When a couple separate the decision is sometimes a joint one, a “conscious uncoupling” as per Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow (these are the lucky separations). More often than not the decision to separate is made by one person alone – this leaves the other person at a completely different stage emotionally than the person who has chosen to leave.
The person who decided that they needed out of the relationship (often some months before plucking up the courage to end that relationship) is likely to have been through some of the 5 stages of loss and grief – those being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whereas, the recipient of the bad news is only at the start of that process.
This is why the decision of when to mediate is an important one. The most common competing concerns I hear prior to and during mediation are this:
I’m scared of things moving too fast, I need time to process this information and I don’t want to be rushed into an agreement;
I just want to get this done, I don’t want my former partner to drag this out and play for time, it’s simple.
It is the role of the mediator to balance the stages that participants are at and encourage all to understand and appreciate the “reality” of the other person. We all have our own reality/ perception of a situation and must be willing to listen to and take on board the reality/perception of others.
So when is the best time to mediate?
It is a unique couple who are able to begin the mediation process in the immediate aftermath of a separation. It is best to allow some time for all to begin to process the end of their relationship before engaging in mediation. Once parties feel able to put aside their strong navigational personal feelings and be willing to consider and really listen to their former partner’s “reality” then they are ready.
What if I’m already in court proceedings?
Judges more often than not will give indications to the parties and ask them to consider the cost and emotional impact of further litigation – this is often the opportune time to engage in a confidential mediation process to reach an agreement.
We offer evening appointments at Prism and are able to offer appointments at short notice to parties engaged in litigation; because of our High Court experience we are very experienced in high conflict disputes and often enable those involved in litigation to make agreed decisions which previously seemed impossible.