How hybrid mediation works for complex and HNW cases

Alison Bull for Smart Divorce podcast

Tamsin talks to mediator, arbitrator and family lawyer Alison Bull about how mediation can work in complex cases. They discuss the benefits of bringing other professionals into the process to support the clients and provide expert advice.

Alison heads the Manchester family and children team at Mills & Reeve LLP, and their national family dispute resolution practice. She helps individuals, couples and their children to sort out the legal, practical and financial arrangements when a couple separates, and also helps with pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation contracts. The team also advises on the legal arrangements around surrogacy and fertility treatments.

Alison is a family lawyer, a family and civil/commercial mediator, a collaborative practitioner and an arbitrator of children and financial issues. She is recognised as a leading individual in the independent legal directories Chambers and Partners and Legal 500, and noted for her commitment to non-court dispute resolution. Contributors comment that “Alison Bull is a great, enthusiastic partner to work with who has clear expectations right from the beginning. She is very knowledgeable and gives great guidance with all probabilities weighed out”, and “She’s really good at the difficult cases. She gets involved in the nuts and bolts of things and will pursue things – she’s the best lawyer for the very difficult cases.” Alison can be contacted for a no-obligation chat on 07918 942 652, by email or on twitter @AlisonBullMcr

Tamsin is a Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years experience. She works with couples and individuals who are at the end of a relationship and want agree how to divide their assets FAIRLY without a fight.

You can contact Tamsin at or arrange a free initial meeting using She is also part of the team running Facebook group Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK

Tamsin Caine MSc., FPFS
Chartered Financial Planner
Smart Divorce Ltd


(The transcript has been created by an AI, apologies for any mistakes)

Tamsin Caine 0:06
Hello, and welcome to the Smart Divorce podcast. In series four, we’re going to be talking to various different professionals and authors who have gone through divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership, to talk about the future, and how you can start helping things to look much more positively. And we have some fantastic guests lined up. But if there is anything specific that you would like us to cover, please do get in touch. And you can contact me through our website, And I look forward to hearing from you soon. Enjoy. Hello, and I’m very pleased to be joined today by Alison Bull. Hi, Alison. How are you?

Alison Bull 0:56
Hello, I’m fine. Thank you. Yes. How are you?

Tamsin Caine 1:00
Alright, thank you. Thank you for joining me today. I know it’s a bit of a manic time of year, but it is very much appreciated.

Alison Bull
That’s my pleasure.

Tamsin Caine
So to introduce Alison, she heads up the mills and Reeve Manchester Family and Children team and then National Family Dispute Resolution practice. She helps individuals, couples and children to sort out their legal, practical and financial arrangements when a couple separates. She also helps with Prenuptial agreements, cohabitation contracts and advises on legal arrangements around surrogacy and fertility treatments, which is a real mouthful, crikey, that you do really do do Absolutely. Everything. Majority of Alison’s clients are in the Northwest are those some around England and Wales, and also quite a number internationally. Alison is a family and civil or commercial mediated, collaborative practitioner, and an arbitrator of Children and Family issues. And I’m not really sure we’ve got time to speak to me with all. But I do appreciate it. So we’re talking a lot about mediation this month. And we were joined a couple of weeks ago by Sarah Manning, from Clarion, who was talking about hybrid mediation. And one of the things that’s come up for me with with other mediators is how to go about mediating in complex cases. And with high net worth individuals, there seems to be a feeling that it’s not appropriate or more difficult to put in place for those cases. So I wanted to talk to you about it, because I am absolutely sure that you do mediation for these types of cases. So So I suppose initially, what what’s your feeling when you hear that that’s an issue?

