Case Studies

These case studies, from our network of professional mediators, highlight just a few examples of how mediation has helped families undergoing divorce or separation. 

Read more to learn how family mediation helped these families move on to the next phase of their lives, whilst enabling the children to maintain vital relationships with both parents. 

Things came to a head when 37-year-old Tom Jarvis moved out of the family home and into his new girlfriend’s flat.  Tom and his wife Bryony, 35, both acknowledged that their relationship was over but arguments about contact with the children escalated to a point where both 7-year-old Declan and Luci-Anne, 5, were clearly being affected by the conflict.  

Declan’s teacher had noticed he was being unusually disruptive and sullen at school, whilst Luci-Anne was having difficulty sleeping at night.  

As part of his bid to ensure continuing contact with the children, Tom had approached a solicitor and it was she who had suggested mediation at their local NFM service as a possible way ahead. 

Although Bryony admitted that she had been sceptical about the idea of mediation at first, she and Tom agreed to try it as a means of breaking the deadlock.  

Their mediator, Elaine, helped them to understand each other’s position and their children’s needs, and after three meetings they managed to arrive at an amicable solution, which meant Declan and Luci-Anne were able to spend time with both mum and dad. Tom and Bryony also agreed to schedule a review of arrangements for six months later to see how things were going.   

“The kids are definitely happier and more settled now that Tom and I aren’t at each other’s throats every time he rings,” said Bryony.  “Elaine helped us to get on with making things work on a practical level. To some extent, we had to put aside the angry feelings we had towards each other. This wasn’t easy, but we both felt that doing so would be best for the children.” 

“We are confident that mediation helped us move things on in a way that wouldn’t have really been possible if we had just carried on slugging it out.”   

 

This is a real case study from our trained mediators, though names have been changed to protect identities 

 

Having experienced the devastating effect of her sister’s acrimonious divorce two years earlier, Maria Bell, 34, decided mediation was worth investigating when she and her partner Levi, 36, separated, if only for the sake of their children – 8-year-old Isabella and 10-year-old Cora. Friends had also recommended the process.   

“We were all emotionally drained by my sister’s divorce,” says Maria. “There were long drawn out legal proceedings, spiteful behaviour, backbiting, traumatized children and a massive legal bill at the end of it all.  We’re a close-knit family but my sister’s divorce caused enormous divisions within the wider family. We knew we had to have the courage to try an alternative for our own children once we realised our relationship was over. 

“We were in a real mess to begin with” acknowledges Levi, “but we stuck it out. Now, we’ve both come to terms with the future and the children know we’re there for them. I wouldn’t have believed we could achieve so much in such a short time.”

After a short series of mediation sessions, Maria and Levi made agreements about family finances, including the mortgage they had taken on their three-bedroomed terrace Midlands home, and what would happen to the modest savings they had managed to make during their time together.  

They also found a way to agree that both would be able to spend good quality time with Isabella and Cora.  

“Our mediator was so professional and so calm,” added Levi. “It seemed to us like there was a massive amount that we had to sort out but the mediator was experienced and she helped us sort out all the issues we had to deal with like mortgages and pensions.  

“Most importantly she helped us come to an agreement about our children’s future and the kids seem much happier now they have accepted life has changed, but mum and dad are still both there for them.” 

 

This is a real case study from our trained mediators, though names have been changed to protect identities 

Tyler and Abi Mason’s case was referred to NFM mediators following the initial directions hearing at the court.   

44-year-old Tyler had applied for contact to be defined. He felt that his ex-wife Abi, 41, was limiting contact in an obstructive way. They have two children, Aaron, 9, and Madison, 11.  

At the start Abi said Tyler did not deserve any more than minimal contact as he had left the family for a younger woman, and that the children did not really want to have much to do with their father. The Court adjourned their case for six weeks for them to try mediation. 

After initial separate Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMs) it was apparent each parent saw the other very much as the source of the problem.  Abi felt very angry at “being dragged to court” whereas Tyler felt he had no choice as he was in danger of losing his relationship with Aaron and Madison. 

The first joint mediation session was challenging.  Abi took every opportunity to criticise Tyler for leaving her, and he, in turn, accused her of taking his children away from him.  

However, the mediator, Martin, was able to help them see that both were hurting in different ways. Both were afraid of loss: Tyler’s fear of losing the children was obvious, and Abi was able to admit that having lost her husband to a younger woman, she was also afraid of losing the children who might see John’s new partner, Natalie, as more fun. 

Later sessions focused on reaffirming their roles as parents and reassurances that neither need “lose” the children. They began to look at the situation from the children’s point of view, caught in the middle of Tyler and Abi’s obvious anger and frustration, and old enough to be quite aware of the conflict and bitterness.

Abi was able to appreciate that Natalie did not want to compete for the children’s affections and indeed was quite nervous about how to respond to them. Tyler was able to see that he needed to go gently in introducing Natalie to the children rather than demand his rights. 

