Written by Samantha Lee

Solicitor & Mediator at Swain & Co

Samantha is a Resolution trained All Issues Family Mediator, member of the Law Society’s Family Mediation panel and authorised by the Family Mediation Council to carry out legally aided mediation.

Sam is a very approachable solicitor and mediator with years of experience and is highly respected in the legal community. Claire Webb, Mediation Now

My husband (we don’t live together) wants us to go to mediation. Thing is, I don’t want to be in the same room as him.

Mediation is a process whereby you and your husband meet with a totally independent third party to discuss, with their assistance, the issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship whether that is financial matters or the arrangements for your children with a view to reaching agreements and avoiding the huge costs and acrimony of court proceedings.

Speak to the mediator; they can put in place staggered arrival and leaving times so you don’t have any awkward moments.

Generally, mediation takes places with the two of you in the same room with the mediator talking about the issues that need to be resolved but that does not have to be the case.

As a mediator, I would first ask why you are reluctant to be in the same room as your husband. Clearly, if there has been a history of domestic abuse it may be that mediation as a whole is not appropriate let alone with you both in the same room.

However, it is the mediator’s role to make sure that you are comfortable and secure in the process. The mediator will make sure that you both have equal opportunity to speak and hear what the other person is saying. There will be ground rules to make sure that there is no verbal abuse or aggressive behaviour. The mediator will also ensure that you both fully understand the discussions, which can sometimes involve complex finances for example so that you are on equal footing when it comes to making decisions.

As a mediator, I appreciate that often the people involved are on their best behaviour in the mediation room and the concern is what may be done or said afterward. We do not, of course, want there to be problems on the way out or in the car park. Speak to the mediator; they can put in place staggered arrival and leaving times so you don’t have any awkward moments in their reception room and also provide separate waiting rooms. Before any joint appointment takes place you will meet the mediator on your own first for a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting) when you will have the opportunity to raise all your concerns and to hopefully be reassured.

If you still would prefer not to be in the same room as your husband – you do not have to be.

You can mediate on a shuttle basis.

Shuttle mediation

Shuttle mediation means that you and your husband are in separate rooms and the mediator goes between you reporting what you are saying and helping you negotiate an agreement. There is no reason at all why shuttle mediation cannot work as well as a joint mediation appointment. The only point I would make is that although as a mediator I will faithfully report to you what your husband is saying, sometimes it is not what someone says but how they say it that is important. Therefore if you are for example seeking assurances from your husband about an issue you may want to hear it from him direct.

The main message is that you do not have to decide now. Even once mediation has started you have the option to separate if you have started in the same room and are struggling with it or to come together if you are mediating on a shuttle basis and feel progress is being made.

My advice is to attend a MIAM and discuss how you feel with the mediator. You can then make an informed decision about what you would prefer to do.

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    Still concerned about attending mediation?

    As Samantha suggests above, talking things through with your mediator beforehand is sensible advice. It's crucial you are comfortable and your mediator will want to know of any concerns.

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