My first session at family mediation

I went to my first family mediation session on Friday.

The process starts with one to one interviews with both parties.  This is so that the mediator can understand why you are at family mediation and what you want to discuss.  The mediator also outlines the family mediation process:  how long sessions are; how many sessions will be required; the role of the mediator.   The main purpose of the first session is to ascertain whether mediation can actually work and whether it is worth pursuing.  This was a decision that I had to make at the end of the session and I am guessing was a decision that my ex also had to make at the end of his session. 

family mediation

I started by providing the mediator with a bit of background about our relationship:  when we split up;  how long we’d been together;  the fact that our son is 11 months old.  Stuff like that.  The mediator asked a few questions to clarify points, but her questioning was all very matter of fact.  Her role was to establish facts that would help her to mediate our future discussions.  Her role is not to judge or to offer an opinion.

We then spoke about the circumstances of our separation and why I felt the need for family mediation.  I told her that I felt that I need a third party in the room to enable me to have these difficult conversations.  My ex, I warned her, would be charming and polite but had a bit of a temper and was unpredictable with me.  The mediator didn’t pass judgement, obviously, but reassured me that actually you can never predict what someone is like behind closed doors.  Her primary concern was to ensure that I had the courage to speak freely and openly and to state what I want in front of him.  She cannot speak for me.  If I cannot speak my mind and leave the sessions unhappy with the outcome then family mediation has been a waste of time and money.  She was quite clear about this. 

I had to think about it.  I have been nervous and intimidated about outlining what I think is in the best interests of our son because he retorts that I am taking his son away from him.  The mediator reassured me that if, at any point during the family mediation sessions, I wanted to stop the session or have a word with her outside then I could, but I have to be able to put my point of view across.  I am going to need to rehearse this!

We then talked through what I wanted to discuss at family mediation – arrangements for our son, and maintenance.  At this point, I did kind of think that the mediator would offer an opinion, or give her assessment of our current arrangements for our son.  She didn’t and I have to say that this was a bit disarming.  Everyone has a view!  But she was very professional and kept hers to herself.   

The role of the mediator is to host the conversation and she will record agreements.  She said that she could also offer some suggestions, based on her experience of what arrangements other couples have come up with, for us to consider.  She asked whether I would be willing to consider alternative suggestions and arrangements.  Of course I would!

Apparently, at some points during the process the mediator may advise one or both of us to seek legal advice.  I have already sought legal advice, as you know, and told the mediator this. 

The output of the family mediation sessions is a memorandum of understanding.  If we like, we can take this memorandum of understanding to a solicitor and make it legally binding.

My initial family mediation meeting was actually very quick – just over half an hour.  The sessions themselves will be 90 minutes which feels like a long time. 

I am actually really nervous about my first family mediation session.  I don’t know what it will be like and I don’t know how my ex will react.  I suspect he will cry, which he has a habit of doing if things aren’t going his own way.  The family mediation sessions will be really stressful, but I appreciate that they are necessary and the only way I am going to be able to put my views across about what is in the best interests of our son.    

You can read about my aspirational parenting plan here.

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21 Comments

    • thesingleswan
      August 16, 2015 / 7:32 pm

      Thank you. I suspect that lots of my posts are going to have mediation theme in the coming months. Watch this space! Thanks for your comment. x

  1. August 13, 2015 / 2:13 pm

    I think you taking the first step in this scary and unpredictable process is very brave of you! What my ex and I have to do is take a parenting class that is, from what I heard, three to four sessions and they are group classes. We also have to take them separately. The state of MA requires this of couples with children getting a divorce. I, personally believe the state over reaches by requiring EVERY couple to attend these classes but I kind of wish you had this where you are. It sounds like it would be something that could benefit both you and your ex but going to a mediator is a great first step. You’re doing the right thing and you will find the strength to express yourself in these meetings with your ex. Just knowing that someone else is there in the room with you might be a comforting factor and will allow you to open up about what you want. Thanks for sharing at #happyquacks
    Michelle recently posted…Steak and Potatoes!My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 16, 2015 / 7:31 pm

      HI Michelle,

      That’s really interesting. If you go to court they insist on a parenting class here, but I want to try to avoid any kind of adversarial litigation. I don’t think it will be in the best interests of our son. The parenting class sounds really interesting – let me know how it goes. x

  2. August 13, 2015 / 2:48 pm

    Great information you shared that hopefully will put others at ease. So many would value your perspective. If I may suggest, please visit divorceforce.com and share your experience in the forums section. Converse with others. We like to tell people affected by divorce, “You’re not alone.” Thanks and best moving forward, your Friend at DivorceForce.

