S: Good afternoon. My name is Salleed Ab Kameel and this is my colleague Nish Amanasi.
S: We are here today to represent Angharad in the temporary breakdown of the marriage. We will be focusing on the terms of access for the children.
D: Good afternoon, I am Deepak Jaiswal and this is my colleague Laura Edwards and we are here representing our client Rhiannon, formerly known as Rhys, and I think it's paramount that we focus upon the well-being of the children as at the minute our client is unable to gain any access to them
S: I completely agree with you. So, might I put forward an agenda for this negotiation?
S: Good afternoon, my name is Salleed Ab Kameel. This is my colleague, Nish Amanasi.
S: And we are here today to represent Angharad in the temporary breakdown of the marriage.
D: If I can just interrupt you there, it's not actually a temporary break down. It's actually a permanent breakdown, and the reason for us being here today is to establish access for our client towards his children.
N: That's well and good. It's nice to hear, but I have to inform both of you at this very early stage that unless you actually subscribe to what our client wants, you'll be granted no such access because of the unique choices that your client has just decided to take. Doesn't make any sense, it's not going to be good for the children and it's as simple as that.
A: To begin with I'd like to set up an agenda for today's discussions and I'd like to put them in order of importance to our client. Firstly, I'd like to discuss access to the children which is of paramount importance at this time. Secondly, I'd like to discuss some of the comments that have been made between the parties. And finally, I think it would be important to discuss the matter of church and which church the family will be attending.
N: I think we're happy with that.
S: I think those points are of extreme importance. They are in accord with our client’s instructions. However, I think its first important to talk about how the father is seen in front of the children. Angharad has made it her primary concern that father is seen as the father and not dressed in female attire.
A: Okay. I think a lifestyle choice is a good place to begin.
S and N [together]: Yes. I too think so.
A: All right, first things first, I'm going to set out the agenda for today's discussions. Of paramount importance to our client is access to the children, which Rhiannon currently is not getting. Second of all, some of the negative comments that your client has been saying need to be addressed and corrected. And finally, the matter of the radical church that your client has decided to attend cannot be tolerated as it is definitely not good for the children in this case.
N: We're not happy with that at all. We think that, first things first, we need to discuss the lifestyle choices of your client, because from the very outset we can let you know that our client has no prospect of entertaining any of the lifestyle choices that your client has decided to take recently. And access being contingent upon that, we think that lifestyle should be discussed first.
B: I'm sorry. It's not on the table. We're not here to discuss personal choices of our client and it has been shown that your client has been poisoning the children against our client. So therefore, we're here to discuss access to the children, not about lifestyle choices.
S: I think of primary importance here is the welfare of the children and that is dependent on the lifestyle choices that the husband makes, so therefore it is absolutely vital that we talk about the lifestyle changes first before we go on to access.
B: Not ready to discuss that. Not ready to discuss that.
A: We agree, maybe at this point it is too disturbing for the children to see their father dressed as a woman. With that in mind, we think an ideal starting point would be for him to dress as a man, collect them on Saturday morning, and return them to the parents on Sunday evening. Just so they can have an opportunity to re-establish a parental relationship.
S: I think at this point in time it is too early to offer up overnight stays in the access agreement. It's just not conducive for the kids. They are frightened of their father this point in time.
B: I think the reason why they're quite frightened of their father is because of the adverse comments of their mother. So I think that has to be considered as well.
N: I completely understand the point you're making, but to be honest, there is a basis of fact behind it. I mean, one of the children, Gethin, is suffering from panic attacks as a result of finding his father unconscious, having taken an overdose. And similarly, Thomas accidentally stumbled upon his father while he was wearing a dress and the result of which is one of them is suffering from panic attacks and the other ones having horrible nightmares at night. And I think when we take this information into consideration, it just illustrates the fact that it wouldn't be appropriate to have them stay at their father's house at such an early stage overnight.
A: Look, I mean, first of all, every other weekend is not that frequently, and - you have to remember - the father was able to live with the children successfully for ten, seven and five years. They need to be able to re-establish the bonds that created the family in the first place. And I think the only way to do that is to have them spending quality time with their parent.
