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How first mediation brought tears to eyes of a battle worn divorce lawyer

Our Family Law Solicitor, Sam O’Dwyer has recently qualified as a Mediator. She is now observing and co-mediating with other Mediators to gain experience in this area of law. Below, Sam tells us how she’s finding the experience.

Having specialised in family law for over 20 years, I have seen a lot of changes in the law, and the personalities that work within it. What remains the same, however, is that the couple involved are in distress and in need of help. Family law is very emotive - you are dealing with people’s lives and relationships. They have a unique problem that needs to be resolved, and they want someone to listen to them, to really listen to them, and put their family first above all else.  

I love my work, helping people through their divorce is what I do best. As a solicitor, I’ve dealt with hundreds of clients over the years that have been happy to use me to work with their ex’s lawyer to reach solutions which have worked for them and their families. I have always recommended my clients use mediation when they agreed it would help and many have with great success.  So I got to thinking about those other couples and families who apparently didn’t need to go down the usual route. The couples that not only understand from the outset how important reaching an agreement is but can overcome the difficulties in their relationship to make it work for them. Could I help more people if I was a mediator myself? Not only as a mediator but also when doing my job as a Solicitor? Having completed my training I believe the answer to both those question is a resounding yes.

Family Mediation is a way of helping families to reach their own agreements on what should happen after a divorce or separation. So instead of asking a court to decide, each person is guided through discussion about what options might work best for them and their family. Mediation provides an opportunity to cut through the negotiation to hit the result they can each live with.

At Amphlett Lissimore, we have a mediation team. Liz Edwards has been a mediator for decades and Donna Rose trained many years ago.  I have joined them as a ‘trainee’ mediator myself, after undertaking a training course with the Family Mediators Association. Quite frankly, I had not been a ‘trainee’ for many, many years, but it soon became apparent that I had a lot to learn.

The course itself was fascinating, and left me energised and eager to learn more. Fortunately, I was invited to initially observe and then co-mediate with a couple who had recently separated quite soon after I had completed the course. During the first meeting, it was clear that tensions were running very high. Civil communication evident in that initial session, changed to obvious conflict in the second. However, at the end of the third meeting, compromises, discussions and a desire to co-parent and to put the children first, completely changed the tone. The couple realised what needed to be done, and how by working together they could achieve the best result possible for their family. Following a positive mediation they reached agreement of their own accord that the absent parent would follow the other home so he could spend time with the younger children and the family dog. I almost cried. The leap they had both made to put their family first was staggering and very emotional. A cynical old lawyer being almost reduced to tears.


Would you like to learn more about Mediation? Amphlett Lissimore has offices across South London and one of our Family Law team would be happy to talk you through the process. If you would like to know more visit our Family Law page or call us on 020 8771 5254.

About the Author

Sam O’Dwyer is a Family Law Solicitor and now Mediator, based in our West Wickham office. Her key aim is to always resolve disputes with compassion and sensitivity, and she is a member of Resolution.

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