You may have read articles in the press recently about new Government plans, which will mean that divorcing couples have to attend a mediation session before they can go to court. These are due to come into force from April this year.
This isn't quite as 'Big Brotherish' as it sounds. Many couples find a reasonable way to settle their divorce and it is in every couple's interest to keep out of court, as this bumps the cost up by thousands of pounds, sometimes tens of thousands of pounds. The plan is for a couple to have a 'mediation awareness' session with a mediator, to see if it will help them settle out of court.
It isn't yet completely clear whether this 'awareness' session is going to be provided free at the expense of mediators, or whether they can charge their usual fee or 'contribution'. Certainly this can be seen as part of the Government's plan to reduce the pressure on courts and to continue their aim of abolishing legal aid in family matters.This may cause a backlog as there are many less mediators than there are solicitors.
This whole idea of getting people to talk about their issues, with some facilitated help, is a good one. Unfortunately it usually comes too late to help couples repair their relationship and to stop the pain and anguish felt by them, their children, their family and friends.
Many of us know when we need to call in a professional to repair our car, fix a leaky tap or prune our tallest trees. Some of us will have a go first and then call in the expert, when we have done our bit. This often increases the cost against what it would have cost if we had got the expert in first!
This second route seems to be the one favoured by most people whose relationship is less then happy. Often there is disagreement over whether there is anything wrong in the first place. Then one may feel outside help would be of benefit whilst the other steadfastly refuses to consider the need for anyone else to be involved in such a personal matter. The old proverb of 'a stitch in time' comes to mind here.
We see many couples where this conflict over help has arisen several years before and no help was sought. Now the one who refused to ask for help is faced with imminent separation and divorce and suggests some outside help could now be useful. Our most harrowing task is to help someone understand they have left it too late and their spouse has now crossed the threshold from which there is no return. Trust has been lost and the feelings of love turned to hate or indifference. Once one partner has made the decision "it's over" there is usually no chance of the relationship being repaired. Sometimes it is possible to help couples change their relationship into something that will work for the children's benefit, knowing this is putting off the inevitable split to a later date. Mostly our role then becomes one of helping the couple manage their divorce as painlessly and fairly as possible and with minimum unnecessary expense.
If you know a couple who seem to argue continuously, never have a good word to say for each other, but claim they still love each other, suggest they find someone to talk to now, whilst they still have something to build on. Encourage either of them to seek help just for themselves, if their partner refuses to have anything to do with this.
Otherwise they may find themselves having to go to mediation under the new government scheme!