Family Mediation Week 2021: day 3 – What if?

Blackboard - "What If"

Listening Michael Legge ( recently on how to take care of ourselves and practise mindfulness, he gave the following good advice.  Anxiety often follows if we ask ourselves a ‘What If’ questions then follow it with a negative.

It really resonated with me and I have been trying to make it my own personal practise this week (you can listen to the interview here if you’re interested).  It struck me that the What If followed by a negative might be like the fear that some people have entering family mediation.  So, my Day 3 Family Mediation Week 2021 is to tackle some of the frequent What If mediation questions.

What if my husband/wife won’t agree to mediate? Well, they can’t be forced to but often we find that people are willing to at least try and are then pleasantly surprised when they learn about the speed, success rate and cost efficiency of mediation.

What if I don’t want to be near my ex?  As with most things, the pandemic has brought mediation mostly online.  That means you don’t have to be physically present in the same place.  With Zoom etc. you can also use breakout rooms so the mediator can speak with you both separately and ‘shuttle’ in between.  That can really help and the mediator might use separate rooms for the whole or part of the session.

What if they aren’t truthful about their finances? Mediation isn’t a place to hide.  Both are asked to give full and frank financial disclosure and confirm that they have done so.  Lack of disclosure could invalidate any agreement in the future anyway.  If you have concerns in mediation that the other person isn’t playing straight, you must say so.  Ultimately a court may be needed for anyone who refuses to comply.

What if he/she won’t let me see the children? That’s definitely one to flip.  It’s about the kids’ right to have time with each parent, not the other way around.  We look at the status of both parents, the presumption of both parents continuing to be involved in their children’s lives and work out what that looks like for your particular family and circumstances.  We try and use neutral and inclusive language and explore a range of things (including technology and other resources available) which could help with cooperative parenting.

What if she/he doesn’t stick to the agreement we reach? A mediated agreement is only a piece of paper – but then again so is a court order.  In mediation, we talk about attitudes and actions to ensure success with a future focus.

Flip the What Ifs.  Focus on the positives.  What If they do agree to mediate. What if we stick to what we agree?  What If I spend time with my kids?  What If it does work out for the future…