Alison Bull 2:59
Well, I guess if I heard somebody say that, I’d ask them why they felt it, that that was the case. And certainly, if you’ve got a very complex case, and very high value, it requires a lot of thought about the best way of setting up that mediation. And I think, perhaps sometimes there’s a misunderstanding about what mediation actually is, and what it can be. Because it can take many different forms, it can involve lots of different people. And fundamentally, what it’s about is about, it’s a couple of a couple, making their own decisions and reaching their own agreement with the assistance of the professionals random mediator in particular, and without the need to ask a third party to make that decision, whether it be a judge in court, or an arbitrator. So the fact that it’s complex doesn’t mean it can’t mediate it, if a couple of very keen to sort out their arrangements. And even if they are really, really complex, then it’s quite possible. It’s just how to set up that mediation to have to get it to work in the best possible way for that couple and the family as well. If there are children that need to be considered to.

Tamsin Caine 4:13
Absolutely. So. Um, but ask I guess, sort of starting from the beginning ish, would you normally mediate for finances and children separately? Or are they often done together?

Alison Bull 4:31
Well, it isn’t really possible to separate them out completely. In fact, generally, I find it’s quite helpful to make sure that the children are centre stage in the financial discussions, which is something that doesn’t really happen. In the legal process. The legal process is very much completely separate. But when you’re when you’re mediating, generally speaking, for parents who have children, then their priority is their children’s welfare. And that’s the case whether they’re talking about money About, about the arrangements for the children. Although having said that, I think it is helpful to separate out discussions around the issues. So that if there if there are issues about the amount of time that the children are going to spend with each parent, then that’s a discussion which is helpful to have, generally on an on a different day than the discussion around finances. But it wouldn’t be uncommon for me, for example, in a in a financial discussion to say, Well, how is this going to impact on the name, the names of the children, whatever they’re called. So make sure that there’s a real focus on on that because all those financial decisions will impact on the children as well. And it’s not just about how each of the couple feels about each other, which can become quite overwhelming at times. So it’s just helpful, I think, sometimes to suggest that just focus on what the children want to need.

Tamsin Caine 5:55
No, absolutely. So what are some of the complexities that you see in in cases that that come in front of you for mediation?

Alison Bull 6:07
Are some of the complexities about the factual and financial circumstances? So you know, I can think of a few examples where I’ve been mediating directly with the couples. So their lawyers haven’t been involved in that mediation, which is another option. But we have needed, for example, a forensic accountants report and a pensions report. So it’s possible to get those reports outside of the mediation process, bring them into the mediation, and that can be either the couple guessing them with some help from me, or if or if they have lawyers, then the lawyers to help with that process of instructing the expert. Now, as a mediator, I’m not going to instruct a forensic accountant, for example, it has to be the couple of do that. But on several occasions, I’ve had the forensic accountant join the mediation, to talk through their findings and to be able to answer questions and ask questions as well. So I guess it’s important that the person who has that role, and is aware of the imbalance of power between the couple invariably, one will know more about a particular business than the other, although it’s not uncommon for bass to have business interests and the other not to understand each of the other person’s business. That makes sense. And also financial advisors as well, which somebody like you is ideal to bring into mediation process to look at things like in particular, no income needs going forward, and how they’re going to be met. So how are they being met now? And how will they be met in the future and how much capital is going to be needed to be able to meet these projected income needs over a period of time? So it’s just about having the right team, I think, to help with those financial complexities and practicalities? Quite often?

Tamsin Caine 7:59
Yeah, absolutely. Right. I think I think there’s there’s sort of image about mediation, that it is just the couple enter a kind of almost like a boxing referee. Yeah, it’s kind of there to keep them on.

Alison Bull 8:20
But I think I think being a mediator in a complex case, a bit more like being a project manager. And what’s interesting, you have to, you have to get everybody that you need and all the bits of information that you need, with the right people producing them. And it’s, it can be really, really helpful to have the lawyers involved, as well. And so that that happens quite often as well. And actually, the lawyers can be involved in a variety of different ways. But whether that’s definitely helping in the background with making sure that each of the couple is up to speed with the financial disclosure, because it isn’t my job either as a mediator to make sure that that financial disclosure is complete, or to interrogate the data to see whether it’s correct. It’s not really the mediators role. So if there is an issue around that sort of, sort of thing, then you need to get somebody else in to help with that. And that could be the party’s lawyers that that’s ideal, quite often. And if the lawyers have held that disclosure process, then it may also be really helpful to perhaps have a much longer mediation meeting a bit like you would in a civil commercial case. And after always there and set aside a day or half a day to actually try and get a solution to the issues once you’ve got all of the information that you need, or enough at least to be able to the couple to be able to take a view on what the outcome looks like.

