Can family mediation work in unusual situations?
We feel we have addressed the question of how family mediation works and the benefits of using this process in cases where there are two separated partners. We’ve also talked about involving children in child mediation, known as Child Inclusive Mediation. But what happens where your family set up is more complicated than that? Is family mediation still an option that can be used?
In looking at this blog we are thinking primarily about the following situations:
- Step parents – where a child’s parent and their step parent separate this can create issues relating to whether they will still have a relationship with their step parent and what that relationship will look like. Step parents often play a very significant role in bringing up a child and it is now a common family scenario for a child to have two parents and two step parents. The child or children may have a close bond with their step parent and there may therefore be questions around when a child will see each of their parents and when they also see their step parent.
- LGBTQ+ – as social and legal changes are made the family set up for a child becomes ever more diverse. A child may have two female parents or they may have a father who in a relationship with another man and a mother who is in a relationship with another woman. This means that there are other people involved with their parents (as with the example of step parents above) who also play a role in their upbringing.
- Grandparents – with life expectancy rates increasing, and medical and healthcare developments, active grandparents are increasingly playing a role in bringing up their grandchildren. This can bring wonderful benefits to grandparents of regular time with their grandchildren and a close bond. Being one step removed it is sometimes a grandparent that a child will confide in when their parents separate. There are also benefits for parents in being able to return to work without childcare costs – or with reduced childcare costs; and being able to have some much needed down time. Parental separation can mean that grandparents become excluded from time with their grandchildren as part of family disputes.
These are the main examples that we have considered in this blog but there may well be others we have not listed.
In these situations there are more people to be accommodated in the family mediation process and this can make it more complicated. But family law mediation can still be used to resolve issues between all parties. There are practical considerations in making sure the mediation room is comfortable and able to accommodate more parties (each scenario above will often mean there are four parties, or possibly more, in the room with the mediator). Alternatively the meetings can take place online which may be helpful if all the parties are spread out geographically. There also needs to be clear guidance on how the process will be managed. If both parties decide to speak at the time same it can be difficult to manage where there are only two people in the process, this is considerably magnified when four or more people try to speak at the same time.
The mediation meeting can start off with the child or children’s biological parents in the room and then introduce the other parties but this may not be appropriate where the other parties feel they play an equal role. In initial separate meetings the mediator will need to find out exactly what the issues are and what everyone’s expectations are regarding both a successful outcome, and with regard to what the process will be like an involve. It is important that everyone starts with a clear understanding of what will happen and what can be achieved and what is on the agenda for discussion.
Practical considerations aside it can be a great way of moving on after a divorce or separation to have everyone hear each other’s point of view and to work through different options. Sometimes it is the logistics that cause the difficulties rather than the principle of whether a child sees a particular person or not. Everyone coming together with an experienced facilitator who specialises in family disputes can be beneficial in helping everyone to put a plan together to move forward.
If you have a complex family situation and aren’t sure how to move forward after a divorce or separation with resolving issues then please get in touch so we can talk about how the family mediation process might work. You can call us on 01306 646690 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.