It may not be easy but I've seen very tricky issues resolved using the methods I advocate...

Jo O'Sullivan

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February 2nd ……Groundhog Day.

On this day according to folklore, if the weather is bad when the groundhog comes out of its burrow then Spring will come early; if the weather is sunny then the groundhog seeing its shadow will quickly retreat back into hibernation; meaning wintery weather will continue for another six weeks.

Groundhog Day isn’t celebrated in the UK but it received widespread attention as a result of a much -loved Hollywood film of the same name back in 1993.

Its plot is a simple one. Jaded and arrogant TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is for the fourth year sent to cover a banal news story that he sees is about a weather forecasting "rat."

The casting of Bill Murray is what makes the film. Cynical and disdainful for the Groundhog Day Festival and anyone that finds any joy in it. So he is predictably more than a little frustrated when a blizzard forces him, his producer and cameraman to spend a second night in what he sees as small town hell.

Frustration doesn't even begin to describe his mood, when the next day he wakes and to his horror finds it's Groundhog Day all over again.

Stuck in a time loop, it seems he is now destined to spend an eternity in the same place, with the same people and repeatedly doing the same things.

The film is now over twenty years old, but the phrase Groundhog Day has, for a certain generation become shorthand for describing a feeling of being stuck, that you are unable to break free of certain repeated patterns of behaviour. You are in a rut with a crippling sense of ‘here we go again’.

Many a separated parent I work with feels stuck in their own personal "Groundhog Day" loop – having the same disagreements and frustrations with their ex partner. Because the relationship failed and they know their patterns of behaviour many feel their relationship post parting is destined to stay one way forever. The same let downs, the same points of conflict with no way of changing things. So a sort of grim acceptance inevitably sets in.

This is when mediation can be invaluable; it can change ways of interacting and help resolve, sticking points and disputes. With support couples identify the main issues that can’t be agreed – that are causing repeated problems, however big or small.

The aim is to move things forward and try and reach mutual agreement. Both parties will start with a shared understanding of how mediation works.

We then sit down together and outline the issues that need resolving – the sticking points. If a couple has children then I will focus on their needs first and check to see how arrangements are working out.

Often we will have several meetings to consider all the various options for the children. We may also exchange financial information and consider several different possible resolutions. I may suggest other help, such as financial advice or additional support for children.

When all the proposals have been agreed I will put together a summary along with all financial information, this will first be sent to both parties to discuss with their lawyer. Where appropriate this will then be converted into a legally binding document.

Couples who get into a negative cycle or simply can’t agree on a particular detail or are crippled by having the same arguments with no resolution find mediation enormously helpful. The process often forms a crucial part of allowing both couples and children to move on. Divorce is not a one off event it is a process; mediation can be a very positive part of that process. It helps couples heal old wounds and move on with their lives rather than getting stuck.

Call me on 01273 206 720 or 07780 676 212 for an informal chat or meeting.