"I attended a wedding a while ago where the atmosphere was tense rather than joyful, because the bride's parents had divorced ten years previously, and animosity between them still reigned.
Although the divorce rate has stabilized at around 117,000 couples a year - from a marriage rate of around 247,000 per year - and despite the increase in co-habitation, the bad feeling that lingers after an adversarial divorce still continues to spoil the atmosphere of family weddings on a regular basis. In this case, even 10 years after the bride's parents had divorced. Not only do children suffer during an angry divorce, but as young adults getting married they still have to deal with their parents inability to create peace.
So what can a divorcing couple do to make sure they can attend their children's weddings in the future, without ruining the happy day?
Increasingly, couples are choosing the mediation option as a civilised way of resolving disputes that arise when a relationship ends, such as whether to divorce or separate and what arrangements should be made for the children, finance and accommodation.. Make no mistake - this has nothing to do with reconciliation. Instead, couples meet with a trained mediator who will help them to identify the areas of disagreement and to explore the areas for settlement. The process is confidential and both parties are encouraged to take independent legal advice at the end of it, but ultimately, they take control of their own divorce.
A good example is a mediation I conducted recently with Susannah and Alan, who had accepted the marriage was over, but were still living in the same house and wanted to come to an agreement about access to the children that meant they could continue to be active co-parents.
Alan had a new relationship and this caused great upset to Susannah, who was worried about how this would effect the children. The couple were unable to agree at that time, about whether the matrimonial home should be sold.
In mediation it was possible to agree a pattern of contact so that Alan was spending frequent time with the children. He agreed that the children should not be brought into contact with his girlfriend until after the separation took place. The couple both decided that the house should be sold but Susannah would receive a greater proportion of the proceeds to reflect the fact that Alan had greater pension provision. Both Alan and Susannah got independent legal advice and visited their own lawyers to assess the agreement that the couple had made through the mediation process, which of course meant that their legal bills were very low as they had only needed to use the solicitors for a very short time, and the agreement had been reached without them having to go through an expensive and emotionally traumatic court process.
Because the couple were prepared to provide full financial disclosure and to negotiate, they saved thousands of pounds on both sides. The process of mediation is much quicker than a protracted legal battle - often a matter of only a few weeks.
Mediation isn't just for people who are going through divorce. It is equally valuable when a couple has cohabited or they are ending a civil partnership. One of the main benefits of mediation is in resolving disagreements about the future welfare of the children."