They agreed they wanted to test a programme of contact and built in a review of how things had gone for three months later. This provided a useful ‘safety net’ as both parents were anxious that their plan might fail. The court was informed of the initial outcome and adjourned the case for Tyler and Abi to test their arrangements. After the review meeting, Tyler felt able to withdraw his application for defined contact. 

At the three month review, both Tyler and Abi agreed to continue the arrangements. 

“I think a bit of the bitterness I felt towards my ex-husband will always be with me, but I do feel the mediation process started the healing,” says Abi. “Life isn’t perfect, and we realise it won’t be the same as before but I think we have all moved on and Aaron and Madison are both now much more settled.” 

 

This is a real case study from our trained mediators, though names have been changed to protect identities 

Sandy, a widow in her late 50s, lost her son Adam to cancer in the middle of 2010. Before his death, Adam had lived happily with his girlfriend Trude and their six-month-old baby Evie.  

Sandy enjoyed looking after Evie as often as she could, and her help and support were needed more than ever when Adam was ill. 

Following Adam’s death, Trude returned to her hometown with Evie, some 300 miles away from Sandy. In her grief, Trude felt unable to return Sandy’s calls or make arrangements to see her. 

As a result, Sandy lost touch with Evie, which compounded her grief. She found it unbearable to think of Evie losing another family member who she had bonded with, so soon after losing her father. Sandy felt rejected by Trude and was afraid to keep contacting her. 

By now, Trude was wondering why Sandy had lost touch, feeling she had let her down. Trude became more isolated in her own grief.  

Not knowing where else to turn and reluctant to take the drastic step of court action, Sandy contacted National Family Mediation (NFM). After discussing the situation the mediator suggested that NFM send a letter to Trude setting out the potential benefits of mediation, stressing its voluntary nature, to see if this would help to re-establish contact between Sandy and Evie.

On receipt of the letter, Trude contacted NFM immediately and after being reassured by a trained member of staff about the voluntary and conciliatory nature of mediation, Trude said that Sandy could call her any time. Sandy, Trude and Evie were reunited within two weeks of contacting NFM. 

 

This is a real case study from our trained mediators, though names have been changed to protect identities. 

Stephen wanted to move from supervised contact with his two children to unsupervised contact, but he said his ex, Karen, wouldn’t allow this.  

There was also an issue about the former family home where Stephen still lived, and he was concerned that Karen was demanding money and that he would be forced to sell up and become homeless.  

Stephen approached his local mediation service and, after seeing a mediator, decided that he would like to go ahead and use mediation to resolve the contact and financial issues.  

He was clearly very angry but didn’t disclose any domestic violence issues to the mediator.  

Karen didn’t respond to initial attempts to contact her but when the mediator wrote to say that Stephen had seen a mediator, offering her the same opportunity, she made an appointment.  

During that introductory meeting, the mediator assessed for domestic violence and it emerged that she had left the family home following a series of increasingly acrimonious and physically violent arguments.  

She was very nervous about mediation, but more so about the prospect of returning to court where she was worried that the outcome would be one that she would find difficult to manage. With the mediator, she discussed safeguards to make mediation possible: separate arrival, waiting and departure; perhaps starting with indirect mediation to see if things could progress, and being clear that she could stop at any time. 

A first appointment was made with Karen and Stephen in separate rooms with the mediator working between them. Karen arrived and left first so that she would feel safe.  

During the meeting, an agreement was reached about unsupervised contact arrangements – with detailed handover arrangements through a mutually acceptable third party who had offered assistance.  

The root of Karen’s concern was not about the safety of the child but her own safety at handover. A further session was arranged with a four-week gap to give the clients time to try out the arrangements and to gather financial information.  

When Karen arrived for the next session early, the mediator checked to see if she still wanted to continue with indirect mediation and she said ‘no’, she would like to try being in the same room, but still to wait separately. 

At the start of the session, the mediator brought the clients together and began by checking how contact had been working. Both responded positively and were keen to make a start on sorting out their finances so that they could both finally move on.  

Financial disclosure was completed and the clients explained what they were looking to achieve. Stephen was surprised: he had imagined Karen was looking to ‘take him to the cleaners’. They discussed some options and narrowed those down to one which they both preferred. They asked at the end of the meeting to find out some information, to check what was realistic and achievable, as well as to seek some legal advice. Karen again left first and was given time to clear the area before Stephen’s departure.  

At their final meeting, they both remained in separate rooms until the session started. Both had gathered the relevant information and had taken legal advice. With some adjustment, they were able to reach agreed proposals based on their preferred option which was then written up for Karen to take forward through her solicitor alongside their divorce. 

In her feedback to the mediator after the case had been closed, Karen expressed her pleasant surprise that mediation had worked and particularly thanked the mediator for making her feel so safe. 

 

This is a real case study from our trained mediators, though names have been changed to protect identities.