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Co-authored by Kate Elliott
Co-mediation is when you have the expertise of two mediators or perhaps a mediator and another professional (therapist, financial advisor, actuary, accountant, tax specialist), rather than the traditional approach of just one mediator.
We are often asked what the benefits of co-mediation are and why it would be beneficial to pay for two experts, rather than one. Although on the face of it, two experts may appear more costly than one, this isn’t always the case. This is because having the expertise of two mediators can cut through issues faster, by creating balance in the room, ensuring both parties are fully supported and ensuring both parties body language and experiences are carefully monitored. Furthermore, co-mediators can (if appropriate) adopt differing roles, for example, one focuses on the information and the other the dialogue or where a therapist co-mediates their role can be to manage the emotions, therefore saving the mediating couple both time and money.
There are many advantages to co-mediation which should be considered when deciding which approach is the most appropriate for your individual circumstances.
No one size fits all
As with most things in life, no one size fits all and the same can be said when considering mediators. Often the biggest hurdle to having an effective mediation is finding the right mediator which meets the needs of both parties and who both trust and respect. You could have the most highly skilled mediator, yet their approach and interactions with you is not the right fit. There are of course many factors that create the environment for a positive and successful mediation. Another key factor is ensuring that both parties feel there is balance and that they are heard and understood, and this can be easier to achieve when there are two mediators, particularly when there are complex dynamics that need to be carefully managed. Not only does co-mediation promote an environment in which power imbalances are easier to manage, but the dual skillset of the mediators also complements one another and dovetails in managing the process.
Avoids key points being overlooked
A further benefit is a practical benefit of having two sets of eyes and ears which ensures that key points, whether openly communicated or simply body language are not missed. Sometimes individuals can feel that the dynamic when there is only one mediator is more daunting and resembles an interview, whereas having two mediators allows the mediator’s attention to be easily divided between the mediating couple equally and it tends to create an easier and more circular dialogue. Co-mediation can also be particularly beneficial where there is a complex factual matrix or complicated financial matters to work through (multiple properties, businesses, pensions, tax issues, complex investments, differing contributions, separate property points or in children matters where the issues at play are complicated and the dynamics between the parents strained).
Expertise from multi-disciplines
Co-mediation does not necessarily have to involve two family mediators who are qualified solicitors and instead can involve therapists, financial advisors, accountants, actuaries and so on. The flexibility of the mediation forum allows mediators to actively involve appropriate experts as co-mediators who then aid the process by bringing a complementary skill set to the table to help break down issues and barriers and help the parties overcome particularly complex disputes, whether that be financial, children related matters or complex phycological dynamics between the parties.
Modelling effective communication
Generally, a separated couple seek the assistance of a mediator because they can no longer effectively communicate together and need the assistance of a third party. Co-mediators can use the opportunity of mediation to model effective communication and listening skills to the parties mediating, which may not seem obvious at first, but will have a lasting effect on the parties’ ability to communicate together in the long term. Following mediations, in which progress is made, it is often the case that communication between parties improves as it can help unlock barriers that each may have put in place due to the difficulties that have arisen.
Kate Elliott and Hannah Viet are Specialist Family Solicitors and Mediators based in our Horsham office.
If you think co-mediation may be right for you, please contact our team to find out how co-mediation can be tailored to meet the needs and requirements of your situation.