Category Archives: Mediation

Gold plated retirement and pension packages – How do I know what these are?

Are you one of the lucky ones to be in receipt of a gold plated pension this year?

The Times reported recently on the disparity of pension provision and in particular the position of very senior civil servants who have amassed pension packages worth more than £1 million.

Traditionally those working in the public sector have not been the recipients of high earnings. These were the fruits of the top earners who remain working in the private sector.” Banking, finance and professional services are where the really serious money is to be made”.

So, why the outrage about those being paid high salaries in the City? At least their salaries are not met by the taxpayer.

The author asks, “Is there any risk for the public bureaucrats?”   Perhaps we have misunderstood or simply don’t value what they do.  Whatever the answer, the consensus seems to be that most senior public servants are generally paid less than their private sector counterparts. This is largely because their pensions form part of their remuneration package.

Why are pension payments of interest to us?

When people come into mediate surrounding  a marriage breaking  down, if they are looking at negotiating a financial settlement, it is important that all information about pension provision is available for sharing and so that fair decisions can be made.   It is strange how little people seem to know or even want to understand about where their money is placed in a pension. The court does need to know about a pension as this will often form either the largest or possibly the second largest asset of a marriage.

Pensions are regarded as part of civil service remuneration packages simply because they are gold plated.

We have recently been exposed to the shocking stories surrounding the sums paid to vice- chancellors of some universities, some of whom command salaries in excess of £400,000 per year. Also,   of very senior civil servants who have amassed pension packages worth more than £1 million.

Relative to this we are informed that the university pension scheme has built up a £175 billion deficit.  Questions have to be put including “How will this deficit be met?  Will it come from the students, taxpayers or university employees?”

There are changes ahead because pension fund administrators have to work out pension provision taking into account changes to life expectancy and increases in liabilities.  These considerations will surely affect future payment of the state pension.

Too many people who I meet in mediation are blinded by the  complexity of their own pensions and appear to have little relevant information at a time when they need to work out what capital and income  provision they have put aside for their retirement, whenever that might arise.

In past years many people had defined benefit occupational pension schemes which guarantee an index-linked salary-related pension from retirement until death.   It is rare to find a private sector organisation that has found these schemes affordable to continue and most have closed.

I read that in order to invest in a pension worth the package to a parliamentary secretary would cost around £3 million to buy. The return would be in the region of an annual pension of £85,000 a year plus a lump sum of £245,000. These are the truly gold-plated pensions and that come with amazing tax breaks.

The inconsistency will no doubt need to be addressed in the future in light of tax-advantaged wealth accumulation being frowned upon.

So much change has occurred with people not being able to claim their pensions until their late 60s. Why then are civil servants still getting full pensions from age 60?

My want is to try and understand the disparities in the pension administration system to help people to understand within mediation how their own pensions actually work and importantly when they will receive them. Within mediation we are able to signpost people to seek information to help them arrive at safe decisions based upon relevant and clear information which in turn offers fairness at a difficult time when people are expected to make important decisions about their future and the best route to take.

These and other important decisions may be taken within the mediation process so that fairness and trust are achieved.

Please contact Tricia Muzalewski, Accredited FMC and Law Society Family Mediator at Wynn Mediation.  Contact details: enquiries@wynnmediation.com or telephone on 01702 341241

 

PMM                                                                                                                                     December 2017

 

 

 

DO WE REALLY KNOW THE PERSON WE LIVE WITH?

Christmas is nearly gone and for many it is a time for change.   The decorations are put away for another year and now is the time to invoke changes.  Dreams become reality.

For some, it may even be the much loved family cat passing away that has invoked these feelings.  But the children still there believe in the family and without anticipation of any of the changes being hatched by either one of their parents. There remains the hope that children will continue to be able to live innocently and without knowledge of the adult emotions that lead to divorce and separation.

