Disputes within families are not uncommon.

There may be issues within a marriage, sometimes the wider family unit, inheritance issues, financial difficulties amongst others. The Covid-19 pandemic has put extra pressure upon families that has resulted in an increase in differences and conflicts within families.

The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) defines mediation as a flexible process conducted confidentially in which a neutral person actively assists parties in working towards a negotiated agreement of differences or a dispute, with the parties in ultimate control of the decision to settle and the terms of resolution.

There has been an acknowledgement of the need for amicable settlement of disputes through mediation rather than through the courts. The court system is built on an adversarial premise of winner and loser. Court proceedings are public, and the parties have no control over the outcome – a decision is imposed upon them.

Against this backdrop and the desire of Mawlana Hazar Imam for the Jamat to be able to resolve differences amicably, quickly, fairly,equitably and with utmost confidentiality, the International and National Conciliation and Arbitration Boards (NCABs) were established by Mawlana Hazar Imam in 1986 when the Ismaili Constitution was ordained.

The mediation process is characterised by the notions of impartiality and confidentiality. It is also a voluntary process where the parties come voluntarily to mediation. NCAB has trained mediators who seek to achieve, fair and equitable solutions, that are sustainable. It aims at reconciliation of differences, however if that is not possible then it assists towards an amicable, fair, and equitable separation under the law of the land.

In order to achieve this, the parties are encouraged to be creative in their approach in resolving problems. There are no rules of evidence and any offers or concessions made are without prejudice, meaning that there is a level of flexibility in the process. Perhaps the most important aspect of mediation is that the parties “own” the solution. It is not imposed upon them. When the parties have jointly arrived at a solution, then it is a “win-win” solution. There is no winner or a loser.

During Family Mediation Week, a Campaign organised by The Family Mediation Council (FMC) that takes place annually, let us reflect upon the role of mediation in family disputes.

This is where two (or more) parties meet in a confidential space to help resolve their differences and disputes. A trained mediator will be present to assist in helping parties come to a resolution and settlement. Mediation provides a safe forum to communicate anxieties to the other person. When reconciliation is not possible, then it can help family members settle arrangements for children and any financial and property matters at any stage of separation or divorce including any other family matters. Participants are helped to reach well-informed decisions, without pressure from each other or from the mediator. When a full and final settlement is needed in divorce proceedings, the terms worked out in mediation can be used as the basis for a consent order.

The following are some of the benefits of resolving family (and other) disputes through mediation: -

  • Less stressful than going through the courts and is cost effective
  • Quicker than litigation
  • Helps parties to come to agreements over parenting, property, and finances
  • Allows parties have more control of their family’s future, and assists in focussing on the interests of children
  • If circumstances change then the agreements made can be revisited through further mediation
  • Most importantly NCAB encourages mediation within our ethics of  harmony, integrity, dignity, equity, collaboration and fair dialogue, and in a spirit of reasonable compromise.

For further information on the work of NCAB, please contact Chairman Yasmin Dhanji or any NCAB Board Member or [email protected]

For further information on Family Mediation Week (17 – 21 January) and the Family Mediation Council, please visit www.familymediationweek.org.uk and www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk.