Written by Louisa Dickson

Family Mediator at Southern Family Mediation

Louisa set up Southern Family Mediation in 2014 following a successful career in corporate mediation and conflict resolution. She is an Family Mediation Council Accredited Mediator, FMA qualified and she is qualified to consult with children.


Not since the law changed in April 2014, if you have a problem with your ex about the arrangements for your children or finances and you feel that court may be the only option for you then before making an application to the family court a person must attend a Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).

Having attended the MIAM and got your court form signed by the mediator, you then do not have to go to any further mediation, as this is voluntary (i.e. no one can make you).

I’m afraid of my ex. Do I still need to follow the MIAMs procedure?

Your ex won’t be at the same meeting. In some cases you don’t need to attend a MIAM (domestic violence which has been reported and prosecuted; involvement of social services regarding the welfare of a child; urgency and threats of the removal of a child from the country).

So then why should I go to Mediation?

In a nutshell – your children need you to.

I could give you reasons – such as going to court is expensive – but we love our children so much we would ultimately spend whatever it took for whatever was best for them.

No, this is about your children. Going to court inevitably pits parents against each other – opponents in the battle to have their view of what is best validated and be proved ‘right’.

Going to court should be a last resort.

In reality that rarely happens.

Often parents will genuinely believe their children are coping amazingly well with their separation. That the change from one to two households is working well. ”We don’t argue in front of the kids”, “they never see me upset”, “I’m always civil on handovers”.
Some parents are at the other other end of the scale and find the other parent unbearable, cannot even speak to them, and the children are well aware of their feelings.

Wherever you may fall within this range your children will definitely be hiding their true feelings from you – even if asked what they think and feel about the situation a child will almost certainly not be able to express their true feelings, because they do not wish to “upset” you, and want to protect you and your emotions. Children can read us like a book and are our emotional barometers, no matter how good our poker face!

It may feel like you and your ex are far apart now – but going to court will push you even further apart!

Separation is hard, on everyone. Our children need us to be bigger, calmer, wiser, stronger than they are, so when we are not they feel stressed, unsafe and destabilised.

When a child grows up afraid or under constant or extreme stress, their brain and nervous systems may not develop normally.

Children learn their self-worth from the reactions of others, particularly those closest to them. Parents have the greatest influence on a child’s self-esteem and value. The message that children take from seeing their parents caught up in a ‘war’ with each other is that the fight is more important than they are. The constant stress will make a child feel worthless and despondent, and often blame him- or herself. It may feel safer to blame oneself than to recognize the parent(s) as unreliable and/or unable to put their needs first. Shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and a poor self-image are common among children where a divorce or separation has been bitter and drawn out.

Mediation can help you both to make decisions and protect your children from all this. Your children don’t care (or need to know) about your relationship – they just want their parents, and to feel safe and untroubled.

At Southern Family Mediation we are a Child Inclusive Practice, and believe that to heal, the whole family must be involved.


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