S: I think the issue is the bonds were broken by the actions of the father. And as a result, we have children who are very sensitive to their father being around. Throwing them back into the deep end isn't necessarily conducive. In fact, it may break the relationship down even further. So, we suggest that in the long-term gain if we start them off on very short periods, possibly chaperoned (we suggest possibly their grandparents, either of Angharad or Rhys), that the children can start to re-establish this when we are here for the same reason: that is to get equal access or access for the children to the father.
N: If I can add to what my colleague is saying and this will be under constant review over the next couple of months and see what the progress the children are making with their father. So this is not set in stone at this early stage.
A: I think it's a good starting point. I think it would be conducive for this relationship to blossom again, if it was with Rhys's parents to begin with, just to make sure that they're able to be in an environment that is a positive one towards Rhys and his relationship with his children.
S: I can see that being a viable option. What I'll do is I'll take it back to Angharad and see whether she accepts those terms. It's best that we do give the children a safe environment, seeing as they have had some unfortunate events happen in the past.
N: We need to get clarification and seek instruction on that point.
A: Look, we're willing to agree that it may be too disturbing for the children to see their father dressed as a woman at this point. We need to ease them into the process, clearly, and a good starting point for that would be to have the father pick them up, dressed as a man, on Fridays after school and then drop them off on Sunday evening back to their mum. They can have the full weekend to re-establish a relationship and that would be a good start.
S: I absolutely disagree with that. There is no way that that is going to be the situation. What we have is two kids who are absolutely frightened of their father. Throwing them into the deep end like that will not work. We cannot agree to this.
B: But clearly that's not fair. The reason why the children are fighting is due to the mother’s adverse comments. So therefore, we have to re-establish a relationship with the father. Therefore, they have to stay overnight in learning to overcome their fears.
N: I think what you're proposing is completely unreasonable. It doesn't make any sense for you to wish to subject these children given the fact that they're so scared of their father.
A: Look, they've lived with their father for ten, seven, and five years. There's got to be a relationship there.
S: The relationship has been broken down by the actions of the father, it's regardless of the time they spent beforehand, that has stopped -
A: The venom is from the mother. The father can have the opportunity to re-establish his relationship.
S: We're clearly going nowhere. It's absolutely unacceptable, they cannot stay overnight.
B: You're not taking the children's welfare into consideration.
S: We certainly are. We certainly are and we're doing that by not allowing them to stay overnight.
N: Let me make this easy. This is a certain point that we're not willing to compromise on. It is what it is. It's a red line and we're not willing to cross it.
A: Why would you come here to a negotiation if you're not willing to move your position?
S: We are here to negotiate but we're here to negotiate on sustainable, viable solutions. We are not going to throw caution to the wind and leave the children -
A: The only viable solution for the children is to spend time with their father - quality time.
S: We completely agree. However, overnight is not the case.
N: We're not willing to discuss this point any further, so I suggest we move on.
A: Okay so, so far we've been able to agree on two points. I think now would be a good time to move on to the issue of the church. Our client has instructed us that he would like to request Angharad come back to the old church that they attended as a family before. He believes that the radical church she is currently attending has too many views that are opposed to his lifestyle choice and it's not a good environment for the children to be in.
L: And I think that our client would probably have some issues with returning to the church. First of all, she does have some negative opinions of the church and their encouragement of Rhys in his decision to change gender. Also, if Rhys was wanting to attend church dressed as a woman that could be an issue as Angharad would want him to be dressed as a man and so it would be best for her and the children.
B: I don't think that’d be a fair solution because it's the only place that Rhiannon feels comfortable in her transgendered lifestyle and this is the church that accepted her. So therefore, I don't think there'll be agreement on that issue.
D: I do sympathise with this point and it's quite clear that we would like to come to an agreement. However, the instructions from our client are extremely clear that the only way she would actually attend that church if your client were to dress as a man, as it is in the best interest for herself and for her children.
A: Perhaps the only thing that we're left with is to take your opinions and the opinion of your client and go back to Rhiannon and -
D: We’d like to do the same.
A: - get some clarification.
D: Thank you.
