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Mediation Matters: Winners, losers … and those caught in between

Date:19 JUN 2018
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Chief Executive, NFM

The Chief Executive of National Family Mediation returns with a regular column

Maybe you love the football World Cup. Perhaps you hate it. Either way, there’s no denying that millions across the country – and far further beyond – are captivated by the tournament.

The prospect of victory hypnotises hardcore sports fans, of course. But in an international pageant like the World Cup it draws others in too: whether through patriotism, workplace sweepstakes and water cooler gossip, or a sense that by watching this global spectacle on TV we’re afforded a glimpse of the exotic.

There will be twists and turns along the road to the Moscow Final, but one thing is for sure: on July 15 in the Luzhniki Stadium, there will be just one winning nation. The other 31 will have fallen by the wayside.
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These tournaments have been running for decades, of course, but nowadays fuelled by wall-to-wall TV coverage and social media interactivity, the hype surrounding speculation of ‘who’ll win’ is unprecedented. Then there are online betting sites which make us believe we can easily achieve a victory with a single click on the mobile that pours cash from our bank accounts into those of the bookies.

This culture of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ is highly pertinent to my profession. That’s because it’s a culture that has, for many years, driven separating couples to engage in solicitor-led battles to fight over their differences in court.

That desire to ‘win’, to score a financial success over the ex you once loved but now loathe, is what energises so many men and women as they are egged towards the promise of victory.

But it’s a culture that professional family mediators work hard to challenge: the idea of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ a divorce has to be confronted, for the sake of ... well, everyone in the family, actually.

Unlike a sporting contest, there’s no binary ‘win/lose’ in a family’s separation. Not so much black-and-white as many shades of grey.

By definition of the fact they are separating most couples know in their hearts that, to a greater or lesser extent, something has already been lost. And rather than somehow trying to turn that round into victory, mediators work to help them minimise the losses recognising nobody wins in divorce, least of all the children.

Undertaking family mediation takes longer than the month duration of the World Cup, but it’s still a lot quicker than dragging your dispute through the courts which almost always entails extra-time.

Rejecting a win/lose mentality takes courage, and it can mean turning what’s almost a cultural ‘norm’ on its head.

But at the end of the day, those who matter most in divorce or separation are not those who achieve a ‘victory’ or feel they’ve been beaten, but those caught in between. That means the children. Making the right decisions for them should be the separating parents’ first goal.

In family mediation nobody wins any cups, medals or transitory fame. But rather than trying to spite your ex, you’ll have the chance to shape a bright future in which children can retain a good relationship with both parents. That’s a prize that beats the glittering hoist of a trophy to the admiring hordes.