I am writing on Boxing Day as this is the first day after Advent and whatever this may mean to us as adults, children are allowed to hold onto the hopes and beliefs surrounding Advent and which for many, reflect on the preparation for the giving and receiving of presents, beautiful Christmas lights and decorations which are all part of the ceremony that surrounds Christmas.

Memories and forgiveness are also an important part of Christmas.  We all have our special memories to reflect upon and to remember the people, pets and friends we have enjoyed during the course of the year and previously.

Children are steeped in Christmas cheer and, then, comes Boxing Day.  This is the traditional day in the modern separated family calendar when children are transported   from one Christmas household to another to re-enact the proceedings of Christmas Day.

I recall the handovers from year to year when the children were passed to the other parent in a sense of acceptance and hope that may be, next year; the parents will have seen sense and put the clocks back.    There may be a carefully planned strategy on the part of the parents to ensure that all of the children/step children get on and so that the next couple of days pass reasonably peaceably.    It is a mine field and not a particularly relaxing time for many adults who themselves desperately need the holiday for their own relaxation and planning.

Sadly, so many families break up soon after Christmas.  I suspect the frustrations that have been put to one side immediately in the lead up to Christmas, return with a vengeance.  The period of  Christmas “rest”  can be a  dangerous time  for “knee jerk “decisions  to leave a family immediately after a festival of  happiness and which makes the decision to leave so much easier.  Christmas presents itself as an opportunity because close family members are usually around to bear the burden of counselling surrounding a separation.  Many say I believe that this was all planned beforehand.  I believe they are usually right.

I would ask parents simply to understand the children’s perceptions of a separation.  They do not have the ability to understand adult emotions even though the parents may believe the contrary.

For some children, they march straightforwardly back into their New Year lives. For others, there is massive pain and sorrow because having spent a few days with their parents and actually watching them together, there is that painful realisation that they simply do not get on.  Many parents remain together purely for the sake of their children. Children are not stupid and of course realise and frequently take responsibility for the emotional turmoil that they are witnessing.

For the months ahead, I believe it is helpful for children to be aware that their parents are discussing their needs and to be relieved of the responsibility of becoming a parent themselves.

They need the freedom to speak and to ask questions.

This difficult time may be helped by attending family mediation where a professional third party can be present to help you with these important discussions to ensure the children continue to feel intrinsically loved.

Please contact Tricia Muzalewski at Wynn Mediation,  612 – 614 London Road, Westcliff On Sea, SS0 9HW. Wynn Mediation  has a team of accredited FMC Family mediators who are qualified to help and work with separating or separated parents  to carry out this sensitive work to help families move on.  Family mediation is an impartial approach  that can really assist families who are going through the complex process of separation and divorce.

Contact details are:  email enquiries@wynnmediation.com or telephone 01702 341241

PMM                                                                                                                                                December 2017

 

 

 

Divorcing Couples Shun Courts for Private Hearings

Francis Gibb, Legal Editor for The Times has written regarding delays caused by court closures and that more couples are representing themselves.  No reference is made to the large number of people who choose to use mediation to determine the number of financial cases that otherwise would have gone to court.

The article that has appeared in The Times deals with   “a huge rise in private hearings on divorce”.

In particular it refers to  a “Financial Dispute Resolution”  (FDR) hearing which is a private hearing and falls within the standard timetable for financial remedy proceedings.

Sadly if people are not made aware of the advantages of attending family mediation, then I suspect most of the protracted cases that go to court do eventually determine in the Financial Dispute Resolution hearing which is when the judge is able to give a view.  If the case does not settle at that hearing, the judge has to remove him/herself from the proceedings.  This is actually when the judge has an opportunity to mediate the case  but that occurs many weeks after proceedings have  started.  It occurs to me that  if parties were simply offered family mediation at the early stages of the dispute they would be much closer to considering options for a safe settlement.

