Family Mediation in Child Contact and Parenting arrangements
***New programme: 'Access to Mediation' available from 1st May 2017. See our blog (left hand side of Home page) for more details.
How can family mediation help sort out arrangements for the children?
"Mum and Dad were so busy fighting they forgot how I'd be feeling. After they'd been to mediation they listened to each other more and to me"
We recognise that the ending of a relationship can be a very stressful time. It can be even more difficult if you are worried about the children's future.
Once you know you are going to separate it is often a good idea to try to sort out arrangements for the children to give them security in a time of change and uncertainty. It also enables you, the parents, to move on to dealing with other issues to do with your separation or divorce.
Mediation can help you stand back from the problems between you and your partner and focus on an important area of common interest: the welfare and well-being of your children.
We always remember that parents are the people who know their children best. We help you come to the best decisions for their future.
If you wish your arrangements can be given legal effect by a Court. This is a simple matter of applying for a Consent Order once you've completed mediation. (This is a fairly new arrangement - some websites will still tell you you can't get a Consent Order for children matters.)
We will work through the issues that need to be addressed. We can also look at specific matters or a whole parenting plan. We can talk about issues such as:
- how the children will be told about the changes they may be facing
- who will live where
- child maintenance arrangements
- who will pay for what?
- how the children will have contact with the non-resident parent
- the children's contact with wider family
- how and when the arrangements will be made
- how changes to the arrangments will be negotiated
- holiday arrangements
- how both parents will be involved in the children's education
- how both parents will make joint decisions about the children...etc.
We can talk about specific single issues or a whole parenting plan: it's your mediation. You make the decisions; we manage the process.
Some of the decisions you face as parents may appear to be quite distant at this stage. For example, if your child or children are still quite young, decisions about secondary school choices can seem a lifetime away. While it may not be feasible to make those decisions now, in mediation we can talk about developing a pattern of communication and the ways in which you will jointly share parenting of your children.
Hopefully, when future decisions (both seen and unforeseen) have to be made there will be an agreed, tried and tested channel of communication between you for the benefit of your children.
Mediation is about co-operation not opposition. It keeps you talking and builds for the future.
We can usually arrange a first meeting within a week and meetings as quickly as possible after that. It could all be sorted out in a few weeks.
Separated a while ago?
If you separated from the other parent some time ago and haven't seen your children or find your contract arrangements have gone 'a little rocky' we can help. We can try to get contact re-started or look at ways of improving your communication and getting things back on course. It isn't always easy, but when parents are able to put their children's needs first we can often achieve an improvement.
We have handled hundreds of children issues cases and in many have helped the parents reach a successful outcome. We know your case is unique to you, and your children, but at the same time we have experience of dealing with many different circumstances so whatever you are feeling it is highly unlikely we won't have come across something like this before.
When dealing with children issues we try to keep their needs as the centre of the discussions. Whatever has happened in the parents' relationship as a couple this hasn't changed one key thing: they are co-parents of the child or children and will go on being co-parents for a very long time.
Give us a call if you would like to see how a mediator may be able to help.
CAFCASS have produced a video to help children experiencing divorce or separation in their families:
You may have separated or divorced some time ago and contact or other arrangements were in place but have subsequently broken down. We can help re-establish these and look at ways of avoiding future difficulties. Similarly, if you feel the current arrangements are in danger of breaking down a mediator could work with you and your ex to look at ways of avoiding this happening before it is too late.
In some cases it may be appropriate to directly consult the children so that their views can be ascertained and taken into account as part of the parents’ decision-making. This possibility can be raised by either you or the mediator as part of your on-going discussions in mediation.
Normally we would only see children of secondary school age but would consider seeing a younger child if he/she was accompanied by an older sibling. Both parents would need to agree to the consultation. There are a number of mediators in the practice who have undertaken specialist training in this area.
If you are a grandparent who is concerned about losing contact with your grandchild or grandchildren we may be able to help. Though you may be able to go to court to have your contact rights given legal status (a solicitor can help you with this) you may want to consider mediation first. We would contact the other party or parties and ask them to consider attending mediation and outline what may be possible. We can assure you that we would take a gentle, friendly approach and do everything we could to avoid making matters worse.