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Family Law

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22 JUN 2015

A day in the life of ... Lisa Parkinson (Family Mediator)

Lisa Parkinson

Family mediator, trainer and a Vice President of the FMA

A day in the life of ... Lisa Parkinson (Family Mediator)

What is your position and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

I'm a family mediator, consultant and trainer. I combine mediating in Bristol with consultancy, training and conferences in the UK and other countries (Finland and Portugal in the last two weeks).I 'm on the steering committee for Kids in the Middle and International Social Service's advisory group on developing the use of international family mediation to prevent and resolve disputes over parental child abduction.

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

Nearly 40 years. My experience as a mental health social worker and family therapist working with parents and children showed the overwhelming need for family mediation. The Finer Report (1974) was a further trigger.

What are the people you work for/with like? Any memorable stories?

Many good friends here and in other countries. At a meeting with the Solicitor-General in February 1978, a civil servant described mediation as 'a happy concatenation of economy and humanity'. I noted at the time that economy was placed before humanity.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

Best is relaxing after work, though I enjoy work too. Worst is waiting at airports.

What adjectives best describe you?

Energetic and quite persistent.

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What keeps you motivated?

Seeing the benefits for children and parents when agreements are reached.

Tea or coffee?

Both – with a glass or two of wine in the evening.

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

Before training as a mediator, make sure you can arrange an in-service placement or similar opportunity to gain experience and work towards accreditation.

What song do you listen to the most?

'Hummin' to Myself', sung by Louisa Jones with Man Overboard Swing

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

With our family (4 grandchildren) and friends, books and music, theatre and cinema, holidays and gardening.

If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?

Require the respondent, as well as the applicant, to attend an initial meeting with an accredited family mediator, before, or otherwise after, the filing of a court application. Many respondents do not understand their DR options. They should have an equal right to receive information prior to court proceedings. When both parties attend separate initial meetings, the great majority decide to try mediation. Mediators need fuller training to provide these initial information meetings and assess whether mediation is suitable in the circumstances. In cases involving domestic abuse, it may be possible to mediate, eg on financial matters, through a continuation of separate meetings. Extending the requirement for respondents to attend an initial meeting is justifiable on the grounds of the best interests of the child, since there is strong evidence that mediation produces better outcomes for children than litigation between warring parents. If a second wish is allowed, it would be for legal aid funding for family mediators with additional training to meet with young people and children in child-inclusive mediation.

As part of this feature we are asking a wide range of people who have links to the court system and family law to respond to the above questions and give us some information about what their role entails. We hope to get a wide cross section of people - to this end, if you would like to contribute please email editor@familylaw.co.uk
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