Joan Davis is the Director of Family Mediation NI, an organisation aimed at assisting couples upon their relationship breakdown to reach amicable, child-focussed arrangements between themselves. She has provided some information on the organisation and the services they provide:-
What is Family Mediation NI?
Upon the breakdown of a relationship, there are many issues that need to be discussed and decisions that need to be made by both parents in order to move forward not only as individuals but also as co-parents.
Issues which a separating couple may need to discuss can include the following:-
- Working out best arrangements for your children upon separation – where they are to live, how often they are to see either parent, what school they are to go to, etc
- Financial matters such as the division of the marital home and other property
- Child support and maintenance matters
- Any other problem particular to your circumstances
Separating from a marriage or relationship can be an emotionally charged time for all parties involved and this can sometimes make discussing the above issues in a reasonable and amicable manner very difficult.
Family Mediation NI offers the opportunity for parents, or (former) couples, to discuss any or all of these matters together with the assistance of a mediator to reach a jointly negotiated agreement.
Do I have to use Family Mediation?
No, Family Mediation NI is voluntary and nobody can be compelled to take part against his or her will. It is often very helpful in assisting people in reaching their own negotiated settlements. The first appointment is always an introductory one so you can consider whether mediation is a way forward for you at this time.
Is Family Mediation confidential?
Yes, all discussions in Family Mediation are confidential. This confidentiality can only be breached if a crime is alleged against a child, the mediator considers someone to be at serious risk of harm or allegations are made of criminal or fraudulent activity.
Will I need a Solicitor?
At Family Mediation NI, your mediator can record your decisions and summarise them in a written document known as a ‘Mediated Agreement’. This is not legally binding, but can form the basis of a legal agreement, if your circumstances require this approach.
In mediation, the process belongs to you, you do your own negotiating, removing the need for lengthy solicitor negotiations and legal action and the associated costs, both emotional and financial. You each may consult a solicitor, pre-mediation to advise you and to make any agreement reached legally binding, if you so wish. Mediators are neither counsellors nor advisers and do not at any time give legal advice but can help you generate options relevant to your family circumstances.
If you have children, Family Mediation can help you discuss how to talk to your children to ascertain their views and to help them to understand what is happening and in certain cases direct child consultation may be assessed as appropriate. You may also obtain help in how to tell your children about the breakup and reassure them that both of you are finding a way to support the family move forward.
At Family Mediation NI, we offer a 21st Century approach to modern family disputes. We believe that mediation should be the natural and first choice for most separating parents. Family Mediation NI is available throughout NI.
Joan Davis, FMNI Director