When we talk about mediation in divorce proceedings, especially where children are involved, it’s often in the context of sharing care of children or simply of making the process as stress-free as possible for any young or vulnerable family members.
However, there are also cases where other factors come to bear on the separation, and as the UK becomes an increasingly multicultural society, the number of divorces where cultural considerations are an issue is only likely to rise.
In a recent High Court ruling, an atheist father lost his attempt to block his ex-wife from sending their son to a Muslim faith school in London, after claiming he feared that his son would subsequently marginalise him if this were to happen.
The case was already ruled in the mother’s favour in the family courts, but was taken to the High Court by the father on appeal, where the judge ruled that the original verdict was correct and that the father would not be marginalised by his son.
In this case, the father had previously converted to Islam and the pair were married for nine years, but he denounced the faith after their divorce and wanted to ensure his son was sent to a secular school.
The ruling is significant for couples with differing religious views – although of course the man was Muslim throughout the pair’s marriage, but not before or since.
While it may be impossible to fully reconcile opposing views on religion, mediation is an option not only during divorce, but even before entering into a marriage, in order to bridge the gap between different cultural backgrounds and find some common ground on which your future relationship can be based.
This gives you a platform for future parenting decisions – either together as a couple, or after separating – that will hopefully ensure more of both parents’ views are respected, and avoid long, costly and stressful court action such as occurred in this case.
Remember also that while a court will rule based on a direct interpretation of the law, a mediator acts in the best interests of the people involved – including both parties and also any vulnerable third parties like children.
By appointing a mediator to your case, you therefore make it much more likely that your individual points of view will be heard and a solution found that strikes a fair balance between the opposing positions, rather than following a strict legal route to rule entirely in the favour of one party, and entirely against the other.