A: We think that now would be a good time to turn to the final point of contention, that being the issue of the church. Our client has instructed us that he would like Angharad and the children to stop attending the radical church and once again return with him to the church that they formerly attended as a family, with him dressing and acting as Rhiannon.
L: And our client would be quite reluctant to come back to the church they used to attend as a family. First of all, because she has some issues with how they have encouraged Rhys in his decision to change gender. But also, she would not want to attend with Rhys dressed as a woman just because it's going to be difficult for her and the children to see him on a regular basis like that.
B: I think it's necessary to consider that this the only place that Rhiannon feels comfortable in her transgender nature. Therefore, we have to consider that she's going to go as a woman to the church. Therefore, we have to compromise on the solution of how to get them both to the same church.
L: Our client would be prepared to attend the church, but not if he is dressed as a woman. He has to go dressed as a man in order for her to return.
A: Is there any other solution that you can come up with that would allow him to dress as Rhiannon and still have both parties attend?
D: Well, I think there is maybe one possible solution which would entail Angharad and the kids returning to the church, however, Rhiannon not attending and attending on alternate weekends. So, they are not present together, however, the problem of Angharad and the kids attending the church which does not favour transgendered views is not in the equation anymore. In this respect, then, I'm pretty sure your client would be quite happy with that, and I'm sure if these terms were put forward to our client that they would be considered.
A: Yeah, we'd be prepared to take that back to our client. Yeah.
D: Because it would be a shame if we could not come to a settlement after negotiating, as this is the final point.
A: Yeah, I agree. Definitely.
D: Thank you very much.
[General]: Thank you.
L: We understand that your client is not happy at the moment for the children to see their father dressed as a woman, as they do find it upsetting. Therefore, our client would be agreeable to actually dressing as a man whilst he is visiting his children and spending time with them.
S: Unfortunately, I don't see that as being primary aim of this negotiation. We are here to reinstate normal family life as Angharad has ordered us to. Now, that means Rhys coming home and taking up his position as a father again. In doing so, we can set up terms of counselling so we can address his issues and he will then inevitably gain access to his children.
D: I would have to emphasise that our client does not feel this is actually a choice, it's more like an underlying moral obligation for himself to change. The issue does not appear to be whether he is a man or woman; simply, he is their father. So the decision should be based on whether he should be gaining access to his children and, at the end of the day, it would be detrimental to both the children and himself not to have access to them.
N: Well, I think we need to distinguish between what's real, and what he thinks. What's real is that he's a man, and therefore he needs to come home assume his role as a father and a husband and help take this family forward. We both want the same thing out of this negotiation, which is a positive outcome for our clients. And unless you concede on this point, then I'm afraid we're both going to go home empty-handed.
D: Well, both parties have come here to negotiate and, at the end of the day, in order for negotiation to occur, two sides have to come together and compromise. It appears you have come here simply with a dictation of your terms, expecting us to accept these and this is completely unacceptable. We have already conceded the point that our client, when seeing his children, will dress as a man, although this is completely against what our client believes, as he believes he has the right to dress as a woman. So at the end of the day, we have come here we should be looking at the access for our client to the children, what is in the best interest of the children. And you should not be dictating terms to us. We should be sitting here compromising these terms.
S: I agree with you in that respect. This is a negotiation and I do realise and acknowledge that you have conceded in certain aspects. In that respect, I guess then it is only right for us to review our objectives and also concede. We can then start to look at terms of access.
N: We can compromise on something.
L: We understand that your client is not happy at the moment for her children to see their father dressed as a woman. Therefore our client would be agreeable to dressing as a man whilst he sees his children, but would continue to dress as woman in his private life.
S: I have to disagree in that respect. I don't think this point is of primary concern in this negotiation. Angharad has made it obvious to us that her primary concern is reinstating normal family life. That means Rhys coming home and resuming his position as father of the children and as husband, as a provider. In this respect, we have outlined counselling to deal with his lifestyle choices in the intention that he does come home and assumes his position.
D: Well our client doesn't actually feel that it's a choice as such, he feels like it’s something within him that's telling him that this needs to be done. He needs to change as a person himself. And at the end of the day, surely it's the choice of the individual which is important, as this does not compromise his parenting skills at all. He is still their father at the end of the day.
