One of the things that can be easily overlooked when parents split up, is that the relationship the children have with their grandparents can be disrupted. It may be that one parent no longer wishes the children to have contact with their ex-spouses parents, or perhaps they move a long way away – this can be a very sad and painful situation if all ties are cut for both the children and the grandparents. Continue reading Grandparents Rights to see their Grandchildren after Parents Separate
The summer holidays are upon us and for most parents this means a lot of juggling of childcare if both parents work. Holiday clubs and activity days are expensive and not really a viable option to cover the whole six week holiday. So, for separated or single parents who have work commitments, the holidays can be really tough. Last year we wrote a blog illustrating a couple of examples of how some separated parents worked out the childcare cover between them, you can read it here. Continue reading 10 Free Things to do in Bristol this Summer
After divorce or separation, one of the most challenging things for the children to deal with is when a new partner comes onto the scene. Not only is their world turned upside down by the separation, but any hopes they had of their parents getting back together will be dashed. We posted a while ago about introducing new partners with some suggestions of how it can be done, but here we look at how someone can integrate into family life and become a new step parent.
I thought it might be helpful to write about parental alienation, because in some form or another it comes up fairly regularly in mediation.
At its worst parental alienation is the deliberate manipulation of a child by one parent into fear, dislike and hostility of the other parent. It can result in a child refusing to see the other parent.
It often occurs when parents are in dispute about arrangements for their children, and tends to be alleged by the non-resident parent against the resident parent. Continue reading Parental Alienation – What is it?
Family mediation sessions for separating parents are a good way to discuss and resolve arrangements for the children. This could be working out a rota or timetable of when each parent will spend time with the children, how school holidays can be managed between the parents, as well as any financial disputes for maintenance payments. It is important to remember that children will be affected negatively if parents argue and cannot agree on these arrangements. Working with an experienced mediator in a safe and managed way that will avoid the conflict that can often arise between separating couples.
Custody and Access
In mediation we sometimes hear parents talking about winning ‘custody’ of their children or gaining ‘access’ to them. Nowadays UK lawyers, judges and mediators no longer use these terms, in fact their use is actively discouraged. This is because of a change of emphasis in the law itself.
The 1989 Children Act promoted the use of concepts of ‘parental responsibility’ ‘residence’ and ‘contact.’ The aim was to shift parents from looking at their ‘rights’ to their children to their responsibilities towards them. And by ceasing to think in terms of ‘custody’ and ‘access’ it was hoped to break down the division between each parents’ role – ie the idea that one parent has primary responsibility for the children, and the other merely has ‘access’ to them. Continue reading Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation
Whatever their age, children find the break up or separation of their parents to be a difficult time emotionally. Many aspects of their lives will have changed, whether it’s where they live, seeing one parent much less or emotional difficulties brought about by upheaval. The speed at which they adapt and recover will very much depend on how the situation is dealt with.
Children can be remarkably resilient and adapt very well to new situations, but as parents who have decided to split up, you need to make this transition as easy for the children as possible. Subtle emotional issues like loyalty confusion might not be easy to predict or to spot particularly if you, as a parent, are very focused on your own feelings of loss from the separation.
January is often described as Divorce Month, and the Monday of the first full working week back after the holidays is often referred to as Divorce Day. One national family law firm says referrals in January are usually more than 27% up on an average month. It seems some people make appointments in December, planning to spend one last Christmas together, while others may have had a bad time over the holidays and realised that their relationship is at an end. Continue reading Family Mediation Week 2016
Christmas is a time of year that is usually very family orientated. Family members get together from across the country to spend some quality time together, share in some good cheer and exchange gifts. For families where the parents are separated it can be a difficult time, especially if the relationship is strained and there are difficulties arranging time for both parents to spend time with their children. We wrote a blog about this last year which shares the experience of a first Christmas after separation, it details some ideas of how the time can be divided up. You can read this blog here.
In this blog we wanted to explore more about the issue of gift giving, as this can be complicated for divorced or separated families particularly if the communication has broken down. Continue reading Christmas Presents and Separated Parents
A recent survey from family lawyers group Resolution found that children would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy rather than stay together for their sake. 82 % said they would prefer their parents to separate rather than stay together if they do not get on.