It offends me that judges are not willing to address the virtues of mediation for people who are in dispute and who frankly do not have the financial resources or wish to engage in litigation. Nobody seems to wish to  report on the number of cases that return to family mediation following many months of engaging in legal process and who simply run out of funds to finance litigation.  These are the really frustrated people.

The normal scenario that I visit  frequently in my role as an experienced  FMC Accredited and Law Society Accredited Family Mediator is that people lose the ability to communicate.  They need further information and full financial disclosure to give them the opportunity to arrive at a settlement.

At the FDR,  a judge is for the first time in the proceedings available to provide a rational and objective view to assist the parties to settle their dispute but this has to be on the basis their financial disclosure has been dealt with.

The FDR of course takes place many weeks after the case has come to the court.  The majority of litigants within family proceedings will have parted with a great deal of money by this stage and frankly, will have pretty much lost the will to live.

The article describes the virtues of arbitration and which again must involve full financial disclosure. There is no mention of the costs of this and the preparatory work that must take place.

Again, sadly, no mention is made of mediation which is a process that helps people who are in dispute to function and begin to think for themselves rationally and pragmatically. It is not  a difficult process to follow and the mediator is at hand to help keep the lines of communication open with a positive and impartial third party present.

A frequently quoted solicitor is referred to in the article as comparing arbitration with private healthcare.  Where is the human approach towards people who need to feel  listened to  rather than reading about calls for further reform to benefit only a few.

Family mediation is available to everybody. For those who are unable to pay private mediation rates, there remains the opportunity to apply for legal aid to mediate.   I do not think the article reflects the position of most of the people who I meet professionally and who receive a wonderful service which is there to try and help families to rebuild hope for the future.

Please contact Tricia Muzalewski , Accredited Family Mediator at Wynn Mediation.

Contact details:  enquiries@wynnmediation.com or Telephone:  01702 341241

TMM/WynnMediation                                                                                                          December 2017

 

 

The Digital age has arrived in The Divorce Courts

The digital age has arrived in the divorce courts with the announcement of a Digital divorce scheme which is to deliver ‘swift justice’.

There have been articles about celebrities such as Janet Street-Porter needing to lie in court in order to get her divorce more quickly.

We are now informed that with effect from 31 October 2017, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) are publishing that:

“couples will be able to complete the divorce application process online as part of a £1bn plan to reform the justice system.”

“The Ministry of Justice has announced that an online divorce pilot is now being tested at three sites in the UK, and is due to be extended to other centres in the coming months, with the ultimate plan to roll it out nationally.”

“The scheme enables couples to apply for an uncontested divorce digitally via smart forms, removing the need to fill in paper forms and send them to court manually.”

A spokeswoman for HMCTS has said:

‘We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1bn to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice.’

‘We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly.’

Apparently there is an online pilot running in Stoke (West Midlands) and Southampton (South West Region), as well as the original location, Nottingham (East Midlands) and that   online pay and online submission are at a very advanced stage in those pilots.

According to the article in Family Law, once introduced next year, HMCTS will consider when is the right time to extend the service nationally.

At Wynn Mediation, we are aware that people are constantly looking for reforms so they are able to deal with their sensitive and complex matters efficiently and at low cost.

In our view, this is a great step forwards in offering a service that will be comfortable for many people to use in the future. This will not negate the important need however for couples going through divorce and marriage separation to come into family mediation to discuss on an impartial and neutral basis the various changes that they will need to embrace within the divorce process.

Please contact Tricia Muzalewski, FMCA and Law Society Accredited Family Mediator at Wynn Mediation.  Email: enquiries@wynnmediation.com or Telephone: 01702 341241

PMM                                                                                                             November 2017

 

Why are Family Lawyers calling for “Our divorce laws” to be changed?

A spokesman for Resolution has “tweeted” with regard to an article in the Times published on 31 October that our divorce laws are needlessly painful for families.

I am a member of Resolution in my capacity as an accredited FMC and Law Society Family Mediator.  The statements flying about at present on behalf of Resolution do not necessarily reflect the attitudes and beliefs of all members.

