Understanding the Mediation Process when Relationships End with Sharon Morrissey

Couples present in relationship therapy for a magnitude of reasons. Some use therapy to reconnect, improve communication, and rekindle a part of themselves that has become diminished. In contrast, others transition into therapy at various stages of relationship breakdown. Sadly, many relationship therapists and I frequently express that couples in conflict often come to therapy far too late when the romantic, loving relationship has disintegrated and become unrepairable – even toxic and abusive.

Sharon Morrissey – Conflict Resolution Practitioner & Mediator

Not all relationships and marriages are forever or should be endured out of expectation or necessity. As a relationship therapist, I understand there are often complex reasons why ending a relationship is the best outcome for one or both partners and the children and families involved. However, breaking down the relationship breakdown process can be challenging and drawn out even with good support.

When a relationship completely breaks down and the romantic relationship or marriage ends, mediation is often an option to help individuals decouple in a positive, mutual and facilitated way, paving the way to a more amicable separation and divorce process.

‘I spend plenty of time with both parties, ensuring they know what to expect from the process and discussing physical and emotional safety while also identifying what support networks each have in place.‘ – Sharon Morrissey

Ideally, couples will consider entering into a mediation process while there is still a respectful and courteous relationship existing or friendship present and before they become estranged. When a relationship breaks down, communication, compromise and respect can be challenging. Not all couples separating will be in conflict. In the circumstance of grey divorce, mature couples may choose mediation to help the separation process run smoothly.

In this article, Expert Family and Workplace Mediator Sharon Morrisey tells us more about her private mediation practice and the mediation process for couples ending their relationship and considering moving into a mediation process. Sharon is one of Ireland’s top, most experienced family mediators and conflict resolution practitioners in the country. She is a regular contributor to nationwide media, radio and has recently been on Ireland AM discussing conflict resolution for couples.

About Sharon Morrissey

Sharon Morrissey is an accredited and certified Mediator, Conflict Resolution Practitioner, Group Facilitator, lecturer, and Author of ‘That’s Not My Ending‘. She holds a Master’s in Family Mediation and a Degree in Social care, with over 25 years of experience working with couples, families, professional groups and workplaces. Located in Co. Cork, Ireland, she provides mediation services in Ireland. Her website is www.confictclarity.ie. Sharon is a member of The Mediators Institute of Ireland

For 25 years, I have been working with children and families and hold qualifications in counselling, parenting, social care, family support and mediation. I had a strong desire to learn how I could support families, particularly those with deeply impacted children, to move from entrenched positions, so I chose to dedicate my professional career to mediation and conflict resolution. Now I work with couples and corporate organisations, teach mediation as a lecturer and provide conflict resolution coaching services. I describe my mediation services style as ‘holistic mediation‘, combining my 25 years of experience and education.

Mediation allows the people involved in the relationship breakdown a ‘safe’ physical and emotional space to express their views on the conflict. There are many benefits to attending mediation services, depending on all the circumstances. Couples can commence mediation even though they are still living together. However, it is advised ideally to consider starting mediation before there is a total breakdown in the relationship. Currently, in Ireland, there are long waiting lists for community and low-cost mediation services, often between three and six months.

There are many benefits to attending private mediation services, such as being able to choose your own professional mediator, swifter access to services, more increased options around scheduling arrangements and a bespoke service that meets the requirements of each couple.

What are the main principles of mediation?

Essentially there are four main principles of mediation:

  1. Voluntary, meaning that all parties need to attend voluntarily. 
  2. Self-determining meaning that the mediator does not offer suggestions or make recommendations. Instead, their role is to ask difficult questions and reality tests. Ultimately the individuals involved in a mediation process need to agree to their own outcomes.
  3. Facilitative, meaning the mediator facilitates every aspect of the mediation process for all parties, ensuring that all parties are respectful to each other, the process and the mediator.
  4. Confidential, meaning the mediation process is confidential with a confidentiality agreement in place which is discussed clearly and continually by the mediator with all parties.

