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Family mediation

Another of the specialities of our law office is the family mediation.

Family mediation should be understood as a structured process that is sought voluntarily by the parties to resolve conflicts under the circumstance of a couple's break-up during a separation or divorce, or even in situations prior to and after a break-up. Following the requisites of confidentiality, neutrality and impartiality, a professional family mediator takes part as a third party and has the primary role of helping the parties establish the bases for communication in order to reach a mutually accepted agreement that takes into account the needs and interests of the various members of the family, especially those of the children.

As regards the FAMILY MEDIATOR himself, the very objective of his intervention is to help the couple in conflict find ways to reach solutions regarding communication and settlement (which the parties lack). The mediator's functions will be diverse and complex.

It has been said that mediation is the process whereby a third party provides the necessary help to opposing parties in a conflict so that they can reach an understanding about a solution that is mutually acceptable. Obviously, conflict resolution has broader ambitions. Thus, the objective is for the relationship of those who are separating or divorcing to continue under other premises. In other words, it has other purposes: the emotional interests of the children that the couple has in common and the duties and responsibilities related to those children continue, despite the legal break-up of the parents.

The mediator must know how to maintain a position of scrupulous neutrality while performing his task, given that his role is limited to driving and channelling negotiation and making it viable, to which only the interested parties can make a commitment regarding each and every one of the agreements for which a consensus is reached. In this process, the mediator must ensure not only the formation of the specific bases or points of concordance but also ensure that the order of the negotiating process develops in the most balanced manner. He must therefore distribute the necessary intervention time used by each member of the couple in order to re-balance and enforce the terms of equality for each of the participants.

The importance of the principle of neutrality as the basis and foundation for all mediation actions can never be emphasised enough. If this requirement and others of a voluntary and personal nature are not met, then the entire accumulation of theoretical knowledge, regardless of the speciality, is for naught in family mediation.

An essential part of family mediator training consists of the conscientious effort to transform an individual's professional activity (law, psychology, etc.) into an activity with a different functional nature. As regards the theoretical framework of family mediation, it differs substantially from the framework of the various disciplines to which a mediator could have had access as a professional. While it is essential to have knowledge and specialised techniques to exercise this professional activity as in all other professions, the intervention of a family mediator requires a series of requirements that exceed the domain of such knowledge, given that these requirements are of a personal nature and disposition, such as the capacity for empathy, criticality, wise judgement and even a sense of humour for lowering the stress levels between the conflicting parties.

Recovering the communication that is lost between the couple is the first step towards undoing the estrangement. The ways of reaching agreement do not open up without lowering the acceptable point of stress that prevents dialogue.

The principle of confidentiality is likewise essential to exercising mediation. This means absolute secrecy regarding the entire mediation process as long as the interested parties do not certifiably release the intermediary from that duty of professional secrecy. Confidentiality is the irreplaceable basis for their trust and therefore for mediation effectiveness.

Impartiality is another requirement that the mediator must ensure. It completes the sense of balance that, as previously stated, must preside in the mediator's intervention and in the development of the deliberations between the conflicting parties. As regards impartiality, mediators must abstain from mediating in those cases in which they may have or have had a personal or professional relationship with any of the parties requesting mediation, thereby considering that due impartiality cannot be guaranteed in such cases.

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