This confirms the overriding conclusion from much recent research into how children handle parental separation and conflict. Children can adapt very well to parental separation and changes in living arrangements. What causes them significant long-term problems is prolonged exposure to parental conflict. Continue reading What Makes a Good Mum and Dad
Many of our discussions in Family Mediation are about arrangements for children. At Progressive Mediation we feel that as children grow older their views need to be increasingly taken into account in these discussions. Sometimes parents ask their children directly what they want to happen. Continue reading Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation
Shared Child Care over the summer holidays
The school summer holidays can strike fear into the heart of any working parent. 6 long weeks with no school or childcare can be a juggling act between parents at the best of times, but for separated parents it can be even harder. The added expense of holiday clubs and other activities can really put a strain on the finances too. So how do separated parents cope with the situation? Here are some examples of how some parents have made arrangements this summer… Continue reading How to Share Child Care Over the Summer Holidays
Around 500 British children were abducted and taken abroad by one of their parents in 2014. That’s double the number taken ten years ago.
Ease of travel and a growth in cross border relationships have meant that more break-ups result in difficult decisions for separating parents. Continue reading International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?
Blog updated on the 22nd Nov 2017 – all information is current.
Cohabiting Couples who are separating – What protection do they have under the law?
More than 6 million people in Britain currently live in cohabiting relationships, and this is the fastest growing family type in UK.
There is now growing public pressure to increase protection for unmarried couples who are separating. Next week is Cohabitation Awareness Week (November 27th – 1st December 2017), so we thought this might be a good time to highlight this issue.
At the moment, despite the widespread belief that living together for a period of time, gives some rights, there are actually very few legal rights for unmarried couples, and there is definitely no legal concept of a ‘common law husband’ or ‘common law wife’ in UK law. In fact, it’s possible for a couple to live together for decades, to have children together, and on separation to walk away from the relationship without taking any responsibility for a former partner.
This can have a huge impact, particularly if one of the couple, usually the woman, has taken time out of work to look after children.
So what does this lack of protection this mean for unmarried couples who are separating?
Of course, unmarried couples can separate informally without the intervention of a court of law. However, if agreement cannot be reached between separating partners the court does have power to make orders relating to the care of the children, or a financial settlement.
Dividing Assets – Jointly Owned Property
For unmarried couples when it comes to dividing up capital assets, such as a jointly owned home, in general this will be governed by property law, rather than family law. This means that if a claim doesn’t succeed the losing party may have to pay the other party’s costs. Claims can be made under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (known as ToLATA for short). A court can decide what proportion of the property each partner owns, and whether the property should be sold to release one partner’s share in it.
If the unmarried couple owns a property it is crucially significant whether they own it as Joint Tenants or as Tenants in Common. If the couple owns the property as Joint Tenants they are taken as owning the property equally irrespective of their contributions (i.e. towards deposit or mortgage). On death the property will go to the other party. If the property is owned as Tenants in Common, it is likely that there will be a declaration of trust defining the percentages in which they hold the property – usually based on their contributions to the purchase price. On death people can choose who to leave their part of the property to.
For properties bought after April 1998 the transfer document (TR1) should set out the parties’ interest – i.e. as Joint Tenants, as Tenants in Common in equal shares, or Tenants in Common in unequal shares, and those shares are usually specified. However, in many cases the TR1 will not have been completed. If the property was bought prior to April 1998 you can tell by looking at office copy title entries (available from the Land Registry) how the couple hold their shares. If there is no evidence otherwise the assumption is that they are Joint Tenants in law and that the property should be divided equally between them.
Dividing Assets – Property owned by one partner
If property is owned by one partner, then the other partner has no automatic entitlement to any share of the property, but it may be possible for them to make a case that the they have an interest in it. Ideally this would be in the form of a written agreement. Or if they can prove that they made a financial contribution to the purchase or upkeep of the property, or that there was an understanding between partners that both would have a share in the property if it was sold. A court could therefore decide the unnamed partner had a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property. In rare cases this might mean that they then have the right to live in the home, preventing the named owner from living there, or it might mean them getting a share of the proceeds if the property is sold. Inevitably these cases are very hard to prove, and can be very expensive and time consuming.
Property – Children Involved
The other circumstance when it could be possible for a partner whose name is not on the property deeds to claim an interest in a property is when there are children living in the property. Under Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act 1989 if there are children living in a family home, even if the primary carer’s name isn’t on the property deeds it is possible that court would order a lump sum payment, or the transfer of the property to the primary carer if it was felt to be in the children’s best interests, but it would usually link this to a return of the named partner’s capital when the children grow up.
Property – Rented
If cohabitees have been renting a property together, the tenant with their name on the tenancy agreement will have the most right to stay in the property, although it is possible to convert existing sole tenancies to joint tenancies if the sole tenant and the landlord agree. With a joint tenancy it only takes one person to bring the tenancy to an end, and once it is done the court cannot do anything to get the tenancy back, but a court can make an order stopping either partner from giving up a tenancy. Unmarried partners can also get short-term rights to stay if they apply to court. For council or housing association tenants a court can transfer a tenancy from one partner to another, whether it is a sole or joint tenancy. The court would have to weigh up financial and housing needs and the needs of any children before deciding whether to transfer a tenancy
There is usually no entitlement to each other’s pensions for unmarried couples (unless they are already being paid).