Positive Outcomes in Mediation

To ensure positive outcomes and results it is imperative that individuals make truly informed decisions and want to be there fully engaged in the mediation process. In conflict resolution, both need to fully comprehend what is expected of them and what is expected in order to reach an agreement.

As an experienced mediator, I believe it is vital that each person is emotionally, physically, and psychologically okay to be in the mediation process. If people are in trauma due to the breakdown of familial relationships or any other reason, the idea of mediation may be too much at that time.

Mediation allows the people involved in the relationship breakdown a safe, physical and emotional space to express their views on the conflict.

People need to be supported by both family and professionals. I have a network of trained and trusted professionals and therapists. I refer clients on request and as necessary. I spend plenty of time with both parties, ensuring they know what to expect from the process and discussing physical and emotional safety while also identifying what support networks each have in place.

How do individuals and couples choose mediation? 

All types of couples with diverse situations and complex needs engage in my mediation practice. Couples who are new parents and the relationship has broken down, parents who have been married for many years and when children move out realise they neither know nor like each other anymore, young families, parents who were not married, gay and straight couples, couples with joint assets and of course complex situations which require a higher level of conflict resolution.

Some couples will converse with each other and decide they want to attend mediation as they wish to separate on amicable terms. 

Some couples will be advised by their solicitors, if the solicitor is doing their job correctly, that they should attend a mediation information session. 

Some couples will be in the court process, discover that the court process can feel brutal and choose to revert to mediation. 

While some individuals may be ‘strongly advised‘ by a judge to attend mediation services. The Mediation Act 2017 says that solicitors have to tell their clients about mediation, and a Judge can not order, but rather “strongly advise” due to the voluntary nature of mediation to attend.

I love doing mediations which are proactive, and this happens not when there is an issue but before the problem occurs. I call this positive communication mediation. One of my greatest passions is working with end-of-life mediations. This is for individuals who receive a terminal diagnosis and wish to mediate their wants while they can. 

What to expect when starting a mediation process

There is a clear process when you start mediation, and I like my clients to gain clarity on the process from the beginning. After I receive the initial contact by phone or email, I send the relevant information for the people to read and answer any questions they may have.

When the individuals are ready to commence, an Agreement to Mediate is issued to ensure both individuals know what they will be signing when we meet for the information session. I go through this Agreement when we meet, which is a part of the informed consent. The mediation information session can be done via ZOOM or in person. When meeting in person, I will meet both of them, and we will discuss the Agreement and the issues that may arise for them. The Agreement is signed, and each receives a signed copy.

‘I had a strong desire to learn how I could support families, particularly those with deeply impacted children, to move from entrenched positions, so I chose to dedicate my professional career to mediation and conflict resolution.’

Mediation sessions are scheduled in block bookings, such as a half-day or full-day sessions which are very effective. Unlike other therapies, it is not offered in hourly intervals as there is too much outside influence and input from others once each session ends.

I ask the parties if they wish to speak with me privately or want to speak openly in front of each other. I spend time with each individual equally to understand the reasons for the relationship breakdown and what each person wants. Then we all come back together to discuss how they are feeling, what they want, etc. Depending on what needs to be mediated, such as parenting, finances, pensions, maintenance etc. and whatever is the most urgent, we get into the nitty-gritty, and I have parties negotiate options and the way forward. To understand in more detail any aspect of the mediation process, contact conflictclarity.ie

Contact Sharon Morrissey

Sharon Morrissey is available for couples mediation in Co. Cork and around Ireland. She also provides a range of services for couples, families and organisations, including online webinars on conflict resolution. Professionals, HR Managers and Corporate organisations are invited to connect with Sharon on Linkedin/sharonmorrissey. Find out more and book a call online at conflictclarity.ie and by emailing sharon@conflictclarity.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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