Your relationship has broken down, emotions may be running quite high. You are both trying to deal with matters, particularly if you have children together but it’s not quite working. You’ve been for legal advice or you’ve researched online and you think you would like to try mediation. You have suggested this to your ex-partner but they have refused to go to mediation.
What can you do?
The first thing you should do is to contact a mediator and have an initial conversation with them. Find out more about the mediation process and book your individual meeting with the mediator. It is then the mediator’s job to approach your ex-partner and invite them to mediation. Mediators are trained to contact the other person and tell them more about mediation.
Let the Mediator contact your ex-partner
In our experience, it’s been amazing how many times by just letting the mediator contact the other person that they then agree to try mediation. The reason for their agreement is often because they are now being asked by someone neutral, not you. Mediation is not being raised when tensions are high when there has just been a disagreement between the two of you and is seen to be part of the argument.
Understanding the reasons why someone is reluctant to attend mediation
As part of our training to be a mediator, we consider how people can be encouraged to try mediation. We are aware of the common reasons why people may feel reluctant to attend mediation. Sometimes the person feels that you are dealing with matters perfectly well between you both and the difficulties are just to be expected. We can explain how mediation can build upon what is working well between you and address the things which are not working so well.
Fear of the unknown or fear of losing control of the situation can be another reason why someone is unwilling to attend mediation. The initial individual meetings, that take place after you’ve both agreed to mediation, are designed to explain more about the mediation process which then makes the process feel less daunting. Explaining that mediation is voluntary and puts you more in control of the decision-making than going to court can help address the concern about feeling out of control.
Some misunderstand what mediation is and think it is a form of counselling designed to get you back together. Explaining that it is a process to deal with the decisions to be made following a relationship breakdown should quickly clarify that misunderstanding.
Another common reason for not attending mediation is worry about the emotions which will arise when you are with your ex-partner. Becoming upset about the situation can sometimes put some people off attending mediation. They are managing the separation and keeping the emotions under control in public but the idea of sitting together with their ex-partner feels too much. It is the mediator’s job to reassure the person that it is very normal to feel this way, that it is quite reasonable to feel emotional about the loss of a relationship and that we can take breaks in the meetings if needed.
Fear that the other person knows more about the finances than you and that you will be at a disadvantage can be another reason for a reluctance to attend mediation. It is a key part of the mediator’s job to address any power imbalance and ensure everyone understands the finances and what can happen. Without this information, you cannot make decisions about your future and so this should never be a concern for mediation as it is one of the most important things we do when mediating to ensure you are on a level playing field.
Ways for you to encourage your ex-partner to attend mediation
If your ex will not respond to the mediator’s invitation to contact them, then there are two further options available to you. Firstly, sell mediation to your ex-partner. Point out how much it costs to go to court, to instruct a solicitor to deal with matters for you. Raise how long court proceedings can take, how the court system is overwhelmed. Tell them that if you end up at court that a judge could be deciding your futures rather than the two of you. Tell them about how one of the main benefits of mediation is that it improves communication between you and respects the fact that you were once in a loving relationship.
If all that fails, speak to your solicitor. Perhaps they can write to your ex-partner and explain the process options available and that if mediation is not tried what the alternatives are, most of which cost more than mediation.
The individual meetings within the mediation process are so important and any concerns about attending mediation can be addressed.
Our team of experts are highly experienced in family mediation. We regularly advise clients on how mediation can be used as an effective way of resolving family law issues, including arrangements for children. Sarah Jelly, Hazel Manktelow, Gemma Hope, Kate Elliott and Mark Harrop are the teams qualified mediators. Please get in touch.