Arrangements for Children
When it comes to making arrangements for children, it is important that both parents have ‘Parental Responsibility’.
Both parents are assumed to have on-going financial responsibility for their children whether or not they are living with them. Since December 2003 unmarried fathers who are on their children’s birth certificate automatically have Parental Responsibility for them. This gives them the right to have a say in important decisions about the child’s life – i.e. schooling, religion and education. If the father is not named on the birth certificate and the couple is not married the father can apply for Parental Responsibility on separation. Similarly if the father is named on the birth certificate and the child was born before December 2003 the father would need to apply for Parental Responsibility.
This is the one area of law where the rights of unmarried parents are no different from married parents. Unmarried parents have the right to cliam child maintenance and unmarried parents are still liable for claims of Child Maintenance whether or not they have Parental Responsibility.
No spousal maintenance is payable between cohabiting couples. However, a court can consider the position of a parent (usually the mother) who is the primary carer of the child and “should have control of a budget that reflects her position and the position of the father, both social and financial.”
How Mediation can Help
In mediation we are often aiming to come up with a Memorandum of Understanding and an Open Financial Statement. For unmarried couples these can then be incorporated into a legally binding Separation Agreement which constitutes a full and final settlement between them.
As you can see the law is particularly complicated for unmarried couples and it can be easy to become involved in costly litigation.
However, in mediation couples can make realistic, practical and fair settlements that do have regard to the law but that can focus on the practical reality of their life and their children’s lives in the future rather than the minutiae of the law.
If you would like further advice on separation when not married; please give us a call on 0117 924 3880.
Today’s blog is written by a Mum who separated from her husband last year. Both her and her ex have both met new partners and so as time moves on she wonders if, when and how she might introduce her new partner to her 3 children.
“John and I split up last summer, we have been amicable about the whole thing and thankfully still communicate regularly about the children. We are now both seeing new partners and although neither of us feel ready to introduce new ‘friends’ to the children, it has opened up the conversation between us about whether it is a good idea to do it, also when and how do you do it?
Everyone’s divorce or separation is different, but I think it’s sometimes helpful to read about what other people have gone through, particularly when you are feeling that there is no good way out of your situation. These are two recent cases we have worked on which I thought would be worth sharing. When they first came in both couples were very stuck and couldn’t see a way forward. Through Mediation both couples reached settlements which, if they were not exactly happy about, they could live with. Even more importantly communication improved dramatically and they could begin to build their new relationship as separated parents.
- Respect and support each other as parents even if you are furious with each other as exes.
- Don’t fight in front of your children and particularly don’t fight about their arrangements in front of them.
- Be happy that your child has another parent, and if you can try to foster their love for the other parent and encourage them to have a healthy relationship.
- Listen to your children and (depending on their ages) allow them a say in the arrangements for their lives. Be prepared for those arrangements to change as they grow and develop.
- Write a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan is a written document which spells out how you and the other parent intend on sharing childcare duties and responsibilities going forward. The plan can include everything from where children spend the nights on weekends to who they spend Christmas day with.
- Make a will. You may have written one already, or it may never have crossed your mind, but your new situation requires a new will, or at the very least an update to your existing one.
- Take your time before introducing your children to a new partner, and don’t expect them to click immediately.
- Allow your children the right to express their anger at the new situation without fear that you will become upset or defensive.
- Don’t beat yourself up! Children are adaptable and have been shown to cope well with separation. What causes them long lasting difficulties is on-going conflict between their parents, so if you can overcome that you will have done as much as you can.
- Talk! To each other, to your children, to others who look after them. Keep people in the picture about your new circumstances otherwise they won’t be able to support you. If you can’t talk about things without arguing – you may need to get some help. We would be happy to talk to you and discuss with you whether mediation might be able to help you and your children. Call Frances or Charles on 01179243880 0r 07889039393
With the big day fast approaching, you can see many families getting excited about Christmas, decorating the house, Christmas shopping, visiting Santa’s grotto and much more. Christmas is often described as the time of year where families get together.
However we cannot forget that Christmas can be more difficult for some families due to separation and divorce. This topic has been covered greatly in the news recently and we have found some really useful and interesting articles that we wanted to share with you which all focus on ensuring that children always have a fantastic Christmas no matter if the family is split or not.