    • thesingleswan
      August 16, 2015 / 7:28 pm

      THank you and I will take a look at divorceforce.com

    • thesingleswan
      August 16, 2015 / 7:27 pm

      Hi Debbie,

      Yes, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully you are right and he is more likely to be reasonable. I’ll let you know how it goes. xx

  3. August 14, 2015 / 9:18 pm

    I think it sounds like you are moving in a positive direction and the steps you have taken are a mature and brave way to move forward. I know so many people that just argue it out between themselves and never actually come to any sort of agreement. This sounds like a much better approach. If you feeling nervous maybe write yourself a bullet point list before going to help organize your thoughts. You don’t have to get it out but just having it with you and having a quick read before you go in might help settle your nerves and make you feel more in control. Best of luck with it all x
    Zoe dunn recently posted…Stickly Lemon Drizzle LoafMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 16, 2015 / 7:24 pm

      Hi Zoe,

      thanks for your comment. Yes, a bullet point list with my key points is a good idea. I will give it a go. thanks x

  4. August 18, 2015 / 8:33 pm

    I think mediation is a very brave step…good luck with it. I hope it brings you what you need to help deal with this difficult situation. I think your ex agreeing to it is a step in the right direction for your son. Although I’m sure the mediator won’t allow it…don’t let him intimidate you.
    Thanks for linking up to #happyquacks x
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    • thesingleswan
      August 18, 2015 / 9:11 pm

      Hi Natasha,

      Thank you for your comment and continued support. I really appreciate it. Us single mothers need to stick together you know! I will let you know how it goes. I hope you and the little one are well. Some great photos of him on your site. He looks so grown up! x

  5. August 19, 2015 / 11:26 am

    good luck with this, and just remember, its good that she offers no opinions or advice, because all of the things he will use to try to get her on his side will not work as she will remain impartial throughout!

    it is purely a space for you both to talk where you both hopefully listen and come up with a mutual decision for your child.

    I did the same initial meeting but they agreed with me that it wasnt the right time for mediation, and then months later me and my ex were able to talk things through without needing one and whilst he doesnt agree with why we couldnt have mediation, he is happy we both get on and he has regular contact.

    So there is hope and you will get through this, good luck!
    #singleparentlinky
    Claire Jacobs recently posted…Single Parent Linky 13My Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 19, 2015 / 7:04 pm

      Hi again, that is a good point! He will try to get her on his side with his various sob stories, so the fact that she remains impartial is obviously a good thing.

      I am really glad that you are both managing to get on and that there is regular contact. Things are still raw for the both of us to be honest. I don’t like seeing him at all so it is quite difficult, particularly when I find him in my flat talking to my Mum when I get home – like this evening. He had seen my son this afternoon and dropped him back home…and my Mum couldn’t get rid of him. He was on his charm offensive with her.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  6. August 21, 2015 / 7:42 pm

    This is such a brave post to write. And I hope that writing it has helped you get things clear in your mind. I wish you lots of luck with the mediation process and really hope that you get what you want from it. Stay strong! Thanks for linking up with #SundaysStars. Hugs Mrs H xxxx
    Mrs H recently posted…Vlog Club – My top five beauty productsMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      August 23, 2015 / 8:34 am

      Hi Mrs H,

      Thanks for your comment. I will let you know how mediation goes. We have our first joint session next week. I am a bit nervous about it just because I think it will be very stressful, emotional and exhausting. Thanks for reading. #SundayStars

    • thesingleswan
      August 25, 2015 / 8:52 pm

      It’s always a pleasure Debbie. #AnythingGoes

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