Anne Leiper on BBC Radio Berkshire discussing family mediation

LGFL was contacted by BBC Radio Berkshire this morning asking if we could discuss the new proposals by the government about compulsory mediation for separating couples on the morning show. Experienced mediator, Anne chatted with presenter Sarah Walker, giving a clear explanation on the process.

You can listen now on BBC Sounds (BBC Radio Berkshire), (starts 10hr 48 mins) or on our YouTube channel.

Thanks to Sarah and her team for thinking of Anne, and feel free to call us again anytime!


No time to listen?

Here’s the transcript of the discussion.

Sarah Walker:

It's BBC Radio Berkshire. So here's a question, right? Is it possible to have a good divorce? Can you. Split up calmly, considerately with no drama. Uh, we're talking about it because of the news that couples may be fined if they don't go through mediation under new plans, trying to ease the pressure on family courts.

So is mediation essential? Could you go without, let's speak to Anne Leiper now. She's a specialist, moderator, and Family Lawyer in Reading. Talk to me about what mediation is, first of all, Anne, for those who don't know.

Anne Leiper:

Oh, good morning, and thank you for asking me to join you, this morning. So mediation is a process by which couples, can be spoken to with the assistance of the intermediary, the neutral intermediary: the mediator. In a safe environment, which is very key and important, and to be assessed as an appropriate process for them. To discuss the issues that are between them, and to problem solve in that safe environment over children and financial matters.

Sarah Walker:

And as someone who's been through this process, um, you know, the aim of this really. Is to iron out as much as you possibly can before it gets into the hands of a family lawyer, I guess.

Because at that point it can get much more costly. You don't necessarily have the opportunity to talk things through. And then in time that can lead to court, can't it? If you can't iron out some key differences.

Anne Leiper:

Well, as a trained mediator, mediation is that it's not a binding process and does not, avoid legal advice.

And in fact, it's an essential part of it that legal advice is taken after the mediation process. To make sure that everything is balanced and fair for all parties and is a good and fair solution for all and works well for the children and the family as a whole.

So mediation does not, discount legal advice. And in fact, as I say, I think it's an essential part that parties have legal advice after any mediation process. And that's actually part of the reason why mediation works, because it is a process where people can discuss matters in full and all options without being bound by it, until they've got that legal advice.

So that option exploring is very important and key. And they've got the freedom and the safe environment to do that. And that is very key in my view to the mediation process. And the other important issue about mediation is essentially it is a voluntary process. And to make that, compulsory and fining, being, as a part of that for not occurring seems to be very, very extreme and quite worrying.

For any mediation to progress, there has to be a very careful screening process, to make sure that the process is appropriate for individuals . There are very subtle issues of coercive control that have to be considered, there are financial control issues that have to be considered; so that people aren't being forced down the route that may not be appropriate for them or put them in danger or the children in danger.

So it is something that has to be very carefully screened. The process assessed as correct for the parties involved.

Sarah Walker:

It does imply kind of one size fits all process, doesn't it? I suppose. And you know, talking about that and talking about how, it may not suit everyone really is quite key because;

I know that the Law Society has said that this plan could put victims of undetected, coercive control in a vulnerable position. And not everybody wants to sit in a room with a person who they are splitting up from and trying to iron out the nuts and bolts of what life might look like, post split with a complete stranger.

It doesn't work for everybody, does it?

Anne Leiper:

No, it isn't a one size fits all process at all, that is absolutely correct. There are cases that can be dealt with through other measures, collaborative process, but some cases do require the court process. We know that the court system is under pressure, but this is a very extreme, answer to that, because it could potentially put people in danger.

I mean, mediation, you can have shuttle mediation so that people aren't in the same room. But that does affect the impact of the process sometimes. But it's just the potential that you are putting people, forcing people into a process because they think they have no choice, because they're going to be fined. That you are putting them into a process that is going to put them at risk.

And also force them into settlements, that may not be, because people may not go and get legal advice afterwards that may not be appropriate and right for the children or for the settlement of the financial claim. Because very often there's an imbalance in control and knowledge of the financial circumstances of the family, particularly over pensions, that scenario.

So there are considerable issues here that need to be considered because if the settlement is wrong, these settlements are for the future.

Sarah Walker:

Of course,

Anne Leiper:

The short term, medium term and the long term, it's affecting people's lives from now until, the very long term. So, they have to be considered very carefully.

Sarah Walker:

Anne, thank you for your time. That's Anne Leiper, who's a mediator and Family Lawyer in Reading.


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