What are the disadvantages of family mediation? - Family Law Partners

What are the disadvantages of family mediation?

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The options available to families seeking to navigate significant life events such as separation are increasingly wide ranging.  When considering what option may work best for you both as individuals and as a family it is of course important to look at the pros and cons and to make an informed decision.  Mediation, like any other process, has many advantages but there are also some drawbacks and it is not always the most appropriate choice.

Mediation can be a useful and effective tool for resolving matters and making decisions together for your family and my colleague Hazel Manktelow writes about the top ten benefits in detail here.

However, there are also potential disadvantages to family mediation, such as:

  1. Unequal power dynamics: In some cases, power imbalances within a family can impact the mediation process. If you feel that the power dynamics between you are not matched, it can hinder open communication and compromise.  If you are concerned about this it is important to raise it with your mediator in your initial, individual meeting so that they are aware of your concerns and are able to use their skills in managing power dynamics to ensure a fair and balanced process.
  2. Ineffective if parties are not willing to participate: For mediation to be successful, all those involved must be willing to participate and engage in the process. If one or more individuals are resistant or unwilling to cooperate, it can hinder progress and make it challenging to reach mutually acceptable solutions.  Mediation is entirely voluntary and must be entered into by agreement by both parties.
  3. Limited enforceability: Unlike a court judgment or legal agreement, the outcome of a mediation process does not have the same level of enforceability. While you may agree to an outcome during mediation, you will not be held to the terms of that outcome unless and until it has been converted into a binding court order.  This lack of enforceability can be a disadvantage if compliance becomes an issue in the future and it is therefore important that if you do arrive at an outcome within the mediation process that you each take independent legal advice on that outcome; and ensure that it is properly recorded in a formal document such as a parenting plan or an order that is approved by the court.
  4. Potential for manipulation or coercion: In situations where there is a history of manipulation or coercion within a relationship, mediation may not be appropriate as it can provide a further forum for manipulation or coercion to be.  Your mediator will always make an assessment, having met with each of you individually, as to whether mediation is an appropriate forum and mediators have an active safeguarding duty to ensure that the participants in mediation are protected and not placed at risk.
  5. Emotional challenges: Family mediation can be emotionally taxing for all involved, especially when dealing with sensitive topics. It may resurface unresolved emotional issues and escalate tensions. Emotional dynamics can make it challenging to stay focused on resolving the current matters, and additional support, such as therapy, may be required.  This is something that we are ever mindful of at Family Law Partners and we work closely with our Director of Client Wellbeing, Kim Crewe, to ensure that additional support is available if needed.

It’s important to note that these disadvantages do not imply that family mediation is inherently ineffective or inappropriate. With the right mediator each of the above concerns may be managed and addressed to ensure that mediation as a process option is available to as many families as possible.  Mediation can still be a valuable tool in resolving family matters, but it’s important to understand its limitations and consider alternative approaches when necessary.

How can we help?

For more information about mediation, or to arrange a confidential discussion about your personal circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Polly Dallyn is a Senior Associate Solicitor and Mediator in our Horsham Office

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