Written by Sheena Adam

Sheena is a vastly experienced mediator who specialises in children matters and financial disputes.

It is good to acknowledge that you may be nervous and wary of your ex-partner.  Mediation is a really helpful supportive process, but it may still be hard to sit down with your ex even with a skilled mediator present.

“Think what matters most to your children – you winning the argument or their parents working together.”

Hopefully you will already have met your mediator and been able to ask questions about the process, be reassured that they will work hard to ensure you both get the best out of the session.

Some tips which may help you before your first joint meeting.

Try to focus on the future and solutions rather than the past and recriminations – consider what you want to achieve from mediation for yourself and your family. Blame is very tempting but does not usually help change anything and uses up a lot of your precious emotional energy. If there is a lot to sort out then it can also help to ask yourself “What is the one most important thing I want to come away from today having achieved?”

Think “problem solving”. Try to imagine this might be someone else’s problem and what would you suggest. This is not to deny your strong feelings but to apply some of your positive rational side and to avoid the emotional aspects overwhelming you.

Mediation often talks about “Win/Win” outcomes. This means that we are aiming for outcomes which benefit everyone especially any children involved rather than one person feeling they have gained a lot and the other very little. That means thinking of compromises which you can both live with. If both of you approach mediation in terms of there being only your own preferred outcome, then you are locked in conflict “My way versus yours”. However, if you can look wider at other alternative solutions which might not be perfect but can work for both of you then these are more likely to be achievable.

For example, if both of you really want the children to live with you, which is understandable as you both love them, then a shared care arrangement can work really well and help the children avoid the loss of either parent

During the joint mediation session, you will be keen to say all that is important to you. The mediator should help ensure this happens for both of you, but it will also help if you can try to slow down and listen to your ex-partner rather than assume that he or she has nothing useful to say. You might be surprised and avoid missing perhaps a positive offer or willingness to meet you half way.

Towards the end of your joint mediation session make sure that you understand and are on board with what has been agreed. Again, the mediator should help clarify and summarise what you have agreed but it is really important that you do not:

Agree to something which you know will not work

Feel awkward about asking questions to make sure you understand the outcome

You should then both receive identical written summaries of the outcome which reflect what you have agreed

Finally, I will share a quote from an eminent child psychologist:

“Think what matters most to your children – you winning the argument or their parents working together”

Additional Reading/Resources

If you are facing court alone many people have found Lucy Reed’s book, ‘Family Court Without A Lawyer’ particularly useful.

You may also find our page on How To Tell Your Children You Are Divorcing – Recommended Books useful.

The Handover Book by Ashley Palmer is a unique and simple communication book for separated families. It will allow them both to always be aware of what is happening in their children’s busy lives as they go from one household to another. It’s a way of communicating the important things they both need to know about their children, while keeping your relationship as parents friendly and calm.

Charlotte Friedman has written Breaking Upwards – How To Manage The Emotional Impact Of Separation. Charlotte offers calm, therapeutic advice on everything from how to manage loneliness to letting go of grievance, and draws on illuminating case studies to answer questions such as:  How long before I get over this divorce? How do I tell the children?  How do I cope with the new partner in my ex’s life?


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