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How Family Mediation can help grandparents when they have been denied access to their grandchildren.
Relationship breakdowns are a very emotional time for the whole family and can lead to difficult family disputes. But what happens when grandparents are stopped from seeing their grandchildren? Family mediation can often help.
What is family mediation – and how does it benefit grandparents?
Family mediation is a way of resolving serious family disputes, where mediators help relatives to find their own solutions to their differences.
The best way for grandparents to ensure they stay in contact with their grandchildren following divorce or separation is to remain co-operative with both their own child and their son/daughter in-law. Unfortunately, grandparents sometimes feel they have no alternative but to take their own steps to secure their relationship with their grandchildren. In these instances, grandparents can benefit from mediation.
How does family mediation work?
The mediator meets with both the grandparent/s and the parent/s, to discuss the issues they need to resolve to enable contact to take place. The mediator will then arrange a meeting of all the parties and help them work through the issues raised. The aim is to come to an agreement that suits everybody – especially the children.
Once an agreement has been reached, the mediator can provide a summary outcome statement to help everyone stick to the agreements. This is not a legally binding agreement.
When mediation can help
Grandparents often feel conflicting emotions when their child is going through a separation. They want to support their son or daughter, but in doing so can be seen to be taking sides with their soon to be ex-in-law.
Many grandparents are shocked when they discover they have no automatic right to be part of their grandchild’s life. Family mediation is a confidential and safe process well away from courtroom heat. It can help reduce conflict between family members, and is often the best way to resume contact. It can be a quicker and cheaper way to pursue contact issues than going to court.*
Is there such a thing? Can you come out at the end of a divorce with your dignity intact and still being able to have a discussion with your ex- partner without it turning into another argument?
According to many reports there is: people are divorcing differently. The rise of the divorce selfie (see Twitter #divorceselfie) says it all, suggesting that many couples are able to find a way to go their separate ways as friends and with respect for each other. So, what is the secret?
How to have a better divorce
The first thing is to take things slowly and try to be rational if you can – don’t rush to a divorce solicitor immediately, whilst anger and frustration still cloud your thinking and reactions. If you don’t want to wait for 2 years, see if you can agree with your ex-partner how to take the divorce forward and consider what is most important. The more you can agree on before the divorce, the quicker and cheaper it will be, no matter which route you take.
You probably have children and you’ll want to go through this divorce causing the least possible harm and disruption to their lives. It is always better to find a way to separate amicably rather than ‘staying together for the sake of the kids’ – arguing between parent’s can have a far more detrimental effect on them. Remember, children usually want to see both parents after the divorce and seeing them being respectful to each other. Child mediation can involve children in the divorce and find out what they actually think and want.
Consider what sort of future you want. It will be different for you both and you will have different lives to fund. Mediation works because it will help you to try to find a financial agreement that will enable you to both live your lives and support your children financially. The mediator will help you to ensure that you make proper financial provision for them, and agree a parenting plan that will allow them to see you both equally and take part in both of your lives – and for you both to take part in theirs.
Try not to listen too much to what friends and family say. Of course you might need their emotional support, but they are not objective, and they may not be looking to the future the way you want to and so they may not be in the best place to advise you.
Mediation can lead to a better divorce
Come to Accord Mediation. With the assistance of our experienced mediators we can help you to divorce in a more dignified way, bringing you to the end of your marriage or relationship with your ex’s and your children’s lives less bruised and battered and a ‘ working relationship’ with each other still intact.*
(Family Law Report)
Comments by the UK’s most senior judge that mediation is particularly suitable for ‘ordinary people’ and ‘average citizens’ in the current economic climate should encourage more family court judges to push people to mediate, says the largest provider of family mediation in England and Wales.
Speaking of the danger that a ‘perfect storm’ of economic circumstances threatens access to justice for ordinary people, Lord Neuberger outlined the impact of a combination of the spiralling cost of litigation, limitations on legal aid, and court fee increases. ‘Given that we are in an age of austerity and proportionality,’ he said ‘mediation is particularly suitable for legal disputes’.
We remain a long way from the tipping point whereby mediation becomes the first port of call for divorcing couples.
However the evidence of our own statistics, showing take-up of mediation is rising, combined with important messages from very senior legal figures, are encouraging indications that we could be heading in the right direction.
We now need family court judges up and down the land to act on Lord Neuberger’s comments, to embrace mediation and use the powers they already have to direct people who come before courts towards alternative means of settling disputes.’
This Act received Royal Assent on 13th March and will bring in some important changes to the law and practice relating to families and children in the Court process on 22nd April 2014.
The most important change in practice is the requirement that any person wishing to commence proceedings relating to a child must attend a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting known as a MIAM. Whilst this is supposed to happen now it has not been regularly enforced by the Courts and there have been different approaches in different parts of the country.
It is understood that a change in the procedure will mean that an accredited mediator will have to endorse the application form to confirm the applicant, at least, has attended such a meeting.
Family Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes, said:
“We are making sure the welfare of children is at the heart of the family justice system.
