What if I don’t want to be near my ex – could mediation still work for me? – By Sarah Manning

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What if I don’t want to be near my ex – could mediation still work for me?

Your first contact with a mediator, the Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), gives you the opportunity to tell the mediator about these issues.  Mediators carry out full domestic abuse screening and assess if mediation is a suitable for you and your ex-partner to work through issues. The mediator will also speak to you about whether you are comfortable being in the same room as your ex-partner and you feel able to speak openly. At the end of the MIAM the mediator will ask you if you would like to attend a joint session with your ex-partner and discuss the options available as to how it can be conducted.

The MIAM is compulsory if you wish to issue court proceedings but attending a joint session is voluntary.  If after your MIAM meeting with the mediator you still do not think mediation is for you, the mediator can provide you with the certification needed in the court form. The mediator will tick a box which states that either the Applicant or the Respondent does not wish to start or continue with mediation, or the mediator has determined that mediation is unsuitable. In other words, the reason you do not wish to attend will not be disclosed on the form

What are the options if I do not want to be near my ex?

Mediation is a voluntary process and the mediator in the MIAM will discuss the different options available to you.

Remote Mediation

Following the pandemic, the majority of mediation sessions are now taking place via Zoom/Microsoft Teams. This means that, rather than having to sit across a table from your ex-partner, you can sit in the comfort of your own home when in a joint session and be totally separate from each other. It may be that you still don’t want to even see your ex-partner on the computer screen, and this is your choice. The mediator can assign you both in different break-out rooms and move between the rooms speaking to each of you individually. This would mean that you do not have to have any direct contact with your ex-partner.

Face-to-Face Mediation

If you prefer not to use Zoom/Microsoft Teams then face to face mediation can take place on a shuttle basis also, with both parties arriving at the mediator’s offices separately and leaving separately. You will both be sat in different rooms with the mediator moving between you to ensure you have no direct contact.

On some occasions, mediation starts off on a shuttle basis before the parties then come together in a joint session when they feel comfortable to do so.  Parents might have to have some sort of direct contact if handovers are taking place for the children and sometimes seeing each other at mediation, albeit via video call or in a mediation setting, is a good “ice breaker” and can help get communication on a better footing.

I have been the victim of domestic violence. Am I exempt from attending mediation?

When making an application to court, one of the exemptions to attending mediation is having suffered from domestic violence.  It is important to note that, although it is an option to bypass mediation if you have suffered domestic violence, it is not a bar to mediation taking place. An experienced mediator will be able to conduct mediation on a shuttle basis, facilitating discussions through with no direct contact in a safe environment.

 Is online mediation here to stay?

Prior to the pandemic not many mediators offered online mediation; now it is the norm. Conducting mediation remotely not only ensures that both parties feel able to speak freely in a comfortable environment, but it also allows the mediator to maintain control over who speaks using the “mute” function if discussions become too heated. The parties have the option of ending the mediation session at any time by pressing the red button on the right-hand corner of the session if they feel overwhelmed. It is advisable to agree with the mediator in the MIAM what will happen if the discussion becomes heated and they wish to speak to the mediator alone. One of the options is to use the chat box and message the mediator directly, or to put yourself on mute and switch the camera off to indicate to the mediator that you want to speak privately.

If you want to explore whether mediation is the right option for you, book a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting.  You will get lots of information as to all your options and make an informed decision with a qualified mediator.