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Family Mediation NI

The aim of FMNI is to provide a positive approach to conflict management within families.  This can be in the context of parental separation as well as other inter family disputes.

·         FMNI seeks to ensure that the UNCRC is the focus of all mediation that includes children.

Mission Statement:

            Family Mediation NI’s primary purpose is to support families to manage conflict

FMNI delivers family mediation using a Panel of up to 20 Professional mediators working on a sessional basis, with three employed part-time. FMNI is registered with the Charity Commission and Companies House.  Since 2009 we have delivered a funded service to pre-court parents under tender with the Health & Social Care Board. We have exceeded agreed targets, proving that there is now an appetite to engage in mediation to resolve issues arising from parental relationship breakdown in NI.

The Model of Mediation

  • The facilitative model (which is the essence of mediation), rather than evaluation approach, is used.  This facilitative model is best suited to early intervention.  The model is based on principles of voluntary participation, impartiality, confidentiality and that the decision-making rest with clients.  The rationale for this approach is based on evidence, that the outcomes are much more likely to be effective, long-standing, and offer the opportunity for co-parenting and by implication better outcomes for children.

Governments Families Matter Strategy: indicated in 2009:

  • DHSSPS wants to involve children, young people, their families and communities in the development of preventative services. We want children, young people and their families to be empowered with the skills and knowledge to protect themselves from abuse, harassment, discrimination, prejudice, exploitation and neglect. To develop the confidence and capability to love, protect and care for their community and family members. We want families to know how and where to get assistance when they need it and have timely access to those services when they need help in resolving difficulties.
  • Parental separation affects many children. The process of separation is almost always a difficult one, but where it is handled well, the likelihood of it having an adverse impact on the child can be greatly reduced. Where separation is handled badly and in particular, where children are drawn into parental conflict, then the effects can be profoundly damaging for children.
  • Children in this situation are likely to do less well in life – they are more likely to do less well at school, to truant or to run away from home. However, these risks can be reduced if parents can resolve parenting issues in an amicable fashion. Evidence has shown that those parents who underwent some kind of mediation experienced less acrimonious divorce proceedings and improved post-divorce relationships between parents and their children. Children may also experience feelings of sadness, irritability, loneliness and feeling unloved or abandoned. Such separations and estrangements can impact on some children for the rest of their lives to the extent that they cannot form regular adult relationships when the time comes.
  • Enjoy your rights – everyone has the right to be free from the things that harm them. Everyone should expect those with a duty of care towards them to uphold the laws that are there to protect the public. Violation of the rights of children and their families should not be tolerated and any failure to do so should be dealt with appropriately.
  • UNCRC: article 9 (separation from parents) Children must not be separated from their parents against their will unless it is in their best interests (for example, if a parent is hurting or neglecting a child). Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this could cause them harm.


Recent Statistics

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures show that 2,360 parents divorced in 2015. 44% of births in 2015 were born to unmarried parents in 2015. When non-married parents split up they do not appear in divorce statistics, but may be collated by Court service as a contact and or residency order. New statistics show that over the last three judicial years 10,206 contact and residence orders were made but the figure for the number of children affected could be higher as an order can relate to more than one child.

The NICVA project, Detail Data research found almost half of all orders being made in Northern Ireland’s family courts are for ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ – generally setting out which parent a child resides with and when they have contact with their other parent. http://www.thedetail.tv  see this site ‘Inside NI Family Courts for detail on challenge facing NI today.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation has an established process and methodology, underpinned by knowledge, theory and a value systems as evidenced in the Codes of Ethics and Practice. The spectrum of conflict interventions should be broadened for families in transition, with greater emphases on conflict management and prevention, rather than resolution of single items of dispute. This is especially necessary as parenting needs continue post-separation and also for the lessons children learn from their parents in managing differences within interpersonal relationships.

“The couple take ownership of problems and solving them – they develop a template for solving problems”

“There’s so much negativity in the popular media – separating is represented as a battle – that’s the dominant narrative.  Here the couple get to see that it’s not all bad – they learn the huge task of separating the children from their own hurt and anger – they’re freed up to regain control of taking decisions.”

“It’s empowering for people – a safe place for dialogue – they have the experience of being heard, perhaps for the first time – it keeps a check on power imbalances.”     

 “It’s astounding – when it works its superb – to see a couple move to communicating, it’s a privilege to be part of.”

