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TITLE: National Dispute Resolution week (24-28the November): Q and A session with Family Mediator, Amina Somers of Somers Resolution

(19 Posts)
LocalEditorHackney Fri 21-Nov-14 16:05:39

To mark National Dispute Resolution week we are extremely lucky to be joined by Family Mediator Amina Somers who will be answering your questions posted on this thread.

Amina says "Family mediation is a way for couples experiencing relationship breakdown to resolve their disputes without the emotional and financial cost of going to court. Before anyone can bring court proceedings in respect of a family dispute they must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to assess whether family mediation would be suitable for their dispute. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a mediator (a neutral third party) helps the parties reach proposals for sorting out their dispute. In the family context disputes typically involve finances and arrangements for children – including contact with wider family members. But mediation can be used to resolve any type of dispute. I am a Mediator, Solicitor (non practicing), Therapeutic Counsellor and principal of Somers Resolution a specialist conflict resolution and psychological support practice. To mark National Dispute Resolution week I am supporting The Family Mediators Association in raising awareness amongst the public of what family mediation can offer to those involved in a family dispute by answering questions about family mediation'

So if you are experiencing a relationship breakdown and would like to understand how family mediation can help you resolve disputes with your ex partner or perhaps you're struggling to agree arrangements for your children, or sorting out finances with your ex partner or you want to avoid going to court to resolve a dispute then family mediation could well be a good option for you. Get your questions posted and Amina will be happy to help.

For more information about Amina's services then please visit

PottyMouther Sun 23-Nov-14 21:46:54

Hi there, I would love some advice on behalf of a close friend who separated from her partner last year. She is now primary carer for their 2 children and he provides no financial support and continually fails to turn up to visit the children. Neither of them qualify for legal aid however both would happily talk to a mediator. Is there anything you can advise on how they can do this?

AS10 Mon 24-Nov-14 11:27:42

Hello PottyMouther thank you for getting in touch.

Firstly, legal aid is still available for family mediation provided the parties come within the financial eligibility limits.Your friend and her former partner should look initially at the Family Mediation Council website. It is hoped that this website will become a central hub of information for family mediation. They can search for mediators in their area. They should try and agree say two or three mediators that they would would both be happy to instruct. Both should have an informal chat with the proposed mediators for the purpose of evaluating whether they wish to instruct the mediator. For example availability may be an issue if the mediation has to take place quickly or information about the professional background of the mediator may be important given the subject matter of the dispute or levels of emotional conflict. Most mediators have websites so much information about a mediator can be obtained there and anything that is not on the website or requires clarification can be asked about. It is important that both parties feel that they can work with the mediator and speaking with a mediator is a good way of assessing this. I hope this helps - if you need more information please say.

LocalEditorHackney Mon 24-Nov-14 19:32:27

If anyone would like to read Amina's fantastic blog post around the subject of Family mediation please just click here. Remember Amina is here all week so do keep your questions coming!

PottyMouther Tue 25-Nov-14 16:17:33

Thank you so much for your response, I passed this back to my friend who said that she has had it confirmed by a mediator that she is unable to get legal aid however thinks her partner should be able to, would that mean they could both attend mediation or would she still be required to pay. Your help is greatly appreciated!

Gbop77 Tue 25-Nov-14 22:54:46

What support exists for children who are the victim of seperated and feuding parents? Are they able to take part in mediation, for instance?

AS10 Wed 26-Nov-14 08:56:19

Hello PottyMouther,

I am very happy to help - thank you for posting such a useful question.

In answer to your second question - both can attend mediation but if your friend is not eligible for legal aid she will have to pay. If her partner is eligible for legal aid they need to look for mediators who undertake legally aided mediation. Mediators listed on the Family Mediation Council website will state whether or not they undertake legally aided mediation. Hope that helps.

AS10 Wed 26-Nov-14 09:33:56

Hello Gbop77,

Thank you for getting in touch.

Children can take part in the mediation process with family mediators who have undertaken specialist training in consulting children in mediation (Direct Consultation with Children).

Whether children should be consulted during the mediation process requires very careful consideration. There is much debate amongst mediators about the involvement of children. This debate usually includes consideration of whether consulting a child may result in pressure (whether intended or not) being brought to bear on the child by the parents.

There are a number of ways of supporting children of separating parents from alerting friends, family, carers, schools, nurseries of the difficulties a child might be facing or accessing local support groups to considering psychotherapeutic support for the child and/or for the family.

Helene80 Wed 26-Nov-14 10:06:28

Hi, I have two questions. I understand mediation is cheaper than using lawyers but when looking for a mediator should they have trained as lawyers?

In terms of the process itself, do you sit at a table with your ex and try and talk it through or is everyone in separate rooms. It can be very hard to hold my nerve when I am around my ex.

AS10 Wed 26-Nov-14 19:30:02

Hello Helene80,

Thank you for your questions.

Mediators come for a variety of professional backgrounds - lawyers, psychotherapists, social workers and financial advisers are just some of the types of professional trainings that family mediators have. Some mediators continue to work in these professions while also practising as mediators. It is therefore not necessary to choose a mediator that is also a lawyer. Most family mediation trainings for non lawyers include reference to relevant family law.

Mediators are neutral and act impartially and cannot not give legal advice even if they are also practising lawyers. If legal advice is necessary during the course of the mediation the parties can obtain their own legal advice, much in the same way as the parties may need financial planning advice in disputes relating to finances.

