This week is Alternative Dispute Resolution week. This means that Family Solicitors up and down the country will be trying to promote alternative ways of resolving disputes, and trying to avoid court.
As a mediator, solicitor and collaborative lawyer, I have heard all the arguments for and against mediation, collaborative law, and round table meetings. At the end of the day, I think that for best outcomes, both participants do need to want to try and resolve their dispute. I often say that most disputes are suitable for mediation, but it may not be the right time for mediation.
It is difficult sometimes to sell mediation to a client. This is because it is voluntary – their ex can not be made to attend, and can not be made to discuss problems if they do not want to. In the recent case of Mann v Mann  EWHC 537 Judge Mostyn was faced with a wife’s application to enforce an order to pay her money by the husband. The husband argued that the wife had agreed to attend mediation first. Judge Mostyn confirmed that he could not force a party to go to mediation. However, he adjourned the case to enable mediation to take place.
So, it’s clear that Judges think mediation is a good idea, and the Government thinks mediation is a good idea. Why not clients? There are some really good reasons to mediate – mediation can resolve disputes much more efficiently and more quickly than a court can, and it costs a fraction of the price.
I think that part of the problem is that when couples become locked in conflict, they stop communicating, and to start again is very difficult. It suggests that somehow, they have let the other person off the hook, or they have forgiven them for behaviour that upset and hurt them. Mediation means that clients have, to a large extent, got to trust each other, or trust the process. That is a difficult thing to do.
For some, it may be too early to be able to look at the future – clients do need to be in a place emotionally where they can look forward, not look back. Quite often in mediation, I find that couples work really hard to come to some sensible arrangements, and then get stuck on one seemingly small point. This is because reaching a consensus effectively terminates the relationship, and people do find it hard to let go.
That said, please give consideration to mediation. It means that both of you makes the decision, rather than leaving it to a judge. It also enables you to be able to communicate more effectively in the future. It takes less time, and it costs less money. It is a giant leap of faith for some, but take the leap – it may work out!!