viable.
Ian is accredited by Resolution as an expert on domestic abuse. He has a long track record as a Solicitor in assisting clients to gain protection from abusive partners. We therefore take all safety issues very seriously.
This is not to say that mediation should never take place when there has been abuse.
What is important is to set up a process which is safe, before during and after the mediation meetings.
As a Solicitor, Ian has seen cases over the years where a parent who has been abused has ended Court Proceedings with a Judge having imposed on them a greater level of contact between their child and the other parent than they are comfortable with. The Judge may also have not believed some of their allegations. The abused person can feel that arrangements are unsafe and out of their control.
It is complex and the mediator needs to be cautious, but sometimes mediation can actually work better for an abused parent. This is because the plans and arrangements that come out of mediation must be joint plans. This means that they cannot go further or faster than BOTH are willing to. The parent who has been abused therefore retains a share in the decision making and a veto, which they would not have in Court.
This is complex and is something which would need to be discussed at length before any process is set up.
AS we make clear throughout this website, we are very child focussed.
Child protection is something that we take extremely seriously.
All of the mediation governing bodies have child protection policies which derive from the Code of Practice of the over-arching Family Mediation Council.
The Code states
“Where it appears necessary, so that a specific allegation that a child has suffered significant harm may be properly investigated, or where mediators suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, mediators must ensure that the relevant Social Services department is notified.”
“Where mediators suspect that any child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, they must advise the participants to seek help from the appropriate agency. Mediators must also advise the participants that, in any event, they are obliged to report the matter to the appropriate agency”
“Where mediators consider that the participants are or are proposing to act in a manner likely to be seriously detrimental to the welfare of any child of the family or family member, they may withdraw from the mediation. The reason for doing this must be outlined in any further communication.”
So, if we become suspicious that a child has suffered or is at risk of significant harm, we MUST report this to Social Services.
Social services must investigate any report and the mediation would not be able to continue until that investigation is complete. This is not to say that mediation cannot continue afterwards. It all depends on what the outcome of the investigation is and how the parents wish to proceed and whether they can safely.
Our founder, Ian Walker has been a member of the Law Society Child Law Accreditation Scheme (Children Panel) since 1996 and so we have an acute awareness of what constitutes significant harm.
If parents have got themselves in a mess over their children’s safety, it is important that they put their children first and seek help to make sure that safety issues are sorted out as soon as possible.
What is viable and achievable within mediation depends on the skill of the mediator and the extent to which there is common ground between parents. We are always very cautious when there is a safety issue.