Bristol Married Couples Staying Together ‘for the kids’
Christmas is such a happy time of year, a time for families to get together and the whole season is beloved by children. This clearly explains why so many parents wouldn’t want to ruin a Christmas for their children by getting divorced.
A recent study showed that almost 1 in 5 married couples in Bristol will stay together over the Christmas period, and that 37% said that they would hold off asking their other half for a divorce due to worries of how it will affect their children.
But could staying together have even more of a negative effect on children?
Find out more here about the fascinating results of this research and why staying together could have a worse effect.
Divorced Parents Warned About Settling on Christmas Visits
A “parental involvement provision” in section 11 of the Children and Families Act 2014 took effect on 22 October and applies to cases started on or after that date. It does not apply to cases already going through the courts prior to 22 October.
The Ministry of Justice has made it clear that the parental involvement provision is not about giving parents new ‘rights’ or providing for the equal division of children’s time spent with each parent. The change is intended to encourage parents to be more focused on children’s needs following separation and the role each parent has in the child’s life.
The new law means that the family courts will now presume that each parent’s involvement in the child’s life will further their welfare, as long as it is safe to presume this. There will still be some cases where involvement from both parents is not appropriate, and this new provision does nothing to prevent a court determining that. The needs of the child will still remain the paramount priority of the courts.
No child should have a parent excluded from their life without good reason. It is hoped that the new law will result in a culture shift and encourage all parents who are separating to focus on the needs of their child rather than what they want for themselves.
In reality the provision is unlikely to lead to any significant change to the current orders a court can make with regards to the arrangements for children after their parents separate. The definition of involvement is ‘some kind, either direct or indirect, but not any particular division of a child’s time’. However, the court now right from the outset of proceedings will be mindful that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives if possible.
Christmas can be a hard time for separated parents but as ever children do have to come first, these two articles from The Stourbridge News and Bromsgrove Advertiser revealed how a solicitor has been warning parents about failing to agree on Christmas plans could lead to legal action given the new parental involvement provision.
Successful Co-Parenting at Christmas
Whether you have just become separated or have been for some time, co-parenting can be a difficult process especially at special times of year like Christmas.
This interesting article discusses 6 points which parents should consider to ensure that you can manage co-parenting in the best possible way for your children.
The Split Family’s Guide to Celebrating Christmas
As ever in the run up to Christmas many people highlight just how important it is just to ensure that children can still have an enjoyable festive season even with separated parents.
You can find many news articles and guides with tips on how to ensure that your separation doesn’t dampen the Christmas spirit. We have found another great guide for parents, if you have only just separated or have been for a long time this can be tricky situation but children always come first for parents.
If you are in this situation or know someone who is then check out this guide.
How Can Mediation Help?
Discussing how to deal with big family celebrations like Christmas can be very painful and difficult for separated couples with children. Some couples are so upset and angry with each other that discussions always escalate into arguments and no compromise or resolution is reached. Mediation can be the perfect solution to resolve issues and problems between such couples. A mediator will offer neutral territory, an unbiased opinion and can often suggest solutions that parents may not have thought of as an option. If you experiencing difficulties with an ex-spouse or partner and want to find out more about our mediation services – please call us on 0117 924 3880.
Christmas Experience for a newly Separated Couple with Children.
Today’s blog is a real life experience from a newly separated Mum with 3 young children. She shares her plans for how she and her ex intend to share the care fairly over the Christmas period. For the sake of anonymity the names have been changed.
“My husband and I separated in the summer, so this Christmas is our first where we will not be spending the festive period all together as a family. We now live separately and the children spend an equal time with each of us. The rota for the shared parenting is well established now although is flexible if work commitments dictate.
I was nervous about Christmas Day! Who was going to have the kids? Would I only see them every other year on Christmas day?
Fortunately my ex-husband and I are able to communicate in a fairly amicable way. We agreed that it would be good for the children to have Christmas day in his house as it is new to him and them and it would make it more like home for them there. I agreed to let him have them over night on Christmas Eve so they wake up to their stockings at his house. But, as the children want to see me too, I am going over for lunch and to do presents as a family.
So in order that both sets of grandparents get to see the children as well, we have agreed the following arrangements:
Christmas Eve: I have kids for my family do, then take them to John’s in the evening.
Christmas Day: John has kids, I go for lunch and stay a while.
Boxing Day: John takes kids to his family do and then drops them back in the evening to me.
Another reason I am so glad that I can communicate with my ex! We are doing presents from both of us just as we always have. One thing we did not want to do was get into a competition over presents as we have seen this happen with other separated parents. Each of them trying to buy the biggest and best present in an attempt to win the kids over.