Tamsin Caine 9:49
So if we kind of go back to the beginning, because it’s sort of useful to see how how things would would work through the entire process. So generally Really? Do clients come to you first? Or did they generally seek legal advice from lawyers first?

Alison Bull 10:09
It can be either. Okay. And I think that really does depend on on the people involved and quite often how useful they are to accessing professional services. And there is a range of, of experiences that even in quite complex cases. So sometimes they come directly. And if it’s, if it looks to me as though they’re really going to need some legal support, and that’s sort of part of the screening process of big search, then I’ll suggest that they take legal advice, and sometimes I will, if they don’t have a lawyer already, I can explain to them how they might find somebody who will be suitable or or give them some names. And that that can work really well. Sometimes it’s their lawyer to refer them to me in the first place. And then we can very much work as a team to try and help the couple to get to a consensual outcome.

Tamsin Caine 11:06
Okay. And when they come to you, do you speak to them together in the first instance, or would you have calls or meetings with them separately to begin with.

Alison Bull 11:17
So usually, it would be a separate call with each of them. So usually, one of the couple will contact me initially, and I’ll have a chat with them to find out, we’ll just talk through really the options as to as to where to go, whether it’s mediation, that seems like it would be the best, best option for them, or no a collaborative type process, or actually, whether they really need legal advice at the outset, it really just depends on on where they are with everything. And then if we think that mediation looks like being a good option for them, then I’ll suggest that if possible, they speak with their their former partner, and invite them all say, to give me a call, or I will call him it just depends on what the relationship is like and how, how conciliatory and collaborative they are in their approach. And then I’ll speak to the other person. So that’s an initial sort of no obligation chat, to try and help them to work out which way is they want to go with it, then if they know, I might send him some more information after that, or if they’re really clear that people have different levels of knowledge and experience with mediation, then the next stage would be to formally engage them in the process and the mediation agreement so that they can see the detail of what they’re signing up to formalise the my appointment as a mediator. So sign terms of terms of engagement and all that. And then I’ll do a formal separate screening meeting with each of them. And that really is to test out where the, where the balance of power is, where they where the issues are, and to have a have a one to one conversation, which is confidential, with some, some caveats, but so that each of them can tell me the things that are going to be a lot easier to say quickly to me separately, and will be to say in the room. Obviously, if there’s anything really important to the process that’s factual, that needs to be shared, that will need to be shared, but so it’s just a way of upskilling. Really, instead of what the dynamics of the couple are likely to be, to help me to be able to help them best. And then after that, though, you shouldn’t be in a joint meeting. But if, if a couple wanted to have an initial chat with me together, that would also be fine. And that would then do that’s the first conversation, which is obviously really easy to to organise, particularly now with everyone being so familiar with using zoom or Microsoft Teams or whatever. And then we still do a separate screening meeting. Quite often we’re using a combination of face to face and online that.

Tamsin Caine 14:01
Yeah, absolutely. How, how do you because we’ve talked about the, there are lots of different types of mediation available. How do you do? Do you decide what type the you use? Or the clients decide what type or how does that? Do you give them like a list and say, This is what we could do? What what would suit you? How does that work?

