As law encourages separating couples to seek mediation, Carol Rawlence, now a mediator herself tells how it worked for her. Carol, 52, lives in Wandsworth, south London, with her three children.
My husband and I had been married for 15 years and had three children aged 11, nine and seven, when our marriage broke down. When he left, I went straight to a divorce lawyer, because I didn’t realise there was an alternative, and because I was angry and hurt.
My solicitor cost £10,000 over 18 months and it was emotionally draining. Every letter that arrived would leave me shaking – seeing grievances laid out in black and white is hard to take. And it was fruitless too, as we failed to agree on how to proceed.
We’d been running a small printing business together, which involved sharing a lease on a building. I’d started the business up, so there was a lot of emotion bound up in it, especially when his girlfriend began working there.
Seeing the children wasn’t an issue, but he would let himself into the house and act as though he still lived here. When I changed the locks, my solicitor said that would be seen as an aggressive act. It’s all about establishing boundaries but at the time it was just hideously painful.
Soon, we were only communicating by email or text. Of course, children pick up everything, and mine started feeling guilty for saying they’d had a nice time with Daddy. Plus, whilst I was depressed and low, his girlfriend was able to be fun company when the children visited. We’d been separated for two years when a friend who was also a family lawyer and mediator offered to help us try to thrash out an agreement. A third party makes it easier to have difficult conversations and both of us began to behave more reasonably.
We had three 90 minute sessions over about four months, and agreed on maintenance and child support and that I would keep the family home while he kept our business. Our mediator then prepared a draft agreement for our lawyers to turn into a consent order. The sessions cost us each about £500 and the process was quicker, cheaper and less acrimonious than when we were both consulting lawyers. With hindsight, I wish I’d used a mediator from the start.
It has taken time, but now ten years on, my relationship with my husband is really good, especially where the children are concerned. I got so much out of the process I became a mediator myself. I needed to retain and find a new way to earn an income, and what could be better than using what I have had to go through to help others?
Want To Find Out More About Mediation?
– Couples can see a mediator separately if they prefer. If one party is physically or emotionally abusive, this rules out mediation says Alison Hawes, head of family law at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.
– Assessment costs £100 to £200 each. Those on legal aid will have their fees paid. If you proceed to mediation, three to four 90 minute sessions, from £280, is usual says James Thornton, lawyer mediator at Stow Family Law Settlements.
– Mediators can give information but not advice. Sometimes a couple may also need to seek legal advice.
– The mediator will prepare a draft agreement, which the couple ask their lawyers to write into legal consent order.
– National Family Mediation trains non-lawyers. You need a degree or equivalent or five year’s experience in a similar field and the course costs £2,000.