Family mediation occurs when a couple (usually with children) decides to separate. They will need to come to mediation to address parenting arrangements for their children, unresolved emotional issues and property settlement. Outcomes of mediation will involve a parenting plan and a written agreement of how both parties will interact with each other moving forward. If no agreement can be reached, an s60i certificate will be administered by me, which will need to be provided to the court.
I utilise the facilitative model of mediation, which encourages communication first and negotiation second. It has 4 steps, which are detailed below.
STEP 1: Concerns
For a lot of people, they don’t know how to begin the conversation, or to weave their issues into the conversation. Following this model makes it a lot easier to do.
Think of the concerns step as a bit like a brainstorming session (for both parties). Each person explains to the other person what their concerns are. At this stage, they don’t have to be nice neat issues (that is what stage 2 is for), they should just be laid out in their raw form. They can be very specific (e.g., washing up not done) or broader (e.g., lack of respect), it doesn’t matter as long as they are mentioned.
At this stage, make sure that it doesn’t turn into an argument. Each person has their time to speak and the other person must listen. Once all the concerns are understood, then you move to step 2.
STEP 2: Issues
Step 2 is about turning your concerns into issues. People will have a number of different concerns centering on the 1 issue. For example, you may have a number of concerns regarding, the cleanliness of the house, partner undermining your decisions regarding the children or never telling you where she is going. The main issue for you may be around trust or respect.
What you’ll also find is that there are common issues between both parties. We call these shared issues. In any conversation, you’ll generally find that there will be 2-3 issues that need to be addressed. The whole point of these conversations is to turn them from being position based (i.e., “you must do this”) to interest or issue based (i.e., “this is what I’ve been thinking/ feeling”). Once you have agreed on the main issues to be discussed, then you a ready to proceed to step 3.
STEP 3: Communication
This is the stage in the process where you communicate with each other. What do I mean by this? You say as you feel or think.
You do this, one issue at a time. It is important for you to appreciate that the other person is not a mind reader and you need to communicate to them what has been going through your mind in relation to the issue being discussed. You’ll probably feel a little uncomfortable doing it, but this is where the magic happens. Let’s take the issue “lack of respect”. In your head, you may interpret your partner not telling you their whereabouts or undermining you in front of the children as a lack of respect. But guess what? They might not have picked up on this and you will need to tell them. Leave nothing to chance.
We are all emotional and vulnerable human beings who sometimes take things personally. Don’t pretend that you are a robot. If you are able to be open, hopefully the other person will be able to be open with you as well. If this happens, you are on your way to successfully resolving the issue.
STEP 4: Negotiation
First you will need to generate options. Think of it like another brainstorming session. Different options can be noted to be discussed.
Once enough options have been put forward then the process of negotiation begins and proposals are offered (i.e., “if you do this, then I’ll do that). For most people they will want to start negotiating at the start of the process. This is counterproductive. Leave it until the end, so that you both can understand where each other are coming from first. If the 4 step process is able to be followed in its entirety, then a workable agreement is much more likely to occur.