Mediation – more Mary Berry than Brian Cox


October 27, 2016 | By Andrew Baines |

October 27, 2016 | By Andrew Baines |

Sorting out family breakdowns nowadays is done usually through either mediation or the legal process. I would liken mediation to a Mary Berry kind of way forward and the legal process more of a Brian Cox solution. So how come?

The difference arises from the different principles that underpin the two processes. In brief, the legal process presumes there is a pre-existing just solution “out there”. The legal process is designed to find that solution. People often say “I only want what I’m entitled to” or “I don’t want to take them to the cleaners, I simply want a fair or just result”. They want to emphasise that it’s not their selfish desires that are important, nor, indeed, is it the other person’s selfish desires that are relevant. The result should be independent of them and be fair. They want the court to find that pre-existing fair and just solution.

The court has a process for doing this which can be set out in this way: (Legal procedure x relevant information) ÷ (statute and precedent) = a just result. It follows the scientific method, in that provided you can fill in the relevant boxes you will get a valid result. Very Brian Cox. The downside of this method is that, if the equation is to work, you are very restricted in what you can put into the boxes. The judges will tell you that anything not relevant won’t be taken into account. What they mean is: anything that stops the equation from working won’t be allowed in.

We can compare this to the instructions that Mary Berry gives to the contestants in The Great British Bake-off. The technical challenge in this year’s final had instructions that were as short as they could be: bake this! What Mary was really saying to these contestants was this: you have all the skills in the world, we’ll give you any resources you need: ingredients, utensils and oven, – you just go on and do what you believe to be the very best baking you are capable of. Very Mary Berry.

This approach mirrors the procedure in mediation and so can be compared to the legal approach: no pre-ordained equation, you use the recipe you believe will give you the best result. Again no restriction on ingredients, you put in anything you want – provided that you believe they will give you the best bake.

At the beginning of the GBBO the technical challenge had a significant amount of information and tips, with less information and tips being given as the series went on. But from the very beginning, the task was designed to bring out the best in each baker rather than to get them to produce identical “ideal” items. Similarly in mediation, the process is designed to bring out the very best way forward for those individuals “baking their own solution”. The mediator provides the participants with as much information and tips as they need to get their baking on track. And at the end of the mediation, the perfectly baked solution on its cooling tray, each participant wins the prize of “Star Baker”.

If you’re going through relationship breakdown, why not consider family mediation as a way to find your own solutions to disputes arising from separation? To find out more, send a message to our Family Mediators using the contact form below, or call 0800 138 0458 to speak to our friendly team.

Andrew Baines

Andrew is a qualified Family Solicitor and Mediator based at our Bradford office. He joined Switalskis in 2007. He blogs regularly with a particular focus on Family Mediation where he has a keen interest in providing constructive outcomes that benefit all parties in the event of a relationship breakdown. Andrew's profile

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