N: I think it's important at this stage just to stress that whatever he may think he is, in reality he's a man, and as such he needs to fulfil his obligations. I mean, let's be honest, we're here for the same reason: we want what's best for the children, and the best thing for the children is for Rhys to come home and revert back to his normal state, as a man.
S: There are no access issues if he reverts back to his normal state, that's why we are here.
N: Exactly, so I think it's best for both of us just to agree on this so there's some sort of positive outcome for both our clients out of this meeting. Otherwise, we're just going to go away empty-handed.
D: Again our client feels it's a necessity, not so much a choice. And it is necessary for the children to see both their parents and obviously access to children is the key issue here and denying access to the children will affect the children adversely, as well as our client. At the end of the day, it is all about the children and they should see both their parents.
S: I completely agree with you. At the end of the day, it is all about the children and we are not here to affect them adversely. However, if they do see their father in such a way (dressed as a woman) this will inevitably affect the children. Therefore, the issue, or the best outcome, to this situation is for Rhys to come home. We can set him on a road to recovery. We can get him sorted out. So at the end of the day, this is all sorted. We have a strong family unit again.
N: And I don't think will be willing to discuss that any further. That's our position and that's where it's going to stay.
L: Obviously, our instructions are to make sure that he can still continue to live the way he wants to live. But his main concern is that he does want to see his children. So if that is really the only way then I guess we'll have to agree to it.
D: Yeah, we’ll concede that point.
S: Absolutely, that is the only way.
D: We will concede that point then.
L: We're willing to concede on the point that Rhys will have to dress as a man when he is visiting his children. Therefore, we would suggest that perhaps Rhys gets the children for one day a week at his own home every week.
B: I think that's reasonable to be honest.
A: No, that’s -
B: Why not?
A: - that's way too much.
B: What's wrong with it? He's going to be dressing as a man. It's one day -
B: They've been compromising with us -
A: Thomas, the eldest, gets a panic attack every time he sees him.
B: Yeah, he'll learn not to have a panic attack.
A: I still…
B: What’s your problem?
A: I think it's I think it's way too much.
B: I don't think so. No.
A: I think we need to reconsider this stance. It’s way too much.
B: What do you mean we need to reconsider? They've given us a good compromise.
B: One day -
A: I am sorry - I'm sorry I definitely disagree with you.
[Speaking over each other]
D: Excuse me, if I could intervene and just suggest that we take a brief recess in which you can gather your position and if in that time, you could consider the proposition we put forward that our client is more than willing to dress as a man while seeing his children it will be much obliged.
A: That'll be fine.
D: Thank you.
A: Well, I'm pleased that we've been able to come to an agreement. Just for clarification’s sake I'd like to go over some of the key points that have been made today. Firstly, we've agreed that access will start immediately for two hours a week.
L: Yes, but always in company of other people, yeah?
B: Yes, we've agreed it's going to be at Angharad’s parents’ home.
L: Yes, okay.
A: Secondly you've agreed that your client will stop making comments in front of the children about our client.
L: Yes, and in return your client agrees to come to relationship counselling with our client just to work through the issues that they have about Rhys's decision and hopefully work on acceptance of that.
A: Yeah we feel that would be agreeable.
A: And finally, we've agreed that our client will postpone any consideration of gender-reassignment surgery for a further six months, at which point the access arrangements can be reassessed.
D: Thank you very much. I will put these terms forward to our client, and hopefully she will agree on these and we can put them into practice as soon as possible.
[All]: Thank you.
L: Okay. Well, I'm glad we've managed to come to an agreement. I'd just like to summarise the key points just to clarify what we have agreed. First of all, our client agrees not to make any more adverse comments in front of the children in relation to their father. Also, both clients will attend relationship counselling and help go over all the issues that they have with regards to his decision. And most importantly, access will start immediately for two hours a week.
A: Actually, I sort of re-thought that, and I don't think it's going to work for our client. Maybe we could increase it?
B [whispering]: What about two days?
A: Two days a week?
D: But we came to the actual agreement previously and you were happy with what we came -
A: Yeah, I just feel like I don't think it would be acceptable to our client and I think two days is a lot better.
D: Well that kind of puts us back at square one, I guess.