I have been a member since the 1990s when I was in practice as a family solicitor. I was proud to belong to Resolution, previously called the Solicitors Family Law Association, in light of the code of conduct we adhered to and which helped family lawyers to advise and represent clients going through divorce.

The existing statute that governs all divorces in this country is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  This is the law I have become familiar with over many years and I try to help clients who attend family mediation to understand the rationale of the statute.    The statute has worked for a long time but changes took place some four years ago when the Ministry of Justice brought family mediation firmly into the legal process.  This initiative has helped divorcing couples to find alternative and workable methods to deal with the string of issues that have to be discussed and dealt with when a marriage comes to an end.

People are comfortable negotiating in the right conditions and they have acknowledged the importance of finding good family mediators, rather than solicitors at the outset to help them find a way to communicate in often extremely difficult circumstances. I appreciate this seed change must be hard for many hard working solicitors to adapt to.

So, I ask myself why Resolution is driving this campaign for change so hard.  The drafting of a petition falls within the domain of the skills of a good family solicitor to draft the petition appropriately.

How does the No Fault Divorce work in practice?   I really cannot imagine that it actually helps the parties move forwards in view of the normally high emotions involved in a relationship break up.

The real problem is that the adversarial and hostile approach adopted by many family lawyers is simply too much for many people to bear when they are in need of stable and clear help to extricate themselves from a failed marriage. I meet people within mediation who find themselves running from a battle ground that frequently they do not understand and certainly do not want to be a part of. They certainly don’t want to be paying for it.

The search for a fair solution is at the front of so many of my mediation clients.  People are not stupid and they know that continuing a battle with their soon to be ex spouse causes immense damage to an existing difficult situation and, in particular, to their relationship with their children.

Maybe I am missing the point here. I believe that family solicitors are trying to restore a market that has changed. The awareness that family mediation exists is vital and should not be hidden.  The shift has moved away from people buying into lawyers to meet their every need when they are in despair.

Sadly, many people are not being informed of the huge advantages of engaging in family mediation at an early stage and I am not convinced it is for the right reasons. This in turn can make family solicitors unpopular which, is certainly not within my remit.

Respect and clear information is key and family mediation offers this on an entirely neutral and impartial basis and, ideally at an early stage.  Clients need to make decisions for themselves with the assistance of a trained and qualified family mediator.

There is no legal requirement for people to meet an accredited family mediator at the beginning of their dispute. There remains free will and I do not believe that family mediation should be compulsory.  I do not wish to see competition between solicitors and family mediators. It is vital that organisations like Resolution help to improve good practice between the professions and so there may be an ongoing relationship of trust between solicitors and family mediators to work together.

I would welcome a move on the part of Resolution to explore the benefits of this occurring to enable clients to engage in family mediation as well as seeking excellent partial legal advice from a family solicitor who acknowledges the benefits to the client.  I do not know whether this will be achieved from a change in the existing divorce laws.  I leave that decision to the lawyers.

Resolution believes that changing the divorce laws is the answer. This would certainly regenerate the need for clients to come back into solicitor’s offices to initiate proceedings. Is this trying to turn the clocks back?

My hope is that people will continue to learn about the advantages, themselves, of engaging in family mediation to obtain information and self-esteem to make good decisions and with the assistance of a highly trained professional facilitator who is present to offer a tried and tested process that leads to positive results.

The job remains to be finalised with the firm resource of safe and partial legal advice to ensure both parties to a dispute have all the relevant information they need to tailor their own futures.

The day will come when family solicitors and family mediators will realise their individual and separate skills and strengths which if combined, will genuinely help clients resolve their cases without being exposed to huge costs.

If you are interested in learning more about taking part in impartial family mediation, please contact Tricia Muzalewski, FMCA and Law Society Accredited, at Wynn Mediation.

Email: enquiries@wynnmediation.com or telephone: 01702 341241

November 2017

PMM