Signs of Life

I hardly dare type this as I fear I may incur cosmic revenge. However it’s cold and drear and I at least need cheering up so I will take the risk.

I have already been cheered up over the last couple of months by referrals from couples where both people think mediation sounds a good idea to help them decide what to do following separation. They haven’t spoken to anybody else except, in one case, their IFA. They are afraid of approaching lawyers because they fear that mayhem will ensue. They do however want to have robust arrangements rather than just agreeing and leaving the future and possible claims to chance. They also want a professional to give them a steer on what is fair.

They, or at least one of them, has heard about mediation. They have usually then done some research about it. That’s my main cause of celebration. We mediators can go a long time feeling as if we are part of some secret sect. It’s reassuring to learn that some members of the public have actually heard of mediation. It is of course even better that what they have heard has made them feel it’s a process that will suit the way they want to try to resolve things. Another cause for celebration is that such self-referrers have consciously chosen the mediation process. Without guaranteeing a successful outcome, it means they are truly willing clients. They aren’t in my room because they have been made to feel they should be or because mediation is a cheaper option than court. Self referrers have decided that the logical next step is mediation. For them it’s not just a voluntary process but one which they embrace as their preferred option.

I reassure them that, if they pick the right ones, lawyers will be respectful of the mediation process and more than willing to advise them as they go through that process. Decisions about finances on divorce are crucial for the future security of both clients. I feel it’s essential they therefore take individual advice. I give a lot of legal information but there are areas such as joint lives against fixed term maintenance where I can only set out all the arguments. I  can’t give the necessary, nuanced individual advice. What’s more I find that clients who have had the chance to talk options through with their own lawyer return to the next session better informed and having truly considered those options.

It does mean though that we can deal with disclosure constructively as part of the mediation process so that it’s up to date with valuations agreed and mortgage capacity known without the clients having previously spent a small fortune on Forms E which are often out of date and where there is no agreed basis of valuation.

I don’t pretend it’s a general upswing in considered self-referrers but the fact is it’s been along time since I had so many in a relatively short time span. So I celebrate and cross my fingers and hope for a future where mediation is so widely known as an option that it will be the conscious first choice of many more people than at present.

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