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Family Law

Interview with Jennifer Goldstein

Mediation week

Thursday, January 21, 2021

As part of mediation week, we have put questions to our very own resident Family Mediator, Jennifer Goldstein. We are keen to find out more about family mediation and how it used to help separating couples.

Jennifer is a Senior Partner at Samuel Phillips Law, specialising in Divorce and Family Law. She has been an accredited Family Mediator since 2015.

What are the main benefits of Mediation for a separating couple?

A break-up or divorce can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences in life. Whatever the reason for the split, the break-up of a relationship often turns a person’s world upside down. A break-up launches a person into unchartered territory. Everything is disrupted; their home, family, routine, identity, to name but a few. It is common for people to feel completed overwhelmed and anxious about their future. In my experience, if a person can feel in control over the decisions being made, rather than having decisions made by a stranger, for instance a Judge, this reduces the tension and anxiety.

Family mediation allows a separating couple to remain in control, as nobody forces decisions upon them. This tends to reduce acrimony and ill-feeling and in turn helps the parties reach an agreement. As a Family Mediator I help separating couples agree how they will divide their finances and the arrangements for the children of the family. My role is to facilitate and support them in reaching decisions together about what will work best for them and their family.

A benefit of using mediation, is the cost. It is usually substantially cheaper than being engaged in court proceedings.

Also, the mediation process can be relatively quick. On average, I find mediations typically last between 6-12 weeks, compared to 1-2 years if the matter was being dealt with via  the courts.

Communication often breaks down following a separation and mediation helps couples to improve communications, which is particularly important if they are to co-parent children. In contrast, going through the court route, parties can end up so polarised, all it does is embed the complete breakdown of communication which may cause more issues in the future.

What does the mediation process involve? 

Initially, each person meets with the mediator individually for a confidential chat. This is an opportunity for a frank and honest conversation, which can covers the background to the break-up, how the break up has affected each person and the difficulties they have faced following separation. Having met with both parties, the mediator will then decide if the matter is suitable for mediation.

If the case is suitable, the parties will be invited to joint sessions. Ideally, the sessions will be in the same room whether it be virtual, or in person. If it is not possible for both parties to be in the same room, they can be in separate rooms and the mediator will shuttle between the rooms. The mediator’s role is completely neutral; their remit is to facilitate the discussion in a focused way. It is important to note that all discussions, are all “without prejudice” meaning they cannot be referenced elsewhere.

If an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up a memorandum of understanding. This records the agreement that the parties have reached. The document can remain as a standalone document or it can be sent to the court to be made into a formal court order.

Is Mediation suitable for everyone? 

Mediation is not suitable in cases of serious domestic abuse. That is why we have the initial meeting and the assessment.

Often a person is concerned that the other person will dominate the mediation and bully or intimidate them. This simply does not happen. The mediator is there to facilitate the session and part of that is to ensure that both parties have an equal voice and are listened to.

What advice would you give to couples before their first mediation session? 

In the first instance I would recommend consulting a solicitor to get a good understanding of their legal position. It is important to know this information before attending mediation, as the mediator cannot give legal advice.

Ahead of your mediation, it is important to try to keep an open mind. Often during mediation solutions may emerge that had not previously been considered.

If someone is interested in finding out more about Mediation what would you suggest? 

In the first instance I would recommend visiting www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk or www.familymediationweek.or.uk. Both websites have lots of useful information for those interested in finding out more about family mediation.

Also please feel free to contact the Family Team at Samuel Phillips Law at mediation@samuelphillips.co.uk or call 0191 2328451 to speak to one of the team.

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