Family Dispute Resolution is a non-adversarial way of resolving arguments and conflicts that arise in family disputes without involving authorities such as the court system. It can be used to resolve many types of dispute provided the nature of the conflict does not break the boundaries of the law.
Types of family conflicts
Families get into conflict over many different topics. Here are some examples:
Nobody expects to find themselves in a dispute especially within the family.
Issues can escalate if disagreements become intractable and other family members take sides or fuel the dispute behind the scenes. The sooner the parties realise they are in a dispute the earlier they can begin to resolve the problems.
There are many things you can try yourself but if these things don’t work, it is wise to get support from someone who can help you work through the issues.
It is not always necessary to bring everyone to a meeting. Sometimes working through it yourself with professional help can enable you to find solutions you hadn’t thought of. Sometimes a dispute needs a legal ruling, such as child contact in families where there has been a history of violence and even then the legal ruling will not solve the conflict. It will just create an order which must be carried out by law and there may be residual resentment.
Sometimes the parties really do want to sort it out but they have exhausted everything they know how to do and in those cases getting support from a suitably qualified and experienced mediator can unlock the problem and help everyone find a way forward.
What is Family Mediation?
Mostly, the term ‘Family Mediation’ refers to a formal process which helps people to decide on property, finance and child contact issues in divorce and separation.
Mediation is a very broad term and can work in all kinds of dispute. The key thing to remember is that the mediation room is a place where people who have a dispute can attend a safe, confidential and neutral space to work through differences and arrive at a solution they can both agree to. This differs from the court process where a judge will impose an outcome.
Mediation is voluntary, impartial and self-determining. This means that the people in the dispute negotiate the terms of their agreements with the help of a mediator.
What does a Family Mediator do?
A family mediator helps the people in a dispute to communicate. The mediator is impartial and does not take sides. The mediator creates the conditions in which a constructive dialogue and principled negotiation takes place. The mediator ‘holds’ the space and may address power imbalances ensuring the conversation is fair and equitable but the parties themselves agree the solutions.
Sometimes, it is advisable to have taken legal advice to ensure that any agreements are within the framework of the law and the mediator may recommend that you take legal advice but the mediator will not give you advice or tell you what to do or tell you whether what you are agreeing to is good for you. If the agreement is going to be put in front of a judge to become a legally binding consent order, the mediator might let you know whether a court is likely to agree to it based on their experience of how family court works. For example a court is unlikely to agree that one person in a divorce gets a house while making the other person homeless and reliant on benefits.
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