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Dr Shelagh Wright - Systemic and Family Psychotherapist and Family Mediator

I've Been Thinking - Dr Shelagh's Blog


Family mediation has 4 key principles that encompass the process of working with people to affect a desirable outcome. These principles are that mediation is:

  1. a voluntary process which means that anyone involved can stop it at any time as well as resume it at any time; this includes the mediators. This means that each person involved can feel free to use the mediation as it works best for them, there may be times when mediation is still wanted but things become too intense in the moment. This is not a reason to give up and taking a break may be the way to enable people to come back and talk more. There are times when a mediator may decline to mediate a particular case due to conflicts of interest or a belief that they are not able to help. It is generally a good idea to trust your instincts.
  2. an impartial process which means that as a mediator your personal views are not part of the process. The mediator is not there to take sides or to tell clients what to do or to solve the problem for them: they are there to facilitate the clients in finding solutions themselves, doing so in a neutral and even handed way. This enables clients to feel that they are in charge of the outcomes and so feel more confident in their own abilities to find solutions. The process of this may mean that the mediator does not engage in any conversation with either party outside of the mediation room. Sometimes one party will attempt to get the mediator on side or express concerns about the other party getting the mediator onside. The mediator needs to be aware of these dynamics and resist being drawn into them.
  3. not an advice giving process but mediators can give relevant information at times when it can be usefully used. Often in processes that are emotionally charged too much information at once can feel very overwhelming. Mediators can give information at appropriate points in the process that will best help the clients engage in and understand the process and come to reasonable solutions. It can be tempting for the mediator to use knowledge or skills from another setting that would not be appropriate for the mediation setting. Sometimes the only thing to do may be to suggest that the clients seek further advice from their lawyer or seek therapy from a reputable therapist. Mediators can easily work alongside other professionals who may be providing support/advice in a different context.
  4. a confidential process which means that any information discussed within the sessions will not be used in court in other words the discussions are 'without prejudice'. There are exceptions to this: any information relating to child protection issues or significant harm to another adult, or proceeds of crime or any illegal activity, the mediator is bound to pass on to the relevant authority. Clients can request that personal contact details not be shared. Mediators are not allowed to discuss the contents of the sessions, exceptions notwithstanding, without the permission of both parties. Mediators are not called to court to give any kind of evidence and cannot speak for either party. All information relating to finances however can be shared with the court. In a divorce hearing the court will always request financial disclosure form both parties. This means that as the court requires financial disclosure, the parties will not have to duplicate the process if mediation is unsuccessful and they end up going through the courts. The benefit is that as it is already completed they would save some costs.

Family Mediation Audio