Over four million children in Britain now live in separated families – that’s equal to a third of the children in the country. Some couples choose to have one resident parent, with the other parent having weekend and mid-week time with their children, but others prefer to divide up their children’s time differently and 50/50 shared parenting agreements are now becoming increasingly popular. Despite their attraction these arrangements can be complicated to plan and manage.
Mediation Can Help you Work out the Schedules for Seeing the Children
In mediation we see lots of couples trying to agree on shared parenting plans. They are often trying to juggle conflicting work schedules, children’s football games, parties, and school commitments. What mediation can do is find solutions tailor-made to an individual family. The intricacies of each family’s life are very specific and particular to them. The idea of these things between argued out in solicitors’ letters or in court should make any parent shudder – and not only because of the expense.
We have included a couple of sample of schedules which we came up with parents after mediation sessions.
Two Week Rotating Pattern Example
The first is based on a two week rotating pattern for a couple with two young children. Both parents wanted to be able to enjoy uninterrupted weekends with their children, but the Father was concerned about having too long a stretch without them when it wasn’t his weekend – which is why we scheduled in regular phone calls.
|Week A||Dad from 3.15||Mum||Mum(Dad phones)||Mum||Dad||Dad(Mum phones)||Dad|
|Week B||Dad from 3.15||Mum||Mum(Dad phones)||Mum||Mum(Dad phones)||Mum||Mum(Dad phones)|
Six Week Rotating Pattern Example
The second is based on a 6 week pattern for a couple who were sharing care of their 2 year old son. Each parent had a wanted to have a least one regular uninterrupted weekend with their son, but the Father didn’t want the weekends where he didn’t see his son to be too frequent because he felt he was so young, and it was important to keep contact very frequent. The Father also wanted to see his son more the week before he didn’t see him for the weekend, so he negotiated with his work a regular Thursday off every 6 weeks.
|Week A||Mum||Mum||Dad||Mum from 10am||Dad from 3.30pm||Dad||Dad|
|Week B||Mum from 10 am||Mum||Dad||Dad||Mum from 8am||Mum||Mum|
|Week C||Mum||Mum||Dad||Mum from 10 am||Dad from 3.30pm||Dad til 7 pm/ Mum||Mum|
|Week D||Mum||Mum||Dad||Mum from 10 am||Dad from 3.30pm||Dad til 7 pm/ Mum||Mum|
|Week E||Mum||Mum||Dad||Mum from 10 am||Dad from 3.30pm||Dad||Dad til 6pm/ Mum|
|Week F||Mum||Mum||Dad||Mum from 10 am||Dad from 3.30pm||Dad til 7pm/ Mum||Mum|
Arrangements like this can be complicated to work out – in mediation sessions we find the flip chart is invaluable in helping each side see what is realistic and what will work for everyone involved. Getting a schedule up on paper and can save hours of circular discussions. Once the plans are embedded in daily life they can become like second nature.
A YouGov poll of separated parents in 2012 found that 39% of them had not sought any professional help when they separated from their partners. While it is good news that many parents are working out these arrangements for themselves we often point out to clients that Mediation can be useful even when both parents are communicating well and are fairly amicable with each other. By giving a neutral discussion space, the mediator can provide a third pair of eyes on complex agreements, and can help couples tweak and adjust schedules which are already working. Hours worth of discussion and debate can often be resolved in one mediation session. Key dates like Christmas, birthdays and school holidays can also be discussed and planned for.
Whilst a flip chart can work well in a mediation session, there are now a number of online tools and apps for parents wishing to get help with co-parenting online.
50/50 Co-Parenting Plans
This website gives some sample schedules for couples wishing to come up with 50/50 parenting arrangements. https://singleparents.about.com/od/coparenting/tp/6…
It gives 12 samples schedules including: alternating weekends; alternating weekends with an evening mid week visit; alternating extended weekends; alternated extended weekends with an evening mid week visit etc etc which can then be tailored to a family’s specific needs.
Online Co-Parenting Tools
Three other online tools that I recommend you look at are:
Smart Phone Apps for Co-Parenting
There are also a couple of Smart Phone Apps which some parents may find helpful.
Of course these tools may fill you with horror and may not be the way you want to do things, but less important than the way you come up with or record any arrangement is that it is chosen and agreed by both of you. The key to any arrangement working in practice is both consistency and flexibility. Of course it’s important in exceptional circumstances – one of you is ill, your child is performing in a show – that changes can be made to the schedule, but equally a fairly rigid structure allows parents to plan their own lives and help to avoid possible sources of conflict between parents.
Shared Parenting Using One House!
Another form of shared parenting which we have recently dealt with – a couple who both had new partners but wanted to minimise disruption caused to their children’s’ lives by their decision to separate. They decide that the children should continue to live in the family home, and each parent would take weekly turns to live in the house with them. Clearly not everyone is in the situation, but it did seem to provide a very good solution for the children.
Shared Parenting in Different Continents!
And we also wanted to share with you the story of another mediator colleague who was working with a two parents, one from the UK, one from Australia. The Australian mother wanted to take her children back to Australia. The Father agreed, but wanted the children to return to the UK for their secondary education. Through mediation the couple sketched out a 10 year plan whereby the children would live in Australia for the next 3 to 4 years, and then return to the UK after that. Again not something that many people would want to enter into, but something that this family felt would work for them.
Further information on co-parenting can be found on:
If you have any questions or would like advice on any aspect of shared or co parenting and feel that mediation may be a way forward for you, then please call on 0117 924 3880 for a chat.