BBC2 aired a new documentary series ‘Mr v Mrs: Call the Mediator’ on Tuesday (21:00 BBC TWO 21 Jun 2016). As I am a practising family and divorce mediator, I watched this documentary with great interest and thought it would be a good opportunity to promote mediation to the public. There is still a misconception from the public about what family mediation involves – when I have mentioned mediation to prospective clients, a common response is “I don’t want to get back with my ex”. Mediation is not a form of couples counselling, instead it focuses on the practicalities of separation – now and in the future – and about financial and/or children matters.
The documentary was at times depressing and frustrating viewing. In my view, there was too much time spent discussing ‘blame’ during the mediation sessions, and less time focusing on promoting a pragmatic discussion. The narrator commented at the beginning about it being a ‘brave’ decision to mediate – perhaps it is for some – however mediation has many benefits such as: it is much cheaper and quicker than court, the couple have more control over the process and can agree more creative solutions, and it can help preserve a good relationship between parents.
Disappointingly, the documentary did not emphasise enough early on that financial disclosure is a usual requirement in mediation, and that legal advice is needed throughout the process not just at the end. As a mediator, I am also able to provide legal information about the current thinking of the family court. In relation to child-related disputes I often encourage parents to consider the child’s point of view and the effect it is having on him or her. I felt that the documentary could have focused more on the voice of the child. Let’s hope there is more emphasis on the importance of legal advice in the next episode.
If you are interested in viewing the first episode, you can follow this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07hnn7l
I am a solicitor-mediator based in Sevenoaks, Kent. I am a member of Resolution, which is an organisation committed to resolving disputes constructively.
Image credit: © BBC/Wild Pictures/Lewis Craggs - used with permission of BBC Picture Desk