Focus Mediation Case Studies
Settled in one day: Fred and Hannah had been trying to negotiate a divorce settlement for well over a year. They had failed to do this via solicitors’ letters and in desperation Hannah had started proceedings for a financial remedy order, to be decided by a judge. Over six months later they had had the second court appointment – the Finance Dispute Resolution appointment. The judge had given a very vague indication of where the matter should settle – and pointed out the costs were already substantial and would double if they went to trial. They decided to have a One Day Lawyer Assisted Mediation with Focus Mediation. Their lawyers accompanied them and their mediator (Mary) shuttled between them all day and they reached a deal they were both content with. By early evening the lawyers were drafting a Consent Order that would end the proceedings with their mediated settlement. It had been hard work – but the relief was enormous.
Mediation usually starts with an all-party meeting but, as the brothers could not bear to be in the same room, Martin moved straight to a series of separate, confidential meetings with each side. His patient work guided Tom and Steve away from reiterating their sense of injustice and to concentrate on the outcomes they really needed from mediation.
Tom’s advisors suggested concessions that still gave him a better outcome than costly, risky litigation. Steve found it harder to compromise. Conscious that a successful mediation would lead to a binding settlement there and then, he feared making concessions he might regret.
Martin demonstrated how Steve could (through Martin) test Tom’s proposals and his resolve, and make counter-proposals to satisfy himself that any terms agreed really were the best achievable. As Steve came to trust Martin’s efforts, realistic options were explored.
All this meant Martin had to spend more time with Steve than with Tom’s group. A mediator must satisfy both sides that time is shared according to need, and that this does not imply favour to either party. Hurt, anger, family division, imbalance of negotiating power and deep mistrust had prevented the brothers from reaching agreement over many months. After ten hours’ mediation, settlement terms were agreed.
Harriet was shattered when her husband of twenty years, Rick, started an affair and left her. She grieved terribly and this made her anxious, sleepless and she found it difficult to function. She struggled to keep the home ticking over for their teenage children and to hold onto her job and deal with the divorce. When her solicitor recommended mediation, she felt it was an impossible hill to climb, but went to hear about how it worked at an assessment meeting. She and Rick agreed to mediate. They both found adjusting their couple boundaries hard, but were able to talk about this along with everything else with the help of the mediator. Over a series of four sessions lasting between 1 ½ and 2 hours they settled everything – sale of their house and purchase of a new home for Harriet and the children, mortgage free, what Rick would pay to the family monthly, as well as a pensions share which would help secure Harriet’s retirement. They were able to move on and get on with their lives at long last.
PROBATES & POWERS OF ATTORNEY
This disagreement had caused a complete break-down of the relationships between all the extended family members and was very painful to the sibling who has inherited more money on the death, as she felt very isolated and cut off from her family. The disagreement was resolved by a Focus mediator in a day, with payment to a niece and nephew, which resulted in the re-establishment of relationships severed by the litigation the huge bad feeling generated by the dispute. This was yet another outcome not possible via court, as the court would only have been able to judge the issue of the Testator’s legal capacity to sign the Will – and what flowed from that decision would have been the result of the case. By the date of mediation the costs already dwarfed the value of the estate and would have exceeded its value if there had been a trial. The real problem here was the conflict driven by grief and old tensions in the family, which had got out of control. This outcome was creative and it really suited this family – as well as going some way to healing the hurt done by the initial conflict.
There was times during mediation where I felt everyone was against me, but that wasn’t people against me, it was the fact there were times where it took me a while to realise that I wasn’t seeing it from H’s side. I also know that this was the case for her too. Anyway we started mediation fully disagreeing about everything to now agreeing with literally 99% of things to do with our son”.
“B and I came to mediation because we had separated and we couldn't agree on how we should raise our young son. We had a number of quite stressful mediation sessions and eventually we began to see things from the other person's point of view. We managed to resolve child care issues in mediation and we are now able to talk to each other without arguing and shouting”.
There was a massive dispute between senior staff in a major educational establishment involving over 35 people. It was adversely affecting students and the reputation and functioning of the organisation. Two Focus workplace mediators went in to assess the situation and make recommendations. After talking with staff several problems were identified and their suggestions for action were taken up by senior management, some of whom were implicated in some of the problems. Mediation days were staged, with action-plans including training and coaching in between. A small number of people left. Gradually over time the situation improved and with the mediators returning to monitor and talk with staff, the teething problems which had bedevilled the various teams were resolved. Everyone was delighted. Whilst this took in total over 10 months from beginning to end this was the only way these problems could be solved as they were too complex and entwined for an over-night solution.
PROBATES & POWERS OF ATTORNEY
There was another adult child who felt excluded from the care of their mother and again, angry letters went to and from through solicitors and court proceedings were started. This situation is incredibly common – dementia is a horrible illness and cause close relatives immense grief. Grief often makes people angry and blaming, but with dementia people often don’t recognise these feelings as grief, because the person they love is still alive. Alive, but piece by painful piece they are dying – not for nothing is dementia called the long slow Goodbye. Gradually throughout the day of the mediation, the siblings came to understand each other’s perspectives and with the mediator’s help worked out an agreed way forward they could both live with. They had an action-plan to see them through the months and potentially years to come, which would stop them arguing and enable a caring focus on their mother.
PROBATES & POWERS OF ATTORNEY
Their concerns ranged from the care of their brother, to visiting and what should happen in a wide range of situations. The spouse felt distraught and threatened at the demands of siblings, who had little trust or respect for her perspective and anxious care of the patient, as they felt it simply excluded them. Communication had failed and everyone was very upset and no one would back down. A Focus mediator listened to everyone and worked with them to formulate a detailed action-plan to accommodate most perspectives. This took one day and was a great relief to everyone – after nearly a year's legal wrangling and proceedings and after costs of over £30,000 had been spent. The presenting apparent legal issues were the tip of the iceberg of the family’s emotions and dynamics - these symptomatic legalities could not have healed the hurt or resolved anything. Mediation helped heal the hurt and let these people move on and cope with the distressing slow decline of their loved one.
PROBATES & POWERS OF ATTORNEY
The daughter believed the change was after her mother had lost capacity, or at the very least was as a result of the influence of her older siblings. She said they had always resented her. Legal capacity comes and goes, it is an extremely difficult thing to assess, even for a psychiatrist – as one minute someone can seem very rational and capable, but the next minute they may have lost the plot, then they might be OK again. The test for whether someone has the capacity to make a Will or not, is whether they know and understand what they are doing, the effect of the Will and intend those consequences. This dispute was resolved by a Focus mediator in one day with the older siblings paying a lump sum to their younger sibling's son. This was not an outcome a court could have imposed but it suited this family. Mediation should be tried sooner rather than later -because one of the most common pleas from clients who have mediated successfully is their wish they'd tried it earlier.