Alison Bull 14:28
So normally just understand from them and what their concerns and objectives are, and try and then make suggestions as to how it could work. And generally we’ll give them you know, a number of options. It’s difficult, isn’t it? Because sometimes, sometimes it’s overwhelming to be presented with many, many different ways forward. And actually, very often clients just want someone to help them to sort it out. But so it’s a balance, I think, depending on who the who the individual is, and But yeah, it’s looking at what their concerns primarily are what they’re most worried about. And then trying to work out how that will be addressed. So just to give you an example, perhaps if and if one of the couple, and it still tends to be the wife, if it’s an opposite sex couple, who doesn’t know as much about the business, it’s not always that way. But that’s the majority, and says something like, Well, I just really don’t understand any of this financial stuff, I really just don’t understand it. And I can’t, you know, whenever we speak about it, he just, he just loses me, then. But that person is going to need some extra support in the process if they’re going to mediate. And that could be from having the involvement of a lawyer in the room, or it could be having legal advice in the background initially, and then just seeing how it how it plays out, and how comfortable they feel going forward. It or it could be that actually, the collaborative process would work better for that couple. So that’s a conversation to have. And just to understand really, what they’re most worried about, and how best to address that in the process. Because the last thing I want is for a couple to engage in the mediation process, and it not to be the right process for them. That’s, you know, that’s not ideal. You never know, of course, when someone starts mediation, whether it’s going to work or not. But in my experience, you tend to find out quite quickly, if it isn’t the right process for them, or if it isn’t the right process for them at that point in time. There’s a lot about where people are on the journey of coming out of separation, which is so tougher variably for the vast majority of people.

Tamsin Caine 16:42
Yeah, absolutely. So Can Do you sometimes start down one route in mediation, and then think actually, it will be good to have the lawyers in the room and therefore move to a hybrid situation or it you know, do things change as you as you go on?

Alison Bull 17:03
Yes, definitely. Yeah, definitely. I think it would tend to be that way round, rather than the other way. But having said that, even in a when you have a lawyer assisted mediation, that’s perhaps taking place over a period of quite a long period of time, then it’s on one day, it’s not unusual for me actually to meet with a couple separately without their lawyers there as well. And sometimes that can unblock things. So, you know, at the end of the day, we were all people, aren’t we and we all have our own concerns. And and it’s just trying to work out the mediator, the best way to help that those individuals to get to, to a solution, which is what they’re trying to achieve, and one that that they can both live with and feel is, is reasonable and workable. Yeah. To use the word fair, because that’s social. Work workable, practical, reasonable.

Tamsin Caine 18:04
Yeah, that’s a tricky one, isn’t it? People regularly asked me well, how do you? How do you know what’s fair? And what’s fair to one person is not necessarily what’s fair to the other.

Alison Bull 18:15
no, right. Actually, what the courts think, is the right outcome can very often feel unfair to both of the couples, ironically, which is another good reason for mediating where that takes out the vagaries of the law.

Tamsin Caine 18:31
Yeah, absolutely. And I’m interested because obviously, you’re a mediator under collaborative practitioner and and as a naive outside, they they look relatively similar practices. Can Can you just explain in layman’s terms, what the difference between hybrid mediation and collaborative would be?

Alison Bull 18:59
Well, I mean, in a way, it’s quite as simple as that. In the collaborative process, you’ll have one lawyer with each of the couple, acting for that person. And whilst everyone’s there to try and resolve things around the table with the cards on the table approach, so being an open process, at the end of the day, I’m acting for one of a couple as their collaborative lawyer, I also still have to advise them. So that’s part part of my role, whereas in a in a hybrid mediation where lawyers are involved as a mediator, I’m totally independent. So and, and, and impartial and actually, I do say to people, I don’t actually care what the outcome is. I’d like you to reach one. That’s why you’re here. But it doesn’t really matter to me what that is it just it needs to be an outcome that meets your agreed objectives and deals with the issues you’ve agreed that you need to sort out and then on it In that scenario, there is three, three professionals involved helping, if you like, each of the couple has their lawyer and then I’m there as the, as the mediator, the referee or who is required to basically Process Manager. That’s really my role as a mediator is to get the process, hopefully from the outset to the solution.

Tamsin Caine 20:21
Okay. And he mentioned before when we when we start stuff at the beginning of the conversation about the exchange of financial information and the clarifying of of the, of the information that’s, that’s given, not being really your role as a mediator. So, in mediation, do clients exchange financial information? Or does that tend to be done through the lawyers?