B: You have to consider that our client hasn't had much access to either so...
L: We have already gone over all of these points though, so if you want to -
D: It’s very contradictory to the entire meeting we've just had previously.
L: If you want to negotiate we'll have to start again.
A: Looks like that's where we're at.
S: I felt that this was a very interesting negotiation. We had two parties who are obviously very emotionally attached to their children, and as a result, we had to take that into consideration when coming to certain arrangements.
N: You know, I think we did need to adopt a degree of sensitivity when we were going to approach this.
N: And I think that at the end of the day, we achieved what we went out… which was to succeed in…
S: We didn't isolate the other party in respect to the arrangements that we put forward. We always maintained a certain level of benevolence.
N: Definitely. And I think when we when we break down the actual meeting with the issue of the access, as you know, as the starting point, there was always going to be a case where there was going to be a degree of contention, but we managed to co-operate and collaborate and come out with the outcome which I think –
S: Best suits a long-term viable solution.
S: Because at the end of the day was our client’s main interest to return to a proper family unit. If we can't do that in terms of husband and wife, then we need to establish positive relationships between the two parents and the children. And I believe that the arrangements that we did come to will provide those solutions.
N: And I think as well what really did help is the other people who were actually present at the meeting representing the other party were very co-operative, a lot more co-operative than I thought they were originally going to be because -
S: It is an emotive situation.
N: - and the contentious nature of the matter.
N: But aside from that, a particular sticking point for me was always going to be the church and I have no idea how we got around that.
S: I think, at the end of the day, it is very much due to the co-operation that we found from our other colleagues.
N: And the ability for us, for example, to isolate the best interest of all the parties and come to something -
S: We identify why their objectives were such and we try to adapt them and change ourselves and themselves, as well.
N: Brilliant. Well, I think the next stage what we need to do is we need to put these things into action.
N: So if I can suggest that I go and type up the client note and put it on file so we have something we can refer back to.
S: And I'll go and contact our client and see whether, provisionally, she’ll accept these arrangements, and then we can go from there.
N: Definitely. Let’s put into practice.
S: So yeah, I thought all in all it was pretty good, didn’t you?
N: Pretty happy with it to be honest.
S: Yeah, I mean the other team were pretty weak so we just walked all over them, got what we wanted.
N: To be honest, we didn't necessarily tick all the boxes, but a deal's a deal.
S: Yeah, at the end of the day we got the access sorted out and all the terms sorted and they're pretty much what we wanted - Not necessarily exactly. But hey, what can you do?
N: So long as it's clear that you know, whatever we didn't get, it's just because the other lot just didn't want to co-operate. They just didn't get to see what the point is behind what we were trying to do.
S: We tried, we tried very hard.
N: Can't blame us for trying. Definitely.
S: I know, we just we're up against a brick wall. People who really didn't understand their client’s needs or why their needs were such. So -
N: I mean to be perfectly honest, there we were, we set out our interests, it's perfectly clear, and we just got nothing back. She was just looking at me like – [pauses]. What are you supposed to do with that?
S: Yeah, and I guess as a result we had to exert a bit more force in the negotiation to get what we wanted. So, you know, it balanced out in that respect.
N: No, I have no issue about pushing them all the way to the limit. I mean, when you can tell they’re weak that's when you push.
S: Yeah, you've got to put your foot down, you know?
N: Exactly! Exactly! But, we've got something to take back to the client.
S: Yeah, we have. Generally, there is something there for us, so… So, I'll take that back to the client and she'll accept it.
I think from the very outset it's important to say that the ability to negotiate is a skill that you can carry with you in every walk of life and apply it to any situation. Don't be under any impression that negotiation is just a skill that's going to be valuable while you're studying law, or while you go and practice law in the future. On the contrary, day-to-day, when you meet people you find yourself in different kinds of practical situation, it will just be evident how important and useful the ability and the art of negotiation can be.
I found negotiation especially helpful. It helped me develop skills in dissecting problem questions, which I could use during my coursework or exam period. It also gave me an insight into applying the law in practical situations, which is especially relevant at the moment with the move from applying cases through the courts to alternative dispute resolution such as negotiation or mediation.