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Mr vs Mrs: A mediators verdict

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A new three-part documentary series “Call the Mediator” takes a look behind the curtain of family mediation on Tuesday nights on BBC2. In an aspect of family life that is rarely shown in the media, it was the perfect opportunity to showcase an alternative to the depiction of slamming doors, and drawn-out arguments that often represent separation.

The documentary began by mentioning statistics and an explanation that mediation ‘can result in a more agreeable outcome than going straight to court’ which has been widely proven, and is likely a deciding factor for the couples featured in the episode. We saw Sue and Peter disagree over the division of assets including the family home, and Jason and Vicky who  could only communicate from separate rooms via a ‘shuttle’ mediation session about arrangements for their daughter four years after their separation. Sam Miles, Partner and Accredited Family Mediator at Warner Goodman LLP says; “Only in very exceptional cases would I suggest shuttle mediation, and this would generally only be for couples with a narrow or single issue to resolve but for reasons of past domestic violence or abuse cannot be in the same room as each other.” The couple featured on the show were creating difficulties for themselves and their mediator who had to start afresh every 15 minutes when moving into the next room. Their exasperation with each other quickly turned into exasperation with the mediator. The stilted method of communication ground the process to a virtual halt and mediation broke down.

Sue and Peter were divorcing after 28 years of marriage and were trying to divide their assets. The mediation sessions saw the pair sitting awkwardly in a waiting room before being called in. The session focused on Sue’s new partner who she was living with and during one session Sue went to telephone him leaving the mediator alone with Peter.  Sam continues: “We strongly encourage parties to mediation to consult with solicitors alongside the mediation process so that they can come prepared to their sessions knowing what their best and worst outcomes might be if their matter were to end up in Court. In Sue and Peter’s case it seemed that they only took their legal advice at the end when mediation had all but broken down. This would not be our preferred way of doing things.” 

We are looking forward to seeing how the series plays out, and the varying couples that can use and benefit from mediation in the show. We would suggest that separating couples have an initial meeting with a mediator if they are struggling to settle conflicts on issues like child welfare and finances, and not be disheartened by the contents of the series- most couples find mediation beneficial in drawing their relationship to an amicable end.

For more information on mediation, contact Sam or the family team on 02380 717431


This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.