Family Mediation Week is an annual event that celebrates the positive impact of mediators for family law cases of all kinds, and in 2018 it is set to run from January 22nd to 26th.
A particular focus for the week is on families who are going through separation, and on how mediators can help to encourage collaboration and a productive approach to that process.
Figures from Cafcass – which represents the interests of children affected by court cases – show that in 2016-17, of the 40,000 cases in which Cafcass were involved, a massive 30% had already been through court before, most within the previous two years and, in a third of cases, it was not the first time the case had returned to the courts.
Reasons cited included a desire to include the child’s own wishes, a change in life circumstances, or just a high level of conflict between the affected adults.
Mediation exists to help overcome these kinds of conflicts by making sure everyone’s voice is heard from the outset, in a low-stress environment, with a view towards making positive progress in the case.
The obvious implication of a high return rate to court is simply that court cases do not have a high success rate at resolving these kinds of family dispute – so how does mediation help?
First of all, mediation is not mutually exclusive of court proceedings; it can help you to come to an agreement that you can then take into court to have formalised by a judge, if you wish.
But mediation begins from a basis of positivity and pragmatism; it aims to make progress relatively quickly, and at lower cost than running up more and more court fees; and it protects the mental health and wellbeing of you and your children.
All of this can be summed up for separating couples by the simple phrase ‘dignity in divorce’. You want to separate with as little emotional turmoil as possible, preserve your lifestyle once you live alone, and protect the emotional wellbeing of your children and any other vulnerable individuals who might be affected.
Yet despite the huge benefits of going through mediation – and the government’s introduction of mandatory mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM) at the start of family law cases, many thousands of people are still going through the costly, time-consuming and stressful gauntlet of a court case.
That is why events like Family Mediation Week are so important to help raise awareness of what mediators can offer, especially at a time of year when divorce cases are at their highest in the wake of Christmas and the New Year.