Case Study: Using family mediation to resolve disagreements over child contact arrangements

B&B Mediation Service supported two parents whose relationship had irretrievably broken down and who were struggling to address issues relating to the care of their 3-year-old child.

The couple appointed Butcher & Barlow’s independent B&B Mediation Service to provide an alternative dispute resolution in a non-adversarial atmosphere, away from courts and solicitors. Despite initial disagreements, mediation was successful for both parties and allowed them to move forward without any court involvement.

Provided with a sole mediator from B&B Mediation Service, both parties initially received an individual Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM), to rule out any safeguarding issues or domestic violence concerns, before agreeing to engage in joint mediation sessions in the same room with the mediator present.

Guided by information gleaned in these initial meetings, B&B Mediation’s sole mediator set an agenda for the session to ensure that both parties’ concerns were addressed, using flip charts and a Venn diagram to identify common ground between both parties.

In this particular case, the mother was very quiet and whilst she was respectful of the father talking, this respect was not reciprocated. B&B’s mediator detected this imbalance and addressed it within the process to ensure the parties showed mutual respect and allowed each other time to make their own points.  This approach encouraged more confidence in the mother to voice her concerns and play an equal part in the conversation.

Both parties needed to urgently address issues around child maintenance. The mother believed that the father wanted more contact with their child so he would pay less child support, and the father believed that the mother was restricting contact to get more financial support.

It became apparent that arrangements for the child could not be resolved without exploring this delicate issue and whilst not initially included on the agenda, it was mutually agreed to explore the issue further. This exploration shed light on the father’s fears of the mother making an application to the CMS. The mother gave assurances that she would not make a referral to the CMS at which the father reported feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

Once the child maintenance issue had been addressed and resolved the entire mood of the mediation sessions changed and became more productive. From this point onwards, the mediation session progressed rapidly. Both parties had time to reflect on their son individually and share what he meant to them within the session. The mediator encouraged both parents to keep these thoughts in their minds when discussing arrangements and making decisions regarding his care in the future.

As a result of mediation, further mediation sessions were not needed. Both parties confirmed with the mediator afterwards that they had continued to communicate over any outstanding issues and had reached agreements that they were both happy with.

If you are in need of mediation or would like to discuss B&B Mediation Services in more detail, please visit our Family Law page.