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Case Study 1
Mr J & Miss R had not been married but had a daughter (A) together who was now aged 5. There had been court proceedings to sort out the father’s Parental Responsibility for A and this had also set J’s contact arrangements out. A was not happy about moving between her parents and R stopped the contact as she was worried about A. Mediation was suggested as a way of trying to resolve things before they went back to court, both having already experienced the court process and been unhappy at the outcome.

Mediation is a forward looking process but it is sometimes useful to try and identify how things have developed to see if there has been a misunderstanding. In most family breakdowns the element of mistrust can often blow things out of proportion and it is difficult to regain confidence in each other.

In this case we spent several sessions looking at the things that had led them to seek help. Refreshingly they were both able to acknowledge that they felt the relationship was over and the right decision had been made to separate. However there had been a situation where J had been recommended by the School to apply for Parental Responsibility so that he could go to school events. J approached R about this, she was ill and did not reply and he took this as her unwillingness to co-operate, so R found herself unexpectedly in court.

There had then been some other misunderstandings that meant that neither trusted the other and their communication had broken down completely in a situation where they had previously worked together very well at organising childcare arrangements.

When we took the time to find out what had “gone wrong” they could start to see each other’s point of view. While it was not the perfect solution they were then able to make some progress towards understanding each other and then start to focus on their daughter.

Case Study 2
Mr & Mrs W came to our office in Lincoln this year. They had separated very recently and were distrustful of solicitors due to a previous poor experience suffered by other members of their family. A past case had resulted in high costs to the parties and the proceedings had resulted in distress for the whole family. They did not want the same situation to befall them and wanted an alternative way of dealing with things. They had been referred by CAB.

Although they were not entirely amicable about everything their common aim was to deal with matters with the least fuss and expense. They made their own application to the court for the divorce and would not have chosen to use solicitors at all had it not been carefully explained that they would need to take some advice on the terms of the agreement. Lawyers would also be needed to deal with the legal transfer of properties.

The overriding aim was for them to reach a fair settlement. The wife had felt that the husband was in control of their finances and by talking this through we were able to ensure that she felt fully involved in the process of making decisions about her life. The Husband also learned that some of his views had to be challenged so as to ensure a fair outcome for both (he thought that the fact that he had worked more than the wife gave him a bigger share of the assets even though this was a long marriage and the legal process would not have agreed with his position).

This was a very quick mediation; we had four sessions in three weeks. Normally the process requires more meetings because of the parties need to take time to prepare their financial details and supply the necessary supporting documents. In this case some of the preparatory work had already been completed.

Towards the end of the process the mediator explained why it was important to use solicitors to give each individual advice on their proposals and we exchanged details of solicitors who would offer sensible advice and appreciate that the parties were not keen to get involved in court processes for the sake of it.

Jacqui Skelton mediated the case; as a qualified family lawyer she had to be careful not to alienate the couple at the outset bearing in mind that they made it clear that they did not want to involve lawyers and did not trust them.

At the conclusion of the case the couple asked what her “day job” was. They had not guessed that Jacqui was also a lawyer. Both expressed surprise at this and were happy with the outcome - which they had not felt to have been dictated to them by the legal system - even though the guidance throughout had, unbeknown to them, been from a lawyer.

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