Much has been said and written about how the pandemic has changed our lives. We are all too familiar with the visible signs of this, the restrictions and new practical ways of doing things. But is something bubbling under the surface too? Has there been a cultural change? When everything is lost, have we taken a moment to consider what is really important to us, what we want from our lives and more aspirational ways of behaving?
Speaking personally, the use of mediation is on the increase. Why is this? It could be as practical as the inaccessibility of the courts. Already overstretched pre-lockdown, the additional adjournments have led to longer backlogs and, therefore, judges were being encouraged to ‘… adjourn any hearing to use available time to explore with the parties the possibility for compromise.’
Time is definitely a factor. Covid has cleared our cluttered calendars. Unable to do some of the things that would previously have kept us busy, we have time to contemplate and time to research new ways. Family mediation sits amongst a range of non-court options, that might previously have been dismissed, but we are now open to.
There is of course the sadness that lockdowns have brought strain to relationships and some won’t survive, in that form. But where marriages struggle and come to an end, there is an appetite to do this with dignity and respect. And a recognition that cooperative parenting is required when the couple have children.
Family mediators mobilised quickly at the start of the pandemic. Zoom ‘experts’ – we became and have remained accessible. Video calls are taking place all over the country, at all sorts of times and days. Our online mediations are improving on former issues, e.g. getting to a mediator, availability during the working day etc. Clients report personal benefits for them too; the additional assurance of being in your own space and/or distance from a former partner. So, it is with pleasure that I take part in promoting Family Mediation Week 2021. Taking place from 18-22 January 2021, Family Mediation Week is to raise awareness of mediation and how it can help separating families manage their issues collaboratively and productively. I will be blogging each day about things that I hope will draw you into my mediation world and give more understanding of how helpful and healthy mediation is; for future clients, for professionals working in family law and for you to pass on to someone who might just need to know.