Family disputes can become ugly, and often leave scars for those who are involved. However, these outcomes can be lessened through mediation, where family members work to resolve their conflicts, without putting their relationships at risk. 

Mediation Offers Refuge For Families In Conflict 

Petty quarrels or arguments will always be inevitable in any relationship. From couples to families, there will be a time where personalities will clash and problems will surface. Many relationship issues resolve themselves through conversation and collaboration; however there are some that run deeper. For these problems, families may choose to go to court, which can leave the relationship in pieces after the resolution process is complete. Fortunately, there is another way for families to resolve conflict without putting their relationship at risk, and that is through mediation.

As an alternative to litigation, the process entails the involvement of an impartial mediator, who will facilitate the conversation between two parties and steer them toward a mutually-satisfying agreement. Because of better outcomes achieved through mediation, it is becoming popular, especially for some in the United Kingdom. The percentage of non-solicitor cases only made up 19% of the referrals at the National Family Mediation (NFM) last year, but this has risen to 51% in 2014. This is partly because the internet has made people more aware of their options. “Families that chose to go through mediation really desire to reach an agreement,” said Jane Robey, CEO of NFM.

How does mediation benefit families? Is it better than going through litigation? Let’s take a look at what this process offers for the conclusion of domestic disputes.

It Offers Empowerment

Mediation encourages two parties to discuss their conflict and settle the issue in their own way. They will not need to communicate through their solicitors or through the letters and documents prepared by their lawyers. The mediator encourages them to work together, have a more open and honest conversation, and arrive at a mutually-satisfying agreement, which can lessen the need for finger-pointing and reduce stress and anxiety on both sides. This is particularly helpful for couples who are undergoing divorce, and plan to co-parent their children. Mediation can help them decide on various aspects of child-rearing and minimise the effects of their separation on their children.

The mediation process can also allow children to participate in the discussion. Parents need to listen to the feelings of their children in order for the results of mediation to help them cope with a major change in their lives. In a study of 47 children who had experienced family law disputes in the past 12 months, it was found that 91% of them wanted to have a say in the discussion, and that children 10 years and above were allowed to participate in the process.

Typically, children over the age of 12 should be consulted on residential plans or changes. Sooner or later in the discussion, families will be able to influence an outcome that is suitable for their situation because they are not dependent on a judge to hand down a decision.

It Is Convenient, And It Costs Less Than Litigation

Aside from this, mediation also offers convenience for families because parties involved can choose the time and place for the meeting. They are not under the mercy of the lawyer’s or the courtroom’s schedules and can discuss the conflict at their own pace. As a result, both sides can resolve the conflict faster. Mediation can also maintain confidentiality because families can opt to discuss the dispute in a private venue, rather than in a public courtroom. For sensitive issues like divorce, this can be beneficial; especially if couples want to keep their private assets hidden.

In opting to work with a single mediator, couples undergoing divorce or families involved in disputes will also have fewer expenses than hiring separate lawyers. Moreover, they will avoid the costs related to preparing letters or other relevant court documents. As a faster and a cost-effective way to address conflict, mediation will help families escape the stress and hurt in dispute resolution than having to undergo litigation.

It Has A Long-lasting Impact

Since mediation enables both sides to participate in the outcome, the agreements coming from here have a long-lasting impact on their relationships in the future. For couples who are going through a divorce, they are able to protect the interests of their children. The negotiation process provides them with a framework to address issues in a cooperative manner and allow their children to adjust better. Research has found that non-residential parents who had undergone mediation are more likely to visit and talk to their children than those who opted to go to court. Moreover, they also have greater participation in their lives, such as providing input on their discipline and education.

Those who have used mediation before are more likely to use it again for settling issues related to elderly parents, such as inheritance and estate planning. Siblings are more inclined to discuss issues together, and give greater participation to the older parent. It only goes to show that mediation enables families to work out disputes in the best possible manner, promoting co-operation and improving communication for an enhanced ongoing relationship.