Wace Morgan Solicitors based in Shrewsbury has offered Family Mediation services for over 20 years. Esther Evans, (pictured right) trained Mediator and Steph Kitson (left), Mediation Coordinator are the team behind one of the most successful mediation services in Shropshire. This #familymediationweek the duo explain a little about the process and how it can help families.
So what is Family Mediation?
Esther: It’s an alternative to court proceedings where couples who want to separate work with a trained mediator to reach a mutually acceptable settlement. It costs much less and generally takes less time than the traditional court process, so couples can focus on any children in the relationship.
So mediation can cover childcare arrangements?
Esther: Yes, and financial matters. I’m trained in Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) as well, which means children can actually be heard during the process.
Is that beneficial for the children?
Esther: Yes, it can really reduce the stress of any children involved and help them feel like they are being heard. If both parents consent, I sit down with each child in a safe environment and listen to them express their thoughts on what’s happening, but without guiding them in any way. I then pass these thoughts on to the parents who can take them into account during the rest of the process.
Steph: And because Esther is a mother of 3 (11, 14 and 17 years old) she’s very good at helping the child feel at ease and has a really warm personality.
At what stage do you recommend couples look into mediation?
Esther We say that mediation can happen at any time during the process of separation. In most cases the courts require that couples attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before going to court so many come to us early on.
Steph: But we have clients who have hit roadblocks in the court system and decided to try mediation. Recently a couple had been in court for almost 10 years but after one mediation session they were able to settle all their affairs and finally move on.
Esther: It’s all about communicating with each other and working with someone who has to remain impartial and try and do what’s best for both parties.
Is it difficult to stay impartial?
Steph: I’m the one who takes the initial call and makes contact with both parties, so Esther is able to go into meetings without any preconceptions or having spoken to one side more than the other.
Esther: Obviously I’m trained to remain impartial throughout the process, but I can give legal information to both parties on what their options are, which can help them to reach a decision that works for both of them.
So you give legal advice to both sides?
Esther: No, not legal advice – if each party wants legal advice they have to see a solicitor separately. I can give legal information, such as explaining what options a court has for making financial awards or imposing childcare arrangements, which can help couples reach a decision.
Generally the courts can only give very specific orders as allowed by legislation. Mediation can be a bit more flexible to suit the couples needs. It also opens up a dialogue between them, which can be the foundation for future co-parenting.
Steph: And because Esther has been a family lawyer for over 15 years as well as a mediator, she can give up-to-date legal information, especially on financial matters.
Do you just operate in Shrewsbury?
Esther: We help couples all over Shropshire and Mid Wales, but we take meetings in Shrewsbury, Telford, Newtown, Welshpool, Oswestry and Church Stretton.
You must be busy!
Steph: Yes I keep her on the road a lot!
Esther: It’s why having a full time coordinator is so important. Steph is always on hand in the office to take a call which means I can focus on the sessions themselves.
What advice would you give someone reading this who may be on the fence about mediation?
Esther: There are lots of really useful resources online on the Family Mediation Association (FMA) website and lots of resources are being shared as part of #familymediationweek 2020. But you can also call us to ask about any aspect of mediation, we’re happy to help.
If you’d like to speak to Esther or Steph, call Wace Morgan’s Family Mediation Service on 01743 280 158.