Alison Bull 20:49
No I definitely do do as mediation. And there’s a balance between my role of making sure they have all of the information that’s needed to make the decision, but not looking at it as their lawyers would do. So if I give you an example. So here, very often 12 months bank statements will need to be exchanged for all accounts. And usually we’d expect credit card statements to be exchanged as well. If I was acting for one of those, the couple, as a lawyer, I might be looking through those statements to see whether there were various transactions that suggested perhaps there was another asset that hadn’t been disclosed or just gotten about not not necessarily deliberately, or some money coming in, I couldn’t see what the source of that was. Now, I’m not going to do that as a mediator. I’m not going to spend time going through bank statements. But what I would say to the couple is, the the purpose of producing these bank statements is so that you can each have visibility of the others financial position, and can check whether you’re comfortable that you have a full enough financial position to be able to go on and then have discussions about how to reach a financial settlement. So does that does that explain this? Course.

Tamsin Caine 22:07
I can imagine! So if they because this is something that regularly is asked in our community is about? Well, I don’t think they’re going to tell me everything. I don’t think we’re going to disclose all the assets. And presumably, in mediation, you would if there’s a fear or a question mark over whether everything’s been disclosed, you would send them to their lawyers, would you?

Alison Bull 22:35
So if so, I think it depends. I mean, ideally, mediation is a process that works with people who are going to disclose and that there is there is a basic level of trust around that. If it’s going to be mediator led, if it’s lawyer led, and then I’m coming in as a mediator to to do a, say, a one day mediation to try and get to an outcome, then that’s for the lawyers to deal with. So I’m not going to be happy trying to mediate whether an asset has been disclosed

Tamsin Caine 23:06
or not. Right. Okay. Oh, that’s interesting. So I didn’t know you could have mediator lead or or lawyer lead? Well,

Alison Bull 23:16
I think what I’m talking about, it’s that particular issue of exchanging financial information and getting financial information. So as a mediator, I’m not there to an analyse, to carry out a forensic exercise to work out whether disclosure is complete, yeah, God, I’m there to help the couple to get to a point where they feel they have have been through that process well enough, at least, if they have lawyers there, that’s obviously much better, because at the end of the day, in a really complex case, you’re not going to get chapter reversal on everything, it’s not actually possible, it’s not proportionate. So in that scenario, then the lawyers will be able to help their their clients to form a view as to whether they now have enough information. Now, as a mediator, what I could do, and also, I have done on occasion, in particularly if there’s more than one mediation meeting, is to just try and explore that particular issue. So one person is saying, Well, I don’t trust that the other person has done this disclosed x y Zed, then just to actually mediate that and say, well, let’s just look at that. What are your concerns? How are they going to be addressed? And how much of an issue is this? And then when talking with the lawyers is, how confident are you that should be go down or the other route, you’re going to get any more information about it. Now, what’s the alternative to trying to find a pragmatic way forward here, but their mediation really is not aimed to deal with cases where you’ve got somebody who isn’t on discloser. Those cases need to be in court. That’s what that’s why the court is there really, is to deal with cases like that. Because at the end of the day, That’s, that’s the best chance you’ve got of actually getting information and you’ve got enforcement methods. If someone refuses to disclose, you know, ultimately committed to prison, this is the sanction if someone were to produce information as they’re required to do, that’s not really illegal and mediation scenario. But again, like the thing, that could be quite a grey area, because you, you’re not going to get a complex case where you’ve got multiple businesses. It’s the forensic accountant is not going to carry out that carry out audits. Yeah, they’re there to actually provide an overview and a proportionate report on the position of the company, so never to be not going to get everything. So that’s why it’s not as clear cut as just saying, Well, if I think I don’t know everything I can’t mediate. It’s just in a complex case. That’s not realistic.

Tamsin Caine 25:55
Accept. Yeah, absolutely. So I guess, from the proportionate side, it’s like, if you think they’ve had they might have hidden an amount of money or a pension scheme, is it likely to be worth hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of pounds? Therefore, it might be worth getting the next book to see if they can find it. If you think it’s a couple of grand, probably not worth it. Am I on the right lines?

