The documentary has raised the profile of family mediation and provided some insight into what can go on behind closed doors. There were a cross-section of family disputes to include: marital breakdown, division of financial assets, and arrangements for a child. As a Bristol mediation services provider, I have outlined some of the positives and negatives from watching the programme.

As a practising family and divorce mediator, my interest was more in highlighting the mediators’ skills in favour of listening to the couples’ conflicts. Arguably, this does not make as interesting TV for the viewing public.

What were the highlights?

  • It increased the awareness of mediation, which can only be a good thing. It also helped to dispel the myth of mediation involving the desire to reconcile.

  • It stressed the costly exercise of going to court. It can cost tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees if you are not able to reach a compromise in mediation.

  • It brought attention to the fact that mediation is much quicker than court provided the couple can reach a solution.

  • It highlighted the freedom of a couple reaching a more creative solution if they wanted, for example in episode 3, there was a suggestion by the husband that the family jewellery be given to the children. This is not something a family court would order if they were asking a judge to make a decision.

What was missing?

  • It did not stress the importance of each individual taking legal advice before and during the mediation process. There was an emphasis on taking legal advice at the end, which in my view was too late.

  • Obtaining early legal advice is crucial to managing the clients’ expectations during the process and arguably can help the couple reach a solution quicker. For example, it was frustrating viewing in episode 1 when Peter believed that it was morally right for him to retain more than 50% of the house because his wife, Sue had left him for another man. A good family solicitor will explain that the ‘fault’ of one person does not determine the division of the assets – there are many factors to take into account, including the future needs of both individuals. If Peter knew this, it could have sped up the mediation process.

  • At times, emotive language was used by some of the mediators. I avoid using the words “contact” and “residence” and instead replace it with ‘spend time with’ and ‘live with’. The law recognises that a child spends time with both parents.

If you would like to know more about family mediation, then please do not hesitate to contact me via my contact page.