“We want to keep families away from the negative effects that going to court can have and to use alternative solutions when they are suitable. This is why we have changed the law to make sure that separating couples always consider mediation as an alternative to a courtroom battle.”
We are not yet clear what will happen to those cases where the current form known as FM1 has been issued by us but the proceedings have not been started and if there will be some transitional arrangements.
There is also a major change in terminology moving away from concepts of residence and contact to what is to be known as a “child arrangements order”, which will deal with:
(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and
(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person;”.
Mediation provides a neutral venue for parents and others caring for children to have a managed and structured discussion with a trained professional to put aside personal differences and concentrate on what is in the best interests of the child. Depending on the child’s age and maturity it is also possible for their voices to be heard and we have mediators who are specially trained to hear what children have to say and feed that back to the parents in the mediation process.
According to another report in the Daily Mail, financial pages this time, based on release of figures from the Office of National statistics more than 320 married couples split up each day and collectively would have spent £154 million on legal costs in relation to divorce. This is a slight increase on the previous year and amounts to average £1,300 each.
The Times report made the point that after ten years of decline in the divorce rate the 118,140 divorces in 2012 was 0.5% more than the previous year. They also reported a suggestion that this showed signs of economic recovery as couples in unhappy marriages waited for property prices to rise before separating.
Another feature emerging from the figures was that older couples were more likely to divorce.
Costs can be controlled by engaging in mediation where legal aid is still available, a message the Government seems to be failing to get across. Even if you are not eligible for legal aid the average cost for resolving all issues through mediation is half the average figure quoted in the Daily Mail report for going through solicitors.
So, whatever your age or financial circumstances it is worth considering mediation as a way of resolving what is going to happen on or after separation. With both parties sitting down together with a trained family mediator and working together you can cover a lot more ground in an hour than you can each consulting your own solicitor for an hour then exchanging letters at whatever cost plus 20% vat.
Call 01872 225 022 for more information about the services we offer
Family cases have been in the news a bit recently with issues over pre-nuptial agreements and threats of being disinherited but the one which stood out from a mediation point of view was this report from the Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2563048/Family-judge-tells-warring-couple-settle-cup-tea-worked.html where the Judge suggested that parents should sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat when handing children over between them. After ten years of litigation and 24 court hearings it seemed to have worked.
Of course, perhaps they should have tried mediation at an earlier stage rather than embarking on proceedings that must have been costly – both emotionally and financially. The mediator would have explained the effect of hostility on the children, drawn on experience of other couples and research and encouraged a co-operative approach to parenting rather than the adversarial approach brought about by Court proceedings where attitudes harden and each tend to feel the other is getting at them and, in the end, the Judge tells them what is going to happen.
To find out how mediation can help parents make arrangements for bringing up children even though no longer living together – after all the children love each parent – then please call or e-mail us – 01872 225022 or [email protected]*
Since April 2013 Legal Aid was withdrawn from solicitors except where there was proven Domestic Abuse or in Care proceedings. Until then parties wishing to apply for legal aid had to be referred to a mediation service to show they had, at least, explored mediation as an alternative to the Court process before they could even apply for Legal Aid. Now that process no longer happens and as a result there has been a drop of more than 50% in parties attending an initial Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) just to find out about it and consequential drop in those trying to resolve matters for themselves through mediation rather than issue Court proceedings where there has been an increase in people issuing applications themselves without recourse to a solicitor.
It appears that it is not widely known enough that Legal Aid does remain available for mediation. It remains means tested but for those on certain benefits such as Income Support or JSA (Income Based) this is a passport to Legal Aid and even those in work can be entitled once housing costs, tax & NI and children are taken into account.
Accord offers mediation across Cornwall, Devon and the South West, and Legal Aid to help with the costs where eligible, so there is no need to shy away from approaching a helpful and friendly service where we can assist both parties through the difficulties that arise on separation and you do not need to see a solicitor first. So please contact us to find out more.*
Family Justice Minister Lord McNally has called on mediators to lead the way in promoting out of court solutions for separating families.
Family Justice Minister Lord McNally has called on mediators to lead the way in promoting out of court solutions to help separating families.
At a Family Mediation Council conference for practitioners in London, he said:
“My message to you as practitioners and supervisors is simple – your time is now – you now have a once in a generation opportunity to raise the profile of your profession, as a single and united profession.”
The Government strongly supports mediation – a quicker, simpler and more effective way for separating couples to agree how they divide their assets or arrange child contact, which avoids the traumatic and divisive effect of courtroom battles.
The Ministry of Justice has announced it is committed to spending £25 million in the next year to support publicly-funded mediation and is behind new laws being created to ensure all separating couples must consider mediation before they can take their dispute to court.
From 6th April separating couples must assess whether mediation would be a better way of resolving their disputes than battling over them in court. Anyone setting out to contest the terms of their separation in court will first be required to consider mediation, under a new protocol agreed with the Judiciary. National Audit Office information on legally-aided mediation show that the average time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days compared with 435 days for court cases on similar issues. The average cost per client of mediation is £535 compared to £2,823 for cases going to court.*