When choosing a mediator it is important to consider the issues involved in the dispute. For example if the parties relationship is characterised by high emotional conflict a mediator with a psychotherapeutic background may be preferred. It is also common in family mediations to have two mediators working together from complimentary professional backgrounds - say, a lawyer and a therapist or a lawyer and financial adviser while at the same time using the opportunity to address any gender imbalances.

Turning to your second question and the mediation process. There are many models of mediation. The traditional family mediation model involves a series of short sessions (usually of about 1.5 hours duration) over weeks or sometimes months where both parties sit with the mediator in the same room. However the advantage of mediation is that the mediator and the parties can devise a process that suits the particular circumstances of the dispute. For example where the parties find it difficult to sit in the same room together, for whatever reason, the model can be adapted and the mediator can move between the parties who can be in separate rooms ( sometimes referred to as shuttle mediation). You can discuss any concerns you have about the process with the mediator.

I hope this helps - if you need more information please get in touch.

Helene80 Thu 27-Nov-14 21:21:35

Thanks for that, v.helpful.

AS10 Thu 27-Nov-14 22:11:39

Hello Helene80,

You are very welcome.

I have, however, noticed a typo in my response. Please note that it should read " mediators cannot give legal advice" and not "mediators cannot not give legal advice". Apologies - I hope that is now clear.

4m4nd4 Fri 28-Nov-14 16:40:22

What happens when you cannot agree during mediation. My stbxh and I separated in feb and he finally moved out in July. I would very much like him to be more involved with our 4 children however he is happy to just have them on a Sunday for 6 hours. We would never agree on this so how would mediation help?

Willemdefoeismine Mon 01-Dec-14 09:40:01

Is there a place for mediation, even if you don't think your relationship has irretrievably broken down but is in need of some help?

DyeInTheEar Mon 01-Dec-14 11:08:30

My Ex left nearly 10 years ago when DS was about 4 months old & has not wanted to be involved in DS upbringing (no financial support & no contact). I am now married with two more children.

I'm now in the process of arranging for my DH to adopt my DS1 - both are very keen for this happen. I have a fear that the Ex won't cooperate as he has previously been unreliable & dishonest (e.g. when liaising with CSA).

Would instructing a mediator to handle communication be useful to us? It's incredibly important to us that the adoption happens but I'm delaying starting the process because it means contacting my Ex. He is the type who will say "yes this is great, let me know what I can do to help" and then won't do it, claim not to have got any paper work, change his mind - and essentially play games by no longer taking calls and saying it's not a good time for him etc. The Ex has parental responsibility so his permission & approval will be sought.


AS10 Mon 01-Dec-14 17:34:16

Hello 4m4nd4

Thank you for your questions.

In answer to your first question - if you cannot agree proposals to settle your disagreement the mediation will end without any agreed proposals. However neither you or your former partner will be prejudiced by having tried but failed to resolve matters in mediation. All discussions taking place during mediation are without prejudice and confidential and this means that what has been said during mediation cannot be disclosed to anyone (including in court proceedings) but your legal advisers.

Mediation is used in circumstances where neither party thinks that they will be able to reach an agreement but where both parties would like to resolve their disagreement.

It is understandably hard for separated or separating couples to think that they will ever be able to resolve their differences and that is why many separating couples turn to the courts for a Judge to make a decision about what should happen. One of the ways that mediation works is that most disagreements involve a difference in perception. You and your former partner's perception of what should happen regarding your children is different. It becomes, as you may have experienced, almost impossible for either you or your former partner to shift your perceptions and therefore your positions in the argument. A mediator is free of your perceptions and those of your partner and is therefore able to suggest ways of reconciling your differing views by either finding common ground or by coming up with new ideas that both of you can buy into.

I hope this helps.

AS10 Mon 01-Dec-14 21:04:26

Hello Willemdefoeismine,

Thank you for your question.

I understand what you are asking as - whether mediation can help relationships that have not broken down but that are in danger of doing so. If I have got that wrong, please say.

Where relationships are in difficulty couples therapy would be an appropriate place to look at and explore issues in the relationship including coming to a decision about whether to stay together or not.

Mediation is a process used to resolve specific and identifiable disputes or disagreements about particular issues. It is not therapy, though many mediators are trained counsellors or psychotherapists. Therefore where couples are thinking about separating or are embarking upon a trial separation, mediation could potentially be used to consider what might happen regarding arrangements for children and finances should the relationship breakdown or during the trial separation.

I hope I have interpreted your question correctly.

AS10 Mon 01-Dec-14 21:21:26

Dear DyeInTheEar

Thank you for your question.

Mediation is a process used to resolve disputes so that if your ex partner disagreed with the plan to adopt you could try mediation. However mediation is a voluntary process and your ex partner would have to agree to take part in it.

The mediator is a neutral and impartial third party in the process. The mediator will not give legal advice or take sides. So the Mediator would not act on your behalf in communicating with your ex partner on your behalf. The mediator would be able to write to your ex partner and invite him to take part in the mediation. But your ex partner could not be forced to mediate.

I hope this helps.

LocalEditorHackney Tue 02-Dec-14 12:08:39

Thank you so much Amina for taking the time to answer all these questions in such beautifully in-depth detail! It's really greatly appreciated and you've provided some fantastic and insightful answers. Same time next year smile we hope so!

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