Alison Bull 26:20
Yes, I think so. Although if you thought that there was a pension missing, then you would say, well, you you need to actually, you need to, you know, there are ways that you can check out a lot what pensions there are, then that’s something that should be explored. But But yes. And I think if I think perhaps, a better example I could give would be if it is something within a business, where it’s a moot point as to whether you’re ever going to get that disclosure anyway, even if you asked a judge, I want to see no matter no, some say some actual management accounts for a subsidiary, that holding company only has a very small percentage of the shares. And also, there are all sorts of together to get the information, and then whether it should be produced in any event, is that necessary to be able to dispose of the matter? So yeah, I think it’s more that sort of scenario where you have to take a view and and that’s that’s the case, whatever process a couple of in actually. Yeah.

Tamsin Caine 27:27
And so the mediations that that you’re involved in? I know, obviously, your hopes and wishes is that it comes to a conclusion and that they they managed to settle is, is it more common for for you to reach a conclusion? And for the couple to agree at the end of mediation? Or is does it? Is there a portion where it doesn’t work? And they have to go down a different route?

Alison Bull 27:59
Yes, not everyone reaches a solution. I think the statistics was something I mean, the statistics aren’t that reliable family mediation. But no, I think the civil commercial statistics are a bit more realistic, sorry, not a more reliable in that. And there’s more visibility around outcome around those around the numbers of cases that are going into mediation and the outcomes. And there’s and the civil mediation Council does, I think it’s every other year does a report on success rates, and they tend to be really quite high. And I can’t tell you offhand what they are. But I think that’s the way that 90% Something like that. Whereas the family mediation counsel who also occasionally survey but they don’t get enough responses for that data to be really reliable. I think the statistics are somewhere and more than 70%, something like that. Even still,

Tamsin Caine 28:54
that’s definitely numbers into that.

Alison Bull 28:58
I think that’s the 70% of resolving or some of the issues. So you might not resolve all of them. But that also doesn’t mean to say it’s not been, it’s been a waste of time, it could still be very helpful. And in my experience, if people have been in mediation for quite some time, so it’s a series of meetings, as opposed to one day live or assisted type mediation, and then they invariably do settle and I would say the percentage is really quite high. The ones that don’t tend to stop quite quickly, and that’s been my experience anyway, they might have maybe two meetings, or three, and then then then that’s it. So it’s, yeah, I think when people are committed and they’ve invested the time at the end of the day, there is going to be an outcome. And so they may as well reach outcome that have someone else impose it and also importantly spend a quite significant amount of money on legal fees, they’re going to have lawyers to go to court, quite apart from the emotional cost and the amount of time it will take. So yeah, I think overall, the success rate is really quite high. It’s good.

Tamsin Caine 30:17
And do you ever meet with somebody who would like to? Or says that they would like to mediate and feel that they’re totally unsuitable for mediation?

Alison Bull 30:31

Tamsin Caine 30:34
I assume at that point, you would tell them that, you don’t feel that that’s

Alison Bull 30:39
why I think it would be fair to say you don’t you don’t format and passion straightaway. Because that would be an ideal, I’d actually listened to people and try and get to know them a little bit and explore with them, how best to help them. And so, but it becomes, it can become quite clear, and in a relatively short time that, and usually I think it’s because that particular person doesn’t really have much insight into how to manage that process and what it’s all about. Yeah. And so and we, we all operate on a spectrum, and some of us are more neurodiverse than others. And I think if, for me, it’s that that person really doesn’t understand that actually an element of compromises central to a mediation process, then it’s really unlikely to be the right process for them. And if they if they can’t, they’re not able to work out how they could compromise on on some issues, then it’s not the right process. Yeah. So yeah.

Tamsin Caine 31:53
And if if mediations not been successful, what I was gonna say what happens to them? Do you do you kind of send them to two lawyers? Is there another process that might work even though may mediation? Hasn’t that might still resolve things outside couples? And I know that that’s a that’s an important aspect to you is not having people necessarily go straight to court?

