Simon Hughes and the MoJ ask:
- What barriers are currently in place for family mediation?
- What else could be done to promote mediation?
- How have you promoted mediation in your local area?
OnlyDads and OnlyMums are not mediation specialists, but our organisation attracts many thousands of emails and questions from those going through the family law experience. What follows is informed by this data collection exercise and is our initial response to the MoJs initiative:
- Costs. In particular couples are very unclear how long it will take to arrive at a conclusion when they start mediation. Many describe it as “too open-ended”.
- Knowledge about the mediation process itself – some (dads especially) think it’s something akin to “getting back with the ex”
- Many don’t trust the ex and can’t bring themselves to even sit in the same room.
- Many (and again we would highlight dads) feel a judge, and a judge only, will accept their version of events.
- There is a common feeling with mums and dads that if the other chooses a mediator, then that mediator will be “their” mediator and may be biased as a result.
- The “ex doesn’t turn up despite repeated requests”
- The “kerfuffle at the fridge over the taking of some family photographs” gets turned into accusations of domestic abuse and mediation doesn’t even get started.
- Situation where there is a historic power in-balance – cases involving domestic abuse.
How to Promote Mediation Services:
Sweeping generalisation – but perhaps women are more attuned into mediating in general then men. If that is the case, concentrating on men (dads) would seem to be a sensible approach.
Beware of more “top-down” promotion. The “sorting out separation” initiative was always going to be doomed. Central Government getting directly involved in people’s lives, especially at times of breakdown, is not going to be welcomed. I’m guessing the DWPs official line is that it’s been very successful but we can assure you that from grassroots level, the scheme was viewed as unwarranted interference, not trusted, lacking the right questions and responses, and subsequently, resolutely panned!
Supporting groups like OnlyDads that don’t have campaigning / political bias but that work with mums and dads and encourage reconciliation – mediation with a small ‘m’ and a big ‘M” – will help. (Now we would say that! but I think the case stands up to close scrutiny).
Promoting Mediation in Locality
This is really a question for local Mediation services and our views are limited. That said, NFM and a few outward looking mediation services add links to site like ours and in turn, we help spread the word through social media. That works.
We are trying to finalise plans for the rolling out of more of our (to be mediator-led) dads groups. At a very local, grassroots, level these will help as work and support can be offered directly to address some of the barriers referred to above. We would encourage mediation services to keep in touch with us on developments.
We suggest the mediation sector to do more media work – you rarely hear the subject aired on local radio, for instance.
To find a mediation service in your area, please click here.
We would welcome your comments – especially on highlighting Barriers to Mediation. Many thanks.