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Case Study – Mediation for Separated Parents on Children’s Arrangements

Mediation for Separated Parents to Agree Contact over Christmas for the Children

For many separated parents there can be difficulties to agree contact arrangements for children over the Christmas period. With both parents wanting to have the children on Christmas day, this can cause a lot of disagreement. Worse still if the children are dragged into these arguments and asked to pick sides, they can become very unsettled and unhappy too.

This case study highlights these issues for one separated family living in South Hams:

Background to the Case

Jane and David have two children aged 5 and 7, George and Molly. They separated in the summer of this year and for a time David was living close to the family home in Brixham in a rented flat. Whilst he was still living close by to the children, he was able to see them regularly and take them to school if he had had them the night before. The arrangements seemed to be working out well and the children had become adjusted to the separation and the regular contact with their Dad.

However, everything changed when David found a new job in Plymouth and due to its ‘on call’ nature he had to take the decision to move to Plymouth. From this point on he was unable to see the children during the week and could only have them every other weekend.

This was where the real breakdown in communication between David and Jane occurred. Jane was angry that he seemed to have abandoned the children and the regular contact arrangement that had been working well. David was very upset that he was getting less time with the children and it had been no easy decision for him to make the move to Plymouth.

Christmas was fast approaching and both Jane and David wanted to have the children over the Christmas week. David felt that it was his right to have them as he had been unable to see them much. He finally had a week off work for Christmas and wanted to spend it with the children. Jane was furious that David felt like he could just waltz in and take the children for the whole of Christmas and enjoy the most fun part of the year with them but had stopped helping her with the mundane and difficult part of parenting. What made things worse was that Jane had started to bad mouth David to the children and as they could see her distress they were now saying they didn’t want to see their Dad.

First Mediation Session

The first session with David and Jane was very tense and both were clearly very angry with the other. There were lots of accusations flying around and a few tears. Both felt that the other was not taking their position or view point into consideration, which is common in these situations.

We started by looking at the Christmas week, which was the imminent issue that needed resolving. We looked at how we could divide up the week between the two parents so that both had a chance to share some of the holiday with the kids. Both David and Jane became a little calmer and could see that really, they needed to make it fair for the sake of the children. The children would be much happier to spend some time with both parents over Christmas and see that both parents were happy with this arrangement.

By the end of the first session, David and Jane had agreed that Jane would have the kids Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, then they would go to David on the evening of Christmas Day and remain with him for the next 3 days. The atmosphere by the end of this session was conciliatory and much calmer.

The Second Mediation Session

The second session was very constructive, as both Jane and David were pleased with the resolution they had reached in the first session and both felt that a fair compromise had been reached. However, they needed to try to build more regular contact in for David after Christmas so that he would see the children more often than just every other weekend.

Talking this through with them both, Jane realised that David had taken the job in Plymouth to provide better maintenance for the children and had made the decision for unselfish reasons. Equally David realised that his sudden withdrawal of contact in the week had impacted on Jane and the children.

Looking carefully at David’s work rota, they managed to identify a night each week where David would be able to have the children after school, keep them over night and then return them to school the next morning. It was not a regular night each week but a plan could be made two months in advance. Jane accepted that this was a slightly irregular pattern but understood it was the best that David could do and that it was important for the children to see their Dad.

We also set up agreed communications between David and Jane on a weekly basis so that they could work out any further arrangements between themselves. If a situation was to arise that they couldn’t agree on then they could come back to mediation.

Can Mediation Help You?

Are you a separated parent who is struggling to communicate or resolve issues around contact arrangements for your children? We are experienced mediators for family issues and in particular for children’s arrangements. We cover the whole of the South Hams area, please feel free to call us on 0788 903 9393.


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