Alison Bull 32:25
You Yes. Well, I think also, when the when a couple or a family have been engaged in a mediation process for quite a long period of time, and often they want to do is to start again. So sometimes the best way forward for them might be to consider actually an arbitration that resolves, whatever, whatever the remaining issues are, or, indeed, could resolve everything if they’ve not compromised on any particular issue. And, you know, sometimes it’s a case of well, I’ll compromise on this, but only if you give them this. And so without some given take on more than one issue, you’re going to end up with somebody having to look at the whole lot, again, can’t just you know, sometimes you can’t pick off issues, because they’re relatively simple, straightforward, practical, and just be dealt with it could be perhaps whether a property should be sold. And, and but in that scenario, rather than having to go right back to the beginning of the court process, where the process is set out in, in the court rules, that the family procedure rules, or whichever whatever sort of case it is, might be civil procedure rules, then you have to work through all of the stages, then we get before a judge, a judge can make a decision about how the case might progress, but there is a tendency to go on the conveyor belt, and then you do this, then you do that, then you know, whereas in an arbitration, you can cut through that. And particularly if you’ve completed the financial disclosure process, for example, then you don’t need to do that again. Whereas the court process, you would have to go through that who, and the arbitrator can just be instructed to make a decision about specific issues, or on the basis that there has been disclosure. And these are the might have an agreed schedule of assets. Or you might have an asset, that schedule of assets where there are some issues in dispute, and the arbitrator needs to determine those. So in that scenario, what we call Madaba says you start with mediation, and then you go into an arbitration can be a really good way of resolving matters. And also, I should say that if a couple of really aren’t sure about mediation, what they can do is convenient arbitration at the beginning, then adjourn the arbitration to go to mediation, knowing that if it doesn’t resolve, they’re still in this arbitration process. So you can’t have at that point, if they don’t reach an agreement, one of the couple can’t say, Well, I’m not gonna I’m not gonna do that. Now. I’m just gonna you’ll just have to start court proceeding. See you in two years, you know, whatever. They’re already in an arbitration process. So the arbiter traitor will step back in again. It’s a way of keeping an eye on work around the whole process. And I have to say that’s not happening a great deal at the moment. It’s quite a new idea. And there’s also a debate about whether you can have the same person that’s the mediator in the arbitrator, which, personally, I don’t see how I could possibly wear both these hats. But who knows, I might be persuaded otherwise things develop.

Tamsin Caine 35:25
It’s tricky to have the deciding vote in the end when you’ve been completely.

Alison Bull 35:33
Yeah, neutral. Yeah. And that doesn’t doesn’t sit well with paper. It doesn’t obviously doesn’t have to be the same person, you can have two people, although usually and again, and then we get into some regulatory framework of law firms and an arbitration or mediation, and that generally or arbitrator, your mediator will have to be in different organisations. But we’ll see how that develops.

Tamsin Caine 35:57
It’s very complicated, isn’t it.

Alison Bull 35:59
And at the end of the day, clients are just generally want to sort things out. But instead, you have to launch into this whole lots of different options and different ways of doing it. That is why it’s important, I think, to listen to people and try and understand where they are, and what’s likely to best help them.

Tamsin Caine 36:20
Think that’s us pretty much out of time. Alison, is there anything you want to add? Before we finish?

Alison Bull 36:30
I suppose I just mentioned very quickly, the importance of it children have a voice in this process?

Tamsin Caine 36:36
Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 36:39
Particularly if they are age 10 or over, then the family mediation Council Code of Practice suggests that children should at least be offered the opportunity of having a voice in the mediation process. And that feels very important to me. And it’s something that perhaps is not doesn’t happen as much as it it could do. It’s not always appropriate. But some say I just mentioned mentioned that and that actually can be really important and just helping parents to unlock and where issues when they’re at an impasse?

Tamsin Caine 37:13
Absolutely. Do you have to have a different mediated for that? And do do they have to be specially trained in dealing in speaking to children?

