In this interview with Divorce Mediator Kim Beatson of Anthony Gold Solicitors, Alternative Divorce Guide Suzy Miller asks Kim to share the information about mediation that many of her clients are unaware of when they first contact her for a no-obligation chat.
Why did divorce mediation come about?
"The mediation movement first involved lawyers in the 1980s. It came out of a desire to offer a range of process options to clients, recognising that some of them were totally unsuited and unwilling to litigate and that the court process was random, unpredictable and expensive. These days the situation has become even worse.
A different process
So I think process choices was the main reason I wanted to look at different ways of resolving disputes from early on in my career. I think I'm as enthusiastic now as I was in the late eighties. From a client's point of view it's invaluable to set your own agenda and it's a much more trusting process.
It's a process where both parties can communicate directly with each other, with the support and guidance of the mediator, so that solicitors don't have the opportunity to communicate badly on behalf of their clients - which can result in miscommunication and unnecessary aggravation of an already delicate situation.
Mediation is a process where the client can truly understand their partner's financial situation, rather than make assumptions or basing their calculations on supposition instead of hard facts, shared openly during the mediation sessions.
And more important than any of that, mediation is a process that's respectful to the needs of children on separation. It's a process that helps communication in the long term - not just in the short term.
Mediators are not going to put your marriage back together
As far as mediation is concerned, there is still a groundswell of people who think that it is somehow to do with reconciliation and that mediators are linked to marriage guidance counsellors. We have to make it clear to clients that we are future focused and that it's all about separating. So I think one of the myths is that mediation is about reconciliation - less so than it used to be though. The public are more familiar with the process these days.
Another myth is that mediators will just sit back and allow the financially astute party to take control but skilful mediators are quite capable of wading in and addressing power imbalances, addressing difficult issues and searching for financial information if it appears to be lacking.
Making the right choice
Couples need to choose their mediator carefully. If the focus of the discussion is complex financial arrangements, then it's very important that the mediator has a financial background, or a legal background, or possibly both because it can be a multi-disciplinary process. If on the other hand the discussion is all around children, then it might be more appropriate to research mediators who come from a child specialist background, or with some sort of therapeutic background. So there are a range of mediators out there to choose from.
A full client service
I think a good mediator will always acknowledge where he or she is lacking in certain knowledge, and good mediators these days work on an interdisciplinary basis. It's quite common for me to see a couple for the first appointment and then to suggest that they seek assistance from a financial planner before coming back to me. That's cheaper, because working with a financial planner costs less per hour, and it's more effective working with key specialists when bringing together all the information required in order to work out a viable settlement. Clients can obtain mortgage quotations, insurance quotations, and check their budgets. I think any mediator should be able to draw in other professionals in order to provide a full client service."