Family Mediation Week happens every year in the UK during the month of January.
So why does Family Mediation gets it's own week?
What about workplace mediation, commercial mediation, antagonistic mediation and all the rest?
The answer is that Family Mediation deserves it and, moreover it needs it. And, sadly, January is the perfect time for it.
The first working Monday of January is known as Divorce Day, and January is generally the busiest time for divorce practitioners. Searches for Divorce on gov.uk typically spike around 50% between December and January each year.
Furthermore, although the number of divorces is going down the total number remains high. There were over 110,000 divorces in England and Wales in 2014.
Whatever the reason, now is the perfect time to raise awareness of mediation and the many benefits it can have when applied to family conflict.
The Special Benefits of Family Mediation
Nowhere are the benefits of mediation more pronounced than in family conflict.
Family conflict is often highly emotionally charged, in many cases it involve children and the issues are generally complex.
Dealing with such circumstances is where mediation shines. Mediation is designed to help parties manage their emotions and to think rationally and constructively when needed - something that can be extremely difficult in such a situation. The mediator helps everyone have a voice in the process. He focuses on the interests and needs of the parties and crucially the needs of the children.
Furthermore, Mediation is about reducing conflict and stress. It can speed up the process and is less acrimonious than a courtroom showdown. Children in particular have been shown to suffer from prolonged parental conflict and the benefits of mediation in this respect are hugely magnified.
Similarly, it offers scope for creative solutions that may not be available in a courtroom. Each family is unique and often special arrangements can be made to suit the needs of both parties. Trained mediators help parties to explore these options by focusing on interests rather than positions and through creative brainstorming techniques.
Furthermore, the cost of divorce today is completely out of proportion and can have a dramatic impact on those involved. It is estimated that mediation saves divorcing parties £2,500 - £3000 - this is huge for the average family.
The cost isn't just limited to the families. The 'Cost of Family Failure Index' 2016 shows that the cost of family breakdowns to the taxpayer has risen to £48 billion this year.
Raising Awareness of Family Mediation
Clearly there are reasons to encourage and promote family and divorce mediation. But what can be done?
In 2014, new law required divorcing couples to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before they can go to court.
This is a meeting designed to inform parties about mediation so they can decide whether mediation is right for them. The mediation itself remains entirely voluntary.
The policy appears to have gotten off to a slow start. Research by the Family Mediation Association has revealed that still just 14% of parents are aware of family mediation when they are separating.
Research by National Family Mediation suggests that new law is simply not being enforced, with only 22% of private law family applications going to MIAM before court in the first quarter of 2016.
Hopefully, these numbers will continue to improve. In the meantime, however, too many divorces continue to go through the expensive, stressful and inappropriate litigation process.
It seems then that family mediation continues to be massively underused.
The benefits are not controversial. It can reduce stress, benefit children, and generate large savings for both the families and the tax payer.
It has government support and is even supported by law, yet the vast majority remain unaware that it's even an option.
You don't have to be a mediator or involved in divorce to see the benefits, not just to the parties themselves but to the children and even to the public purse.
So that's why Family Mediation gets its own week.
Fair enough I say.