Alison Bull 37:26
Yes, they do have to be specially trained, but they don’t have to be a different mediator. Okay, oh, I’m trained in child in case of mediation. So I could also meet with the children from time to time. It also can meet the children are younger than 10. If, if that’s feels right, and they’d like to do so because often you’ll have siblings, whether they’re their teenage siblings, but they’ve got a six year old, younger sibling. And the last thing we want with the parents agreement is for that younger child to be left out. Absolutely. So yes, it is. But it doesn’t need to be someone who’s trained

Tamsin Caine 38:05
Today to chill. Sorry, I’ve got loads of questions now. Discussion rebooking you for the time, and do Do you meet with the parents and the children at the same time? Or are they Is it a separate meeting separate occasions.

Alison Bull 38:27
So meet with the parents, first, explore the pros and cons, make sure it’s going to be ultimately a positive experience mature enough prior. And then we’ll meet the children separately to the parents, and then meet parents again, shortly afterwards, as soon as possible afterwards, actually, but all the process of how that works, and who brings the children and whose wisdom and what the what the parents say to the children are, more importantly, don’t say to the children, that is all discussed about first meeting. And the parents will also sign a specific mediation agreement that has the ground rules, if you like, just to try and try and make sure that it is a positive or at least not a negative experience. But for the children and young people that are involved.

Tamsin Caine 39:17
Yeah, because whilst it get, you know, it sounds like a fantastic idea. But you can imagine, if your child’s going to go to a mediator and tell them everything that’s in their head, you might want to go Oh, so yeah, say this about me know,

Alison Bull 39:35
well, quite clearly, if I think that there’s a bit there’s a chance of that happening or a realistic chance of that happening, then it’s unlikely to be a case in which meeting the children is a good idea because it’s not going to be a positive outcome for them. But the other the other issue is about parents quite often think well, we’ll just ask them and, and they can decide. It’s like, well, actually, it’s not children’s responsibility. It’s easy to make the decision, it’s important that they have a voice. But at the end of the day, we need to make sure that parents and the children understand that actually decision about what’s going to happen is the parents decision in consultation with the children and dependents, obviously, how old they are as to how important that is. And, and, you know, with children who are older teenagers, invariably what they think and want is what is likely to happen, because you can’t really tell her 15 year old six foot four, that he’s got to go do something if he’s not willing to do it. So but that’s some useful discussion to have parents and to reflect the reality, which you might find a court in order, probably not for a 15 year old. But yeah, so that it’s really helpful to be able to have those conversations about what’s actually realistically going to happen on the ground.

Tamsin Caine 40:54
Yeah, absolutely. I think some of the decisions that are made around children, they’re made when they’re, when they’re a certain age and and as we know, as parents of older teenagers, they change so dramatically and your time and what they want to do and a happy doing and and what we want them to do.

Alison Bull 41:17
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, parents generally are very sensible and will work out a lot of that themselves. But sometimes, yeah, there’s there’s a, an issue that’s just too difficult to work out. And that’s just normal. And that’s life. And so those are the sorts of issues that are helpful to have a have a conversation about and mediation sometimes.

Tamsin Caine 41:36
Absolutely Thank you for that. That was it. That was a really valuable addition at the end. Thank you for joining me today. It’s been fantastic to talk to you. I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’m sure that listeners will find it very, very useful.

Alison Bull 41:52
Oh, thank you. Thank you, Tamsin. I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you as well. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone.

Tamsin Caine 42:03
And I hope you enjoy that episode of the smart boss podcast. If you would like to get in touch please have a look in the show notes for our details or go onto the website www dot smart Also, if you are listening on Apple podcasts or on Spotify, and you wouldn’t mind leaving us a lovely five star review. That will be fantastic. I know that lots of our listeners are finding this is incredibly helpful in their journey through separation divorce, and dissolving a civil partnership. Also, if you would like some foot further support, we do have a Facebook group now. It’s called separation divorce and dissolution UK. Please do go on to Facebook search of the group and we’d be delighted to have you join us. The one thing I would say is do please answer their membership questions. Okay, have a great day and take care

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