A marriage has broken up. There are three children aged – 7, 4 and four months. There are assets but not large. The husband is a self-employed accountant with average means. The wife took in part-time work until the birth of the baby.
You have accepted the appointment as mediator. The parties are represented by lawyers. There is tension. Your fees for a two-day mediation have been agreed upon and paid. The lawyers get on but the clients are at odds.
You are feeling your way through the timetable and opening exchanges when, in a tense moment, it becomes apparent that the husband is denying paternity for the baby and in an outburst, some of the dirty linen gets washed in public.
The focus of your work changes. Now you are faced with a big preliminary issue – are there two children or three? And are you, as the mediator, equipped to handle this or is professional advice with more specific and sensitive family skills needed to resolve this issue.
On the one hand, you are a family mediator of some experience but, in fairness, you have not come across this type of a problem before. You ask the parties if you can meet with both solicitors. At that meeting, things become clearer. The history of bitterness is revealed. The solicitors – both female and both experienced – are sympathetic and work on parallel lines with their respective clients. But the problem does not go away. The husband is adamant that he is not the father and the wife is equally adamant that she has been faithful throughout the relationship.
The clock is ticking – the mediation is the court required with a report back built-in. Is this for you or are there family mediation skills out there that can more effectively deal with this sensitive issue?
What do you do?