‘’Early intervention to begin managing the separation reduces potential for depression, anxiety and lost days at work’’.

‘’Being empowered to negotiate the best future for your child, has to be better for your health, that years in the court system’’

Adding to the identification of an empowering, skill- building and dynamic process mediators would also allude to less obvious benefits:

“You see people move from a state of anxiety after a few sessions – they actually look different - more confident – they begin to relax.  They move from devastation to smiling – finally seeing a way forward.”

“It takes out the animosity and hostility – that really benefits the children.”

“Funders just see warring parents – but the wider family is also important – especially the impact on children from not seeing their Granny or Grandad.”

“Success isn’t just about a Mediated Agreements  – there are soft outcomes too, learning a new way to communicate, post end of ‘love’ relationship, stopping the misuse of texts and Facebook ”

Both Parents are important to the well-being of the Child

There is an evidence base that Dads who are actively engaged with their families can improve outcomes in lots of ways.   Key to this is what the father does with the child:  better outcomes are associated with fathers who are actively involved and who provide supportive parenting which is sensitive to the child’s needs.    Agreement between parents as to how they continue to co-parents is key to well-being of the child.

Children whose fathers are actively involved and supportive are more likely to show:

•          Better outcomes, especially if living with disadvantage

•          Better friendships

•          Fewer behaviour problems

•          Lower criminality and substance abuse

•          Higher educational achievement

•          Greater capacity for empathy

•          Higher self-esteem and life-satisfaction

  • Fathers can act as a ‘buffer’ for their young children against the potentially negative effects of mother’s postnatal depression

•          Better language development at age 5

•          Better outcomes in primary school

  •  Less risky behaviour such as drugs/alcohol, early pregnancy or anti-social behaviour as teenagers

•          Higher educational attainment and social mobility as adults.

  •  Fathers can experience poor mental health, particularly those who are separated, and this can influence their own wellbeing, as well as the rest of the family. A father’s mental health may be important to improving child outcomes in a similar way to a mother’s mental health. A father’s involvement with their children cannot be separated from the network of family relationships. Key in this network is the quality of the relationship between the mother and father. Fathers and mothers who report better quality relationships with their partners are more involved with their children, even when other factors are taken into account. Overall there is a link between more positive couple relationship and more involvement with children, for both fathers and

It is therefore, in our changing society, with a variety of family models, essential that parents are encouraged and supported to seek a civilised approach to managing relationship breakdown and placing the child at the heart of the discussions on their future co-parenting relationship, post separation.  FMNI works to raise awareness of how engaging voluntarily in the process of mediation can be beneficial to the entire family circle. 

Parents are assisted to generate options, negotiate, compromise agree a parenting plan that helps them move forward to a mediated agreement that is relevant to their family’s needs.

Direct Child Consultation is also offered to those cases assessed as suitable for this service  

Useful Information

  • FMNI is a registered charity and is the leading family mediation organisation within Northern Ireland providing confidential, professional, non-judgemental dispute resolution to former couples, family and generational disputes.
  • FMNI is the lead trainer of family mediators in NI providing a training programme approved by the College Of Mediators UK and the Mediators Institute Ireland. FMNI developed a “bespoke’’training programme in mediation and this has operated on a self-financing basis since 2010.
  • FMNI services are provided to over 1500 people annually through centres in Belfast, L/Derry, Portadown, Lurgan, Newry, Downpatrick, Coleraine, Antrim, Ballymena, Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh, Strabane, and Enniskillen.
  • FMNI panel of mediators are trained by FMNI and accredited by the College of Mediators or the Mediators Institute Ireland. All mediators are supervised by Professional Practice Consultants.
  • FMNI has developed and delivered its own training – accredited by both the College of Family Mediators and the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland.  It was felt that there was an opportunity to develop “bespoke, home-grown” training in mediation.  The training has operated on a self-financing basis since 2010.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 people living in Northern Ireland (23%) said they have experienced the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.
  • FMNI is funded under tender with the Health and Social Care Board to provide access to family mediation to those separating parents not yet engaged in the court system. The aim is to empower them to negotiate and agree the best outcomes for their children, co-parenting into the future as separated parents.
  • www.familymediationni.org.uk
  • Director : Joan Davis : Joan@familymediationni.org.uk
  • Office: 02890243265