Mediator Louisa Whitney shares the benefits of mediation.

Meetings today are in person or online, and it doesn't matter as long as both agree on the format. For some this can be beneficial, such as people who feel distressed in the presence of their soon-to-be ex-spouse

Louisa Whitney of LKW Family Mediation
Louisa Whitney of LKW Family Mediation

Before you call your lawyer, take a moment to read about the benefits of mediation.

In recent years mediation has increased in popularity in the UK. Maybe it's because of the cost of living, or the negative reputation that follows Lawyers, either way, mediation is a healthy place to start working on your divorce.

Mediation is by far the cheaper way to disagree.

Louisa initially practiced Family Law, and then transitioned to Mediation, where she has practiced for the last 12 years.

How does Mediation work?

The client will always have the first meeting on their own. This is called the Mediation Information and Assessment meeting, and anyone commencing a court application needs to attend one. The first meeting is where Louisa learns as much as possible about how her client got to this point, what their fears for the future are and any concerns they may have. She assesses how much the client knows about the divorce process, and evaluates if they are in an abusive situation which will require safe guards to be put in place and whether mediation is suitable for the individual. There may be emotional triggers that will be noted for future meetings. The next stage will be a joint meeting, where clients sometimes leave asking more questions than they came in with as they discover what further information is required to map out different options. Both parties must agree to using Louisa's services.

The idea of mediation is to have practical conversations to make practical decisions.

By the end of the second meeting, Louisa expects there to be an element of moving forward, and if there isn't, this must be addressed. There are many reasons why this might happen, ranging from needing a different process, the client may have more work to do, or that Louisa isn't the right fit. The clients who struggle to make the most of mediation can be in a very bad place and in the angry stage of their grief. They may be more interested in proving they are right, rather than finding a compromise.

When a client is still in the early stages of complete shock, experiencing inner turmoil, and going through the motions, Louisa has found them to have a minimum level of decision making capabilities and recommends waiting until the shock has worn off. Doing so allows for healthier communication as they will have a rational and functioning mind. When pushed too soon for any decision making, she has noticed a pattern of these clients ending up in court.   

Meetings today are in person or online, and it doesn't matter as long as both agree on the format. For some this can be beneficial, such as people who feel distressed in the presence of their soon-to-be ex-spouse. Both are welcome to bring their Lawyer, Divorce Coach, and as long as the other party agrees, a family member. When a family member is part of the childcare arrangements, having them present during these discussions allows for realistic parameters. A majority of couples are just trying to make sense of how to unravel everything, not fight over a specific point that will end up in court.

How can we create two homes and make ends meet?

Louisa and I chat about the cost of living crisis and life post lockdown, She believes we are 'living the legacy of the pandemic.' People are overwhelmed, on the edge of burnout or burnt out, and with the cost of living, do not have the capacity for difficult situations. Prior to the pandemic, families were mainly living the traditional role where one person commuted to work daily and the other cared for the children and the home. Overnight, the pandemic allowed the commuting parent to become more involved with childcare, changing the dynamics. With WFH and more flexibility, the commuting parent has the opportunity to stay more involved. 

This may sound great in theory, but what Louisa has noticed is the lack of trust the primary carer has for the other parent. It causes acrimonious conversations and disbelief that the once-commuting parent is suddenly capable of caring for the children. Even so, 50/50 custody is on the rise, as the once commuting parent doesn't want to be minimised in their relationship with their children and miss out on them growing up. 

It is possible this parent has been less than capable, but divorce wakes people up. Allows them the opportunity to re-evaluate their parenting role.

What about the children, do they have a say?

Louisa is qualified to talk to the children as part of the mediation process, and in her experience, has learnt that children often come up with practical solutions and real concerns that can be overlooked. Children have a tendency to tell their parents what they think they want to hear, or say something to gauge a reaction. While the adults get bogged down in the detail, children are often concerned about what will happen if.

What happens if I forget my gym kit? What happens if I forget my hairbrush?

Whilst the parties may be focused on the now, Louisa encourages her clients to focus on their future and what that may look like. Will they be together at important big life events? What will the children say? It allows the couple to step out of the present for a minute and think. Mediators are not allowed to give advice, but they are allowed to give information to enable their clients to make their own informed decisions. That is why it is important to ask questions and do the work required to make informed decisions.

I asked Louisa about couples who have shared that they felt their mediator was kinder to their ex. Louisa shares an experience where a client called her on a specific situation that although wasn't impartial, was perceived as such and that is enough to cause a trust issue. By listening to the client's experience of that moment she was able to apologise and make changes so that thismiscommunication would not happen again to any of her clients. 

Mediators must remain impartial and if they feel or suspect that is not the case they must speak up.

Is there anything you wish your clients would do?

Louisa laughs, it's small but invaluable. 

Please send financial statements labelled by month and year. That way they are easier to search and saves me valuable time.

Since our interview, there are some changes that have come into place. The family court requires to try Non-Court Dispute Resolution processes before going to court. It is known that the family courts in the UK are overwhelmed, and with the long delays, this hopes to encourage resolution outside of court. Louisa has written a post on this, a topic I know little about.

Louisa can be reached here:


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