Medi­ation isn’t the only tool at dis­posal of war­ring couples: Katie O'Callaghan's letter to the Editor - Boodle Hatfield

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29 Jan 2024

Medi­ation isn’t the only tool at dis­posal of war­ring couples: Katie O’Callaghan’s letter to the Editor

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Family Partner and Mediator, Katie O'Callaghan pens a letter to the Editor of The Financial Times on their reports that the UK government is set to drop its plans for mandatory mediation for separating couples.

Katie's letter says: Your report (“Forced medi­ation plan for sep­ar­at­ing couples faces axe”, Report, Janu­ary 25) rightly acknow­ledges that man­dat­ory medi­ation was never going to be a cure-all for the Eng­lish fam­ily court, which is at break­ing point. The impact of delays on chil­dren in par­tic­u­lar can­not be over­es­tim­ated. 

However, there is little indic­a­tion of how this bot­tle­neck will be resolved. While an appeal­ing pro­spect in the­ory, medi­ation is not the right forum for every dis­pute. The out­come is not leg­ally bind­ing, so being open to com­prom­ise and respect­ing the pro­cess is a pre­requis­ite. Mak­ing medi­ation man­dat­ory may not, in fact, have led to a reduc­tion in court cases. 

As other pro­fes­sion­als have poin­ted out, com­pel­ling couples to medi­ate could be par­tic­u­larly harm­ful in cases of domestic abuse (hence, there would need to be exemp­tions). Even when there are no such alleg­a­tions, not every­one will feel com­fort­able using medi­ation, par­tic­u­larly if there are power imbal­ances at play. 

Medi­ation could do more dam­age than good. Arbit­ra­tion, nego­ti­ation through law­yers and roundtable meet­ings, are all other tools at war­ring couples’ dis­posal. Medi­ation can be an incred­ibly effect­ive way of resolv­ing rela­tion­ship break­downs in cer­tain instances. It is not, however, a one-size-fits-all solu­tion.

Read the full piece in The Financial Times (paywall) here. 

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