It’s hard not to support the principles of family mediation. It avoids costly legal fees, it leaves you in control of decisions, and it’s quicker and less adversarial. But does family mediation work? Many people doubt whether it is right for them and their circumstances. So when does family mediation work and when should it be avoided?

In general, if you can answer ‘yes’, or even ‘maybe’ to the questions below, then it is worth considering mediation.

Do you feel able to sit in the same room as your ex, with a mediator present and is it safe for you to do so?
Do you feel able to put across your point of view, with the support of a mediator?
Do you feel able to make your own decisions about your future, supported by your solicitor or other professional advisors?

Here are some other factors that may impact how well mediation will work

  • The level of conflict. Whilst mediation is certainly easier in lower conflict situations, high conflict doesn’t mean mediation won’t work. What is more important is how willing you are to listen to each other and to look for solutions that meet both of your needs.
  • Appropriate and measured legal and other professional advice. In order to help you reach agreement, it is important that you both receive good legal and other professional advice, as appropriate. However, some solicitors still take an adversarial approach to divorce and when this is brought into the mediation room, it can just polarise views. Equally, over-reliance on what your solicitor says you should be aiming for rather than what works for you both can be unhelpful. Choose a solicitor who supports mediation and is a member of Resolution.
  • How you feel about the separation It is normal to grieve an old relationship, even if you are the one who is choosing to leave. Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ work describes five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually, acceptance. These stages can be applied to grieving the end of a relationship. It is normal for one person from the relationship to be at a different stage in the grief process to the other. This is especially true when one person has made the decision to leave, perhaps some time ago, but the second person has only just found out. Patience is sometimes required to allow people to grieve at their own pace.
  • How confident you are at making your own decisions. In mediation, you are responsible for making your own decisions. Some people, especially those who are not used to making big decisions, find this hard. Extra support from your solicitor or perhaps a pragmatic friend or family member can be helpful. But, in the end, it is your life and you choose what agreements you want to make.
  • Is one person holding all the power? Sometimes one person holds all the power in a negotiation and they use it. Perhaps one parent is preventing the other from seeing the children and is not willing to discuss it. Or perhaps one person is refusing to share the details of their finances. Mediation is a voluntary process and depends on both parties engaging and being willing to negotiate.
  • Focus on the problem and not the person. Mediation is most likely to succeed when you are both willing to focus on the issues and how to resolve them and not on whose fault it is that you are in this position. It may seem unfair, but the more you are able to let go of blame and retaliation, the easier it will be to reach resolution – and the sooner you will be able to move forwards with your life.

At Abingdon Family Mediation, the majority of our clients are professionals in the 30s or 40s with young children. They usually own their own home with a mortgage and have some savings and perhaps some pension provision. They want to try and keep communication reasonably amicable and put their children’s needs first and want to avoid costly legal fees. In these circumstances, mediation is highly likely to succeed.

Occasionally, there is a court order in place to protect you or your children from your ex-partner. In these circumstances mediation may not be appropriate and the mediator would need to look at the wording of the court order. In addition, if social services are involved with your family, the mediator may need to check with them that mediation is appropriate.

The first step in the mediation process is a confidential one to one meeting between yourself and the mediator. This meeting will offer you the opportunity to give further consideration to whether mediation, or an alternative, will be better for you.

Polly Gavins runs Abingdon Family Mediation, a mediation service that aims to provide a practical and effective mediation process that is delivered with kindness, respect and understanding.

If you would like to book in a confidential one to one meeting, call Polly on 0770 651 3496 or email

Is mediation right for you?