The role of family mediation in high conflict separations

Family mediation in high conflict separations

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone, but when you’re dealing with a high conflict situation it’s even more difficult.

As a Conflict Resolution and Mediation expert it’s my job to guide parents through the process, and achieve the best possible outcomes in mediation for you and your children.

After separation a lot of people feel emotional, scared and anxious about the future. You don’t know what’s going to happen with the care of your children and you don’t know what will happen financially. That uncertainty creates fear, especially when you’re in high conflict with your ex and know it’s not going to be an easy process to reach agreements.

Here’s some insights into the mediation process and some tips on how to prepare for mediation.

The role of family mediation in high conflict separations

When you contact a mediator the first thing that happens is a private intake session. You’ll have time with the mediator to tell your side of the story and everything that concerns you.

Even if your ex is the one who contacts the mediator first, you’ll still get a private conversation.

It’s also important to know that for a good mediator, it’s not important which person contacts them first. A mediator is a neutral party, there to support you both.

What do you need for your intake session?

All that’s required is for you to tell your story. If there’s any court orders in place please bring them, and if you want to deal with your financial separation bring a list of your assets and liabilities. If you don’t have that yet, don’t worry. You have plenty of time to get organised between your intake session and the joint mediation session.

The intake session is also for the mediator to assess the situation. If there’s been domestic violence or the children are at risk the mediator needs to know. If you don’t want to sit in a room with your ex-partner please speak to your mediator about this. Mediation is not a process to traumatise people further. There are many different ways to facilitate a mediation session.

I prefer my clients speak to each other, as they’re going to be parents together for the rest of their lives, but only if that isn’t counterproductive. If you feel uncomfortable, that’s ok. To be honest, nobody likes mediation and I am fully aware that visiting me won’t be the highlight of your week. But, I want to make it as comfortable as possible for you. So please tell your mediator if your ex makes you feel scared or anxious.

After the intake sessions there will be a joint mediation session if your situation is suitable for mediation. The joint session will be conducted in a way that works for your situation, based on the mediator’s assessment from the intake sessions.

If you come to agreements in mediation the mediator will type up the agreements and send them to you.  Listen to my podcast episode: Why making agreements with your ex and writing them down is so important

What are the different styles of mediation?

Face-to-face mediation

You will sit in a room together and discuss the issues, as you try to find resolutions and make agreements.

Shuttle mediation

You’re in different rooms and the mediator goes between rooms. The mediator will relay to both of you what you’ve said and will facilitate discussions which hopefully lead to an outcome you can both live with.

Mediation via Zoom shuttle or face-to-face

Doing sessions via Zoom can feel safer. You’re not sitting next to your ex, but you are talking to them. You can also turn your screen or sound off if you need to. Plus the mediator can separate you into virtual breakout rooms easily.

Phone mediation

Personally I’m not a fan of phone mediation as I can’t see people and body language is something I rely on heavily on as a mediator. If there is no other option because of where people live, I will do it.

Lawyer assisted mediation

If you feel scared, aren’t confident negotiating alone, or your situation is very complex then lawyer assisted mediation can help. It is more costly, but can really help if you get the right lawyers involved. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to talk to your ex, but you will have someone on your side as the mediator is neutral.

A lot of people misunderstand mediation, because they think it means you have to sit in a room with your ex and that’s simply not the case. Mediation is often stressful for people but as a mediator I do my best to make it as easy as possible for my clients. Family mediation in high conflict separations is particularly helpful when assisted by a lawyer.

I also recommend my clients prepare for mediation by:

  • Having support: Get someone to drop you off and pick you up. Someone that can lift you up and support you.
  • Get help: Work with a counsellor or coach to get stronger and clearer. Work on your triggers. When you disable the buttons, there’s no longer any buttons to push.
  • Get advice: Information is power. Understand what a court would decide roughly in relation to your children and your financial settlement. This can be empowering or a reality check.

Conclusion: The role of family mediation in high conflict separations

Mediation is an opportunity to create the best possible outcome without anyone forcibly making a decision for you. When you understand what could come next if you don’t agree in mediation then you can also negotiate much more effectively.

My advice is try and work out your best case scenario before you come to mediation. And please share that with your mediator in your private session. That way they can play devil’s advocate and test your scenario based on their experience. That will help you prepare for the mediation session.

Being prepared for mediation is powerful and will ultimately help you gain the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Come prepared, have an open mind, and trust your mediator and you’ll be sure to make the right decisions for your family.

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Lisanne Iriks

About the author

Lisanne is an award winning mediator and coach who specialises in family dispute resolution and divorce coaching . She is known for her patient and constructive approach, providing a safe and respectful space for each client and their unique set of circumstances. Lisanne has been a finalist for Australian Mediator of the year in 2019, 2020,2021 and again in 2022 and has won the award for Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner of the year in 2020.

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