We have a shared online calendar and spreadsheet so we can add in all the arrangements and money we have each spent on gifts etc.
I am a little sad that I won’t see the kids first thing in the morning when they open their stockings but they won’t open their main presents from us until I get there. Next year we will reverse the arrangement. I feel very glad that John and I are able to put our difficulties aside and focus on the children and what they need.”
How can mediation help?
Sadly not all separated couples are able to remain amicable and find it very difficult to communicate to make arrangements in general about the children, let alone agree on plans for Christmas time. Mediation between parents means that arguments over who has the kids at Christmas can be resolved in a calm way on neutral territory with an experienced listening ear. There may be ways to work things out that neither parent had thought of.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help separated parents with Mediation, call Frances on 0117 924 3880.
Sometimes the voice of children whose parents are divorcing or separating gets lost in all the other noise and discussion surrounding the process. We thought it would be useful to hear things children have said about their parents’ separation.
Most parents worry terribly about the impact of their split on their children, but plenty of research shows that children can adapt well to separation, what they cannot cope with is ongoing conflict between their parents. Have a read of some of these quotes:
‘I wouldn’t want Mum and Dad to get back together, it was awful when they were always arguing. The only bad thing now is when they argue, so I’d like it if they could get on a bit better.’
“They separated because my dad said he’s just stopped loving my mum ‘cos they been together now much longer than he’d really wanted to. He said he stayed, just because of the children. You know, us two. He said he didn’t really want to leave when we were too young, he explained to me that he was thinking of leaving quite a long time ago.”
Ellie (10) talking about how she feels when her parents argue when they meet.
“I feel horrible actually. It’s just I can’t stop them cos one’s my Dad and one’s my Mum. It seems like it’s all my fault when they are arguing. It just makes me feel horrible. I just feel that they’re arguing cos of me, cos I was born and cos I have to be picked up at a certain time, and it’s just horrible.”
‘Sometimes you come back home and feel fed up, like annoyed that you have to do this, like have separate mums and separate dads, and you don’t want to do it anymore, but you can cope it really, you get used to it.’
‘Children should get a say in things, they shouldn’t be left out. I mean, it’s their life as well, they shouldn’t be stuck with someone they didn’t want to be with.’
‘I think there should be some kind of agreement between the children and the parents as to what should happen. I think the people who are involved should get to decide, not by themselves, but by helping each other to reach some kind of agreement as to what would be best.’
“All I really know about Mum and Dad’s divorce is the money side. My Dad didn’t tell me about the divorces papers, ‘cos I now there was a lot of things that Mum put on there which was quite cruel and untrue. Dad just told me a couple of things that were on there, but he said it was private. And I think he was trying to protect us, protect me in some ways.”
“I think the kids should know what is going on, because I think ti’s very unfair to keep them in the dark. Because it’s their parents. And maybe, if, when the parents are going to solicitors, maybe the solicitor of someone explaining to them (children), instead of their parents, ‘cos their parents might not understand ti. So if they (children) have somebody explain what’s going on, then they may find it better. But that was just my case. Other people might not want to know what’s going on.”
“I think it’s important to know the legal side of things. ‘Cos then you know completely what’s going on , and it helps you. You know where you are, what’s going on. And then, I don’t think you should know every bit of it, like, ‘cos some things are private to my mother. I think it should be explained to you by your parents. But I think it should only be explained to you by your parents. ‘Cos then you are comfortable with who’s speaking to you.”
‘The children should get a say, and the parents should be able to sort things out for everyone – they should be able to act like adults about it really.’
‘When you parents don’t live together it’s a lot easier to say, “Oh God, I hate my mum of dad, I’m going to move out and live with the other parent,” and you play them off against each other, instead of working it out.’
‘You get on with your life and then when something comes up, you just sort of try and cross that bridge when you come to it.’
‘I call my Mum’s boyfriend Uncle Sylvester. I know he’s not my real Uncle or anything, but we like it.’
‘You have more people to talk to and be with. There are more people to care about you.’
“I’m happy that they got divorced cos if they hadn’t then they’d be arguing all my life and then I’d be all upset. And it’s more happier without shouting all the time. cos if they haven’t got divorced and I’m sure that they’d still be shouting now. My Dad’s happy and on the phone now, my Mum and Dad get on. They’re friends now. It’s more fun and everything’s happy – everywhere.”
At progressive Mediation we are very experienced in helping parents to communicate with their children after separation or divorce. Call us if you would like to find out more about mediation with children on 0117 924 3880.