Mediation for Families

Conflict is a natural part of family life. Mostly, families sort things out and move on. But that’s not always possible. If the difficulties are unresolved, family life can become a stressful battleground.

Sometimes families split apart causing stress and even feelings of shame and isolation. Where conflict is linked to challenges of ageing, there is often added complexity.

Just as you call on experts to help with many of life’s other problems – from home maintenance to health – mediators offer a set of skills which support you to resolve conflicts or disagreements.

You will be able to express what you need, ask questions and look for a way forward in a proven step-by-step process.

You stand to gain understanding, peace of mind and clarity about the future. Where there is a shared will, mediation can help you re-set or re-build a relationship, come to a decision or agree a joint plan.

Always working as a pair, we have a professional but warm approach. We ensure that our mediation meetings are focused and supportive, giving you the best chance of a swift, positive and lasting outcome.

A brief guide to mediation

The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation to help you resolve conflict within your family.

You are very welcome to call us, without obligation, to discuss your situation. We are enthusiastic advocates of mediation but we won’t mediate if we feel it is not appropriate.

Please note that we do not provide mediation for couples who are separating or divorcing and are needing to make arrangements for childcare and finances. This area of mediation is regulated by the Family Mediation Council which can help you find a mediator who is trained and registered for this specific purpose.

Mediation is an effective way of resolving conflict within families. It offers the possibility of an end to the stress, pain and disruption it causes. Mediation is not counselling or therapy but it does deal with human needs and emotions as well as practicalities. After mediation, many people comment on the helpfulness of a neutral third party in enabling people to listen and be heard, and to look to the future.

It can be used for conflicts between two individuals or between a group. Those involved don’t have to want to be ‘best friends’ (though some do want to restore a previously good relationship). All that is required is that they want to put an end to the conflict, are willing to give mediation a try, and are able to make decisions for themselves.

Even if you are considering resorting to the courts to sort out a family conflict, it is worth trying mediation first. It is a more constructive, quicker and far cheaper option. Mediation can be organised quickly and can improve or resolve things in one or two meetings, sometimes more if there are lots of issues or they are complex.

Family life (or living with friends) throws up a whole range of issues over which people fall out from time to time – practical, behavioural, emotional, moral, financial, lifestyle.

The generational differences between parents, young people and grandparents add further potential for disagreement in families.

New relationships and bereavement are common triggers for tensions. However, transitions of any sort can create or highlight differences. These include the arrival of children, children becoming adults, changing employment status, illness and life-changing accidents.

Getting older and changing needs associated with ageing can also present challenges for families. Our page on Elder Mediation looks at these.

Mediation is an effective way of addressing all kinds of conflict between two or more family members (or friends). Those involved need to be willing to give it a try and be able to make decisions for themselves.

Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of human interaction. Things can often be sorted out one-to-one or with help from another relative or friend, but there will be times when that doesn’t work.

Perhaps the issue has recurred or escalated, or those involved can no longer talk to each other. It may be that other people are being drawn in, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of the problem, or there’s no single person that everyone trusts to help sort things out. These are the kinds of circumstances where independent mediators are very helpful.

Mediation is at its most effective when initial attempts to sort things out have failed and things are beginning to escalate or become entrenched. But it can help to achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts. It can work if there is a shared desire for change.

Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party helps people in conflict to have a structured conversation about the issues that are important to them, and to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.

Mediation’s underlying principles help to give participants confidence in it. It is:

  • voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith
  • confidential – enabling openness and understanding
  • impartial – so that participants feel they are being treated fairly
  • neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no preferred outcome.
The mediator’s role

A skilled mediator:

  • will listen, reflect back, ask questions, challenge where necessary, identify areas of agreement/ disagreement, encourage, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
  • won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, apportion blame, offer suggestions, make decisions for the parties, force an agreement.
The process

There is some flexibility in how mediation works, but a typical process is as follows:

  • Referral. We consider the background to the conflict, its suitability for mediation, and the logistics.  If the referrer is a potential participant in mediation, we handle this stage with due care to ensure we remain impartial.
  • We contact each potential participant to see if they wish to get involved.
  • Arrangements made – date, time and venue.
  • Introductory meeting: the mediators meet privately with each participant to explore the situation as they see it and what they want to achieve. The mediators will not repeat anything they are told in this meeting to the other participants.
  • Joint mediation meeting: if everyone agrees, the participants come together in a structured meeting to discuss the issues and potential solutions. The mediators keep things constructive and record any points of agreement, including future actions.
  • Post-mediation The agreement is sent to participants. This is not a legal document but because everyone has helped to create it they tend to stick to it. We follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals to see how things are going.

The introductory meetings can take place either at your home or a venue close by. The joint mediation meeting always takes place in a neutral venue. We can help with finding suitable venues.

Costs vary depending on the circumstances and practicalities of the case. We will agree a fixed fee with you at the outset. Our fees for a two-client case progressing to a joint mediation start at £530 (£265/client). That covers set-up, 4 hours mediating time, and follow-up. We don’t charge VAT. Venue costs are extra as well as longer-distance travel. We request payment in advance but in stages so that you only pay for what you receive.

Unlike many other practices, we always mediate in pairs. We are skilled in co-mediating and believe that this approach gives clients the best chance of a positive outcome.

Compare our fees to the costs of solicitors which are likely to be in excess of £200/hour. Our factsheet on mediation may help you to weigh up your options.

Taking the first step

Those caught up in conflict are sometimes reluctant to try mediation. Perhaps it is because they feel things have gone too far or the other person won’t participate. Why not let us help with that? When people hear from someone neutral what mediation has to offer, they are often willing to give it a try. Please contact us to see whether we can help.