Co-parenting guidelines

1. Parents should aim for a decent, business-like, working relationship with one another that meets the needs of their children.

  • Watch your language; be courteous and mutually respectful.
  • Keep your feelings in check.
  • Respect the other parent’s privacy and expect the same in return.
  • Act like a guest in the other parent’s home.
  • Don’t expect appreciation or praise from the other parent, but do acknowledge when they show understanding, sensitivity, compromise, or flexibility and support and expect the same in return.
  • Keep a positive but realistic attitude.
  • Keep your sense of humour and encourage it in the other parent.
  • Be reliable; do what you say you are going to do and expect the same from the other parent.
  • Be flexible and supportive of the other parent and expect the same in return.
  • Be patient; Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Expect to feel strange about this new relationship at first; give yourself time to adjust.
  • Though it may be difficult at first, don’t give up; the effort is worth it.

2.  In all interaction between parents, use good communication practices.

  • Be explicit with the other parent.
  • Direct communication between parents should be preferred at all times; do not communicate through third parties, especially the children.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say; make no assumptions.
  • Double-check your verbal understandings; to build trust, don’t take the other parent for granted.
  • Demonstrate you understand what the other parent is saying.
  • Try to ensure that verbal and non-verbal messages are the same and are not in conflict.
  • Know the things that trigger conflict between parents and avoid them.
  • Confront only with great care.
  • Keep the other parent a person in your mind, don’t make him or her into a monster.

3. Parents should work to maintain a healthy, positive parenting pattern.

  • Time with the children is time together, not babysitting.
  • Make your children’s needs more important than your territorial rights or your independence; always, children before rules or procedures.
  • Respect the other parent’s time with the children.
  • Respect the other parent’s parenting style.
  • Interfere with the other parent’s effort only if your children need your protection.
  • Share information about the children frequently with the other parent; parenting continuity is important as the children move between households.
  • Parents should compare notes on the other adults in your children’s lives including teachers, doctors, and other professionals.
  • Each parent should be supportive of the other parent’s relationship with the children.
  • Don’t use the children to carry messages to the other parent.

4.  Parents should work to develop and maintain a healthy, positive relationship with their children.

  • Let your children know you are thinking about them and expect them to keep in touch with you.
  • Make regular contact with the other adults in your children’s lives, including teachers and doctors and other professionals.
  • Talk to your children regularly; young children especially need to understand the changes in their lives in ways that are seeable, touchable, and concrete.
  • Give children a say in the decisions that affect their lives based on their age and understanding; ensure that they feel heard, even though adults make all the final decisions.
  • Don’t badmouth the other parent in the presence of the children.
  • Don’t participate in the children’s angry feelings about the other parent.
  • Encourage the children to speak about any difficulties they are having with the other parent, but don’t pursue it at length; suggest other adults with whom the child might wish to confide.
  • Don’t ask the children about the other parent’s life or circumstances; respect the other parent’s privacy and give his or her motives the benefit of any doubt.
  • Don’t tell the children to keep secrets about you from the other parent.
  • Be the grown up.
  • Keep changes to a minimum for the first few years especially in regards to young children.
  • Never threatened to abandon your children.
  • Know and respond to danger signals in your children and get help as required.
  • Provide your children with structure and predictability.
  • Don’t lead your children to believe that you may reconcile with the other parent.
  • Calm your children’s fears and help rebuild trust and security.
  • Frequently reassure the children of your love and that you will always be there to care for them and look after their needs.

(Adapted from Therapeutic Family Mediation: Howard H Irving and Michael Benjamin: Sage Publications: 2002)


The Costs of Divorce, Separation and Mediation

For nearly all separating couples the unavoidable cost of establishing two households instead of one is a formidable prospect. How this cost can be met, and how the children’s living arrangements can best be organised to meet their needs has to be given careful thought. But the cost of achieving a solution to this is hugely variable.  In the final analysis, it’s up to you.

If you can reach a sensible agreement around the kitchen table and are able fully to trust one another to put it into practice the cost could be nothing at all. But not many people can do this.

The Ministry of Justice tells us that going to court to sort out finances and other issues in divorce costs on average £4000, whereas resolving things through mediation costs on average £1000.  These are broad brush figures that beg all sorts of questions but may help to give a rough estimate. It seems likely that resolving matters by negotiating through solicitors or collaborative law will cost something in between.

I looked at the costs of family mediation in Bristol.  As quoted by five services listed on a Google search the average amounted to £150 per person per hour.
At Progressive Mediation our costs are £50 per person per session.

How do we do it?
Not by compromising our professional standards. Family mediation is carefully regulated by the Family Mediation Council. Like all reputable family mediators, we belong to organisations that subscribe to the council and uphold its code of professional practice.
Nor do we lack experience. Frances qualified as a family mediator in 1990 Charles in 2000. Progressive Mediation has been providing family mediation services for more than 15 years. Both of us have experience in related fields, Frances as a family solicitor and Charles in Cafcass, the court welfare service. We do believe, in this field, that there is no substitute for experience.

Nor do we offer less of a service. We offer free individual initial appointments. We don’t charge for letters summarising sessions. Nor do we charge, within reason, for telephone calls and emails between sessions.

In most cases, we co-mediate; two mediators in each session. Our mediation is, therefore gender-balanced; we offer a wide professional perspective on the issues and the best possible assurance of impartiality. Two heads surely are better than one.

So How Do We Do It?
Firstly we do not offer publicly funded mediation – legal aid. Publicly funded services are required by the government to submit to a whole raft of time-consuming and therefore costly procedures and requirements. It is unlikely if you are not eligible for legal aid that you will benefit much from these.

We work from our home. We have a comfortable fully equipped mediation room for roundtable discussions and can make other rooms available if required. You are not paying for high street or city centre offices. Nor are you paying any staff costs except for us, your mediators. Our turnover is low so we are not required to register or charge for VAT. And you can park for free outside our premises!

We work at your convenience. We understand that for most separating couples work, childcare and other commitments impose real constraints on availability. We, therefore, offer appointments during the working day in the evenings and at weekends. Usually, we can offer appointments within days. We are dedicated to providing the kind of service that larger organisations can rarely offer; not least because we really believe in what we are doing.

Of course, mediation is rarely easy.  You need to be well-prepared, willing to listen and willing to compromise.  You need, above all to set aside all the emotions that the break-up of a relationship may have unleashed, and bring to the table a business-like approach, an eye to the future and to the needs of any children involved.  If you can do that we believe that our mediation service offers the most sensible and affordable way of sorting out the issues arising from divorce or separation. That is apart, of course, from your kitchen table!