Are you looking for a family mediator to help with communication and decision making? There are a few things you might want to think about and check out before choosing who to approach. These include the type of disagreements, the qualifications of the mediator and any fees or charges that apply.
What is the issue?
One of the first things to think about is what you are having difficulty communicating about. These notes relate primarily to finding a mediator to help with issues that arise as a result of splitting up, divorce or parenting separately. These disputes generally need to be considered in the context of family law. There are a number of options for professional help to reach agreement, and mediation is one of these. The key areas to check out when looking for a mediator are outlined below, and you might also want to seek legal advice.
There are other circumstances where disagreements can impact on family relationships, well-being, resilience and living arrangements. For example arguments between young people and their parents or care givers which might lead to the young person leaving, or when adult siblings are struggling to agree on the care arrangements for elderly parents. For information on finding a mediator to help with these difficulties read the later section on ‘other family relationship issues’.
Family Mediation (Divorce and Separation)
For difficulties in the context of separation and divorce consider finding a family mediator who has had training in and understands the legal process in Scotland. In addition, it might be important for your mediator to be accredited by an approved organisation, as explained below. Accreditation also provides assurance of training standards and professional conduct.
If your dispute was to go to court, you might want to be sure that any discussions that you have had in mediation remain confidential and are not used as evidence against you in civil court proceedings. The Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Act 1995 protects the confidentiality of the mediation process if it is carried out by a family mediator accredited by an organisation approved by the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland. If you have not already explored mediation, the sheriff or judge on your case may require you to consider it as an alternative to the court process. If so, the rule of court referral requires the mediator to be accredited to a specified family mediation organisation. This would be in line with the Lord President’s approval process.
The two organisations that are currently approved to accredit family mediators are Relationships Scotland and the Law Society of Scotland. Relationships Scotland specialise in supporting parents to discuss arrangements for their children and other parenting issues. The Law Society accredits lawyer mediators who are generally members of CALM (Comprehensively Accredited Lawyer Mediators)[i] and they offer mediation to separating couples without children.
Training and Accreditation
It is important to be sure that your mediator has an appropriate level of training and works to a Code of Practice.
Family Mediators who are accredited through the approval process of the Lord President’s office, which includes those on the Relationships Scotland Register, meet a high standard of initial training and follow a Code of Professional Conduct. They meet specific continuing professional development, practice and supervision standards and they are also required to participate in a regular re-accreditation process.
Relationships Scotland’s training for Family Mediators is a graduate diploma level, professionally validated course[ii]. Mediators gain knowledge specific to the complexities of separation, divorce and family restructuring, the legal context and what children and families go through with these family transitions. They learn about what children need and how parents can help. They are thoroughly trained in diversity and safeguarding concerns, which includes ensuring vulnerable clients are signposted to specialist support.
The Relationships Scotland Code of Professional Conduct for Family Mediators can be found here: https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/family-mediation/what-happens-at-mediation in the ‘Who are the Mediators?’ section. Family Mediators on the Relationship Scotland Register work to a wide range of National and Member Service Policies, Procedures and Guidance.
Mediators who are not on the Relationships Scotland Register or the Law Society of Scotland Register may or may not have undertaken adequate training to work effectively with a dispute in the context of separation and divorce in Scotland.
Fees and charges
Another important consideration when looking for a mediator is the cost of mediation, and any charges or fees that may apply. It would be worth checking this out and comparing options before committing to a particular provider. If you are looking for support through legal aid funding the Scottish Legal Aid Board also require the mediators to be on the Relationships Scotland or Law Society of Scotland Registers. Relationships Scotland Member Services receive some of their funding from the Scottish Government to provide support for families with relationship difficulties, including mediation, and services may be provided at a lower cost. Relationships Scotland is committed to making family mediation accessible. To find out about costs with Relationships Scotland contact the Member Service for the area where you, or your child, live[iii].
Children and Young People’s Views
The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 highlighted the importance of children’s views being heard regarding decisions that affect them, particularly in contact and residence cases. If you are agreeing arrangements for children think about their individual needs and hear from them about their thoughts, feelings and experiences. All Relationships Scotland mediators help parents to keep their children at the centre of their decision making.
You might want your mediator to meet directly with your child or children and if so you would want to make sure they are adequately trained to do so. Relationships Scotland mediators undertake additional training to carry out this specialist work, which is referred to as Consulting Children in Mediation or Child Inclusive Mediation.
Safety in Mediation
It is important to check that your mediator has a process in place to allow you to explore freely whether mediation is the right option for you, and any safeguarding concerns. In Relationships Scotland this is generally called the ‘intake’ process. A Relationships Scotland Member Service will offer you an initial individual confidential appointment for you to discuss your situation, find out more about mediation and decide whether or not to go ahead with joint sessions. Additional safeguards may be helpful to support you to participate effectively or it may be that mediation is not appropriate. Individual sessions allow you to consider what is best for you in your particular circumstances without the other person being present.
Increasingly mediation can be accessed via online platforms, as well as in person, and this may be an important factor for you, as well as any particular accessibility issues that need to be attended to. It is also worth checking out when appointments can be offered.
Other Family Relationship Issues
Many of the considerations identified above are similar when looking for a mediator to help with other family relationship difficulties – the training and specialist expertise of the mediator, costs and how and when you can meet with them.
If the arguments are between young people and their parents or care givers then Relationships Scotland may be able to help through their Young People and Families Mediation provision (sometimes also referred to as Intergenerational Mediation, Homelessness Mediation or Family Group Mediation). Contact the Member Service for the area where you live to find out if this service is offered. The Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution (SCCR) website has a list of services that provide mediation for young people and families[iv].
Several Relationships Scotland Member Services offer mediation to help with other family relationship difficulties and the Service for the area you live in would be able to explain what they can provide. Alternatively you might want to look for a mediator through the Scottish Mediation (SM) website Find a mediator webpage[v]. Mediators on the SM Register work with a range of other disputes including workplace and commercial.
This article has focussed primarily on mediation with adults over disagreements about arrangements for children arising from separation and divorce, or other parenting issues, in the context of family law. The mediation can involve new partners, stepparents, grandparents and other family members.
Family Mediation through Relationships Scotland is provided alongside other support for families such as Child Contact Centres, Adult and Children’s Counselling, and Parenting Apart information sessions. Parents can access and benefit from a wide range of integrated services. Support can be offered on a one to one basis if your child’s other parent or care givers are not in a position to get involved at the moment.
For more information about family mediation provided by Relationships Scotland go to https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/family-mediation or contact the Member Service for the area where you live to discuss your situation and how they might be able to help: https://www.relationships-scotland.org.uk/find-a-local-service/family-mediation-services
[ii] Relationships Scotland’s Certificate in Family Mediation is credit rated by Edinburgh Napier University at SCQF Level 9, and has professional validation from the College of Mediators