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What are your experiences of mediation?

(10 Posts)
littlelamby Sun 23-Sep-12 18:35:10

It looks like DP and his ExP will soon be off to mediation (DP is the NRP). Relations are not great between them. The biggest disagreement is that ExP won't stick to arranged dates for contact, because she doesn't seem to see DP as important to the DSCs - she will change things at very short notice (on the day sometimes), and parties/clubs always are more important than seeing him. For example, he got told recently if he didn't bring them back early on Sunday, he couldn't have them for the whole weekend. He will never have them for Christmas. He is not important them, they don't care about him. Things like that. I could go on! (NB things with the kids are great! Phew).

Anyway, ExP has agreed to mediation. I was just wondering what other people's experience of the process was? Can you agree on solutions that work and are stuck to? How does it work? The info we have says mediators don't suggest solutions, but just help you come to them - but if two people totally disagree, what happens then? I try to stick to 'facts' rather than my opinion, but it seems like ExP has no respect for DP as the father of her children and doesn't think he's important - can mediation solve that?!

BadIdeaBear Sun 23-Sep-12 19:30:13

Hmm, I hope others have better stories for you but my DP and his ex (my DP is also NRP) went to mediation for two sessions in Nov/ Dec 2011. She dropped out after the second (and DP only found out when the mediator sent a letter to inform him of the fact). The issues in this case were not so much related to contact, as that had settled down reasonably by then and at least my DP's ex does realise how important he is to the kids and, credit where it's due, facilitates contact pretty well for the most part. So the mediation was a lot more to do with finances.

But the key problem with it is that it's all so... optional. So she didn't like the way things were going in the mediation session, so just doesn't return... And, of course, she was on Legal Aid and so my DP paid £300 for the privilege of achieving nothing.

However, mediators are very skilled indeed. They do not make suggestions, per se, but they ask the right questions and are patient. This can lead to people talking themselves into a corner where a certain realisation hits. In theory! I really hope it works out for your DP and his ex (and therefore, you too).

littlelamby Sun 23-Sep-12 19:42:57

Thanks for the answer BadIdeaBear - that's about what I expected! Interesting to hear you say that mediators 'ask the right questions' - that's a good thing to know.

Not holding out high hopes, as DP & ExP have such different opinions on what's important for the children. I really don't know what the answer is. In some ways, court seems a good option as at least someone neutral sets out some rules... but I'm aware it won't be that simple! And it seems a a shame that it has to be resolved in that way.

I'm hoping that someone can give me a positive story of mediation - at the moment, it doesn't feel like we will get very far with it, as ExP can be pretty unreasonable, and has a huge amount of resentment against DP - doesn't predispose her to co-operation, compromise or indeed putting the children first if she thinks DP is getting it too easy.

Thanks for the positive thoughts though! Onwards and upwards...

NotaDisneyMum Sun 23-Sep-12 22:38:28

I've seen mediation work well when the behaviour being displayed by the unreasonable party (or parties) is uncharacteristic - when they are allowing their emotion to cloud their judgement.
A good mediator can get past that by looking forward and helping the parties reach an agreement about the future.

My own experience of mediation is less positive - I have mediated on 4 occasions in three years with exH and we are still as far apart as ever.
In my DPs case, his ex similarly believed that the DSC had no reason to see their dad, as she didn't need him. In that case, mediation was merely a tick box exercise on the journey to family court and a formal contact order - that was the only thing that worked in their case.

As an aside, It's helped us no end to accept that DPs ex has a number of narcissistic traits - by reading up about how to deal with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) we have gained some skills in how to negotiate with her!

ChocHobNob Mon 24-Sep-12 11:20:08

Littlelamby, when the RP considers the NRP to be unimportant in then children's lives ... IME mediation is pointless.

NotaDisneyMum Mon 24-Sep-12 12:46:47

choc - has to be done though; so the NRP can be seen to be reasonable when it finally gets to family court.

If there is a risk of alienation, because the DCs feel conflicted between their mums feelings and their own desire to see their Dad, then 'Welcome Back Pluto' is a great self-help DVD for everyone involved, we even sent a copy to DPs ex!

ChocHobNob Mon 24-Sep-12 13:11:00

I understand that, just unfortunately if you are paying for it, it is bloody annoying and expensive when you know it is pointless and the Mediators push for more sessions when you know it isn't going anywhere.

Definitely attend, be as reasonable and accommodating as possible. Let the other person show their true colours and get the FM1 form.

littlelamby Mon 24-Sep-12 13:30:35

chochobnob- that's the main concern. It feels like mediation could be a great thing to do, if both parties have agreed on some basic principles to start with. That's the challenge at the moment - how to get ExP to agree (however begrudgingly!) that the children's relationship with their dad is important, and that she can't mess around with the time they have with him. Then they can debate finer details.

In some ways, it will be very interesting to go to mediation - it feels like DP's position is very consistent and fair, and based on something sensible (i.e. the children need to see him regularly and be able to rely on this). ExP's position is a bit erratic and is usually based on hatred for DP and punishing him by using children as a weapon. It feels like the latter is more likely to come unstuck at mediation! DP is very open to accommodating ExP's needs, but not at the expense of the basic principle of seeing his children. So I think we'll do ok, but quite possibly won't get a whole lot out of it, except the bill. Frustrating, but there you go.

NADM - DVD looks interesting! Will see if I can get hold of a copy of that. I do worry about the risk of parental alienation, but so far the children seem to be ok. I do wonder what impact it has on them, getting one story from their mum and another from their dad - but I think because their dad always has the same position, and is very calm and fair and obviously loves them and looks after him, they seem to draw enough from this to feel like they can always rely on him.

It's just a minefield isn't it! Feeling quite calm about it all at the moment, even the prospect of court... DP and I are very happy with what we're able to offer the children and how they are with us - as much as possible, we'll just leave ExP to get on with her madness and take each nasty incident as it comes.

theredhen Mon 24-Sep-12 14:13:53

Mediators told DP and his ex that they were a hopeless case after two sessions and happily referred them to court! shock

ChocHobNob Mon 24-Sep-12 17:48:33

It can become very apparent in mediation that a person is being incredibly hostile and they are not acting in the child's best interests. Unfortunately, some people will not even realise what they are doing or actively change it even when an outsider recognises it and points out their behaviour.

Mediation can be brilliant. It will not work if someone is adamant on obstructing the other party's relationship with the child/ren though. And agreements made in mediation are not legally binding.

In my experience, the person spent an hour and half with the mediator leading discussions, trying to convince the other person that what they were asking for wasn't unreasonable, the other person tentatively agreeing to some arrangements only for them to turn around at the very end and say "I'm not agreeing to any of this".

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