Category Archives: Divorce and Separation

New Year’s Resolutions for Separating Couples

Here we are again at the start of a new year, and tradition dictates that we should all be turning over a new leaf of some sort. It is a time of reflection, looking at the previous year and then planning how we can better ourselves over the coming year.

For divorced or separating couples, the best positive change you can make this year is to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner. This is not only beneficial to you and your own healing process but also very important for your children.

We understand that many break ups are not simple and very often are fuelled by anger and hurt. Often each person feels the other doesn’t listen to them or respect them or their point of view. Children can often be drawn into these fights; used as weapons against the other parent, by withholding contact or forcing them to choose sides. Many studies show that it is not the divorce itself but how it is handled by parents that causes the most distress in their children.

Continue reading New Year’s Resolutions for Separating Couples

Family Mediation Services now available in Totnes

It is with great pride and excitement that we announce that we now provide all of our mediation services in Totnes and the surrounding South Devon areas. By opening a new branch of Progressive Mediation in Totnes, we are able to extend the reach of our services to a new area of the South West, whilst still supporting our clients in Bristol.

We have vast experience with family and separation mediation and in particular with child inclusive mediation. We offer all of our mediation services, with a very competitive fee structure, as we believe our services should be accessible to all, as an alternative to court proceedings.

The mediation services we offer:

MIAM (Mediation, Information and Assessment Meeting) – These are the initial meetings, usually lasting an hour, where we will provide you with information regarding mediation and discuss the alternative ways to resolve the issues arising from your divorce or separation without going through court. Note, that if you are considering going to court, it is now a legal requirement to attend a MIAM first to show that you have tried to resolve or reach compromise over your differences. Read further information about our MIAM Service.

Family Mediation – If you are divorcing or separating and find that you are struggling to communicate with your former partner to arrive at decisions involving your children or other family members; mediation can help. Whilst you both might be angry, upset and determined that court is the only answer to get these issues resolved, mediation can give you a neutral space in which to both be heard. Reaching compromise through mediation, where both parties will feel happy with the outcome is far more likely than if you were to go to court. Read more about our family mediation services.

Child Inclusive Mediation – Here in the UK, it is the recommendation that children over the age of 10 should be talked to and consulted during mediation. We can see the children on their own or with their siblings, in a private meeting that is confidential. Ensuring the children’s voices are heard and their wishes and needs are taken into consideration during decision making is very important, but we also emphasise that no pressure is placed upon the children to arrive at decisions and it is really a place for them to express their feelings and feel heard. Read more about our child inclusive mediation services.

Mediation for Financial Issues – As part of any separation or divorce there will always be complex decisions to arrive at regarding the family finances and how assets are divided up. These can include incomes, pensions, land and property, vehicles and child maintenance. Here at Progressive Mediation, we can steer you through the process of arriving at an agreement on these matters, starting with the creation of an Open Financial Statement. Read more information on our mediation for finances.

Parenting Coordination Services – This is a relatively new service to the UK, but will no doubt grow in popularity. Are you in a high conflict relationship with an ex-partner? Do you find it hard to communicate and decide arrangements for the children without fighting? The arguments and stress that can arise over simple arrangements are not uncommon, they can be about anything from diet through to frequency of contact or which school the child is to attend. We will advise and make impartial suggestions to the parents to resolve issues and improve the levels of communication between them. This is very similar to the role of a family mediator, but is an ongoing and continuous support to ensure that things don’t break down over small issues as life continues. Read more about our parenting coordination services.

Can we help you?

If you live in Totnes or any surrounding area in South Devon and would like to find out more about our mediation services, please do give us a call on 0788 903 9393. We have years of experience with many different family situations and have helped many families move forward to a positive future after separation. You can read some of our case studies here or have a look at some of our testimonials.

Further Articles You May Find Helpful

Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

Understanding and Helping Under 11s through Divorce and Separation

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce and Separation

Loyalty Issues and Conflict in Children after Separation

Attachment Bonding in Parent and Child Relationships

Putting the Children First after Separation

New Parenting Coordination Services in Bristol and Totnes

We are proud to announce that we can now offer parenting coordination services to parents in Bristol, Totnes and surrounding areas. These services are relatively new in the UK, but have been very popular in the United States and Canada in the last few years. The idea of having a parent coordinator is to help parents in high conflict to communicate better and resolve issues where the children are concerned. The focus is on the welfare and best decisions being made in the interests of the children.

How does the service work?

After separation or divorce, the arrangements for the children can be something that causes a lot of conflict, especially if communication is difficult or has broken down. Parents can disagree on many things from what the kids are given to eat, through to which school they will attend or timings of contact. Our Parenting Coordinator will be as involved as is necessary. Every case is individual with different needs and varying degrees of conflict.

For Parenting Coordination to work, both parents need to be in agreement that the coordinator will be involved in the decision making and will be the mutual point of contact. Unless both parents are completely on board with this, it won’t work.

What can the Coordinator help with?

Our fully qualified parenting Coordinator is trained to deal with any situation that may arise by encouraging the resolution of the conflict and helping to brainstorm ideas to reach compromise. Here are some common things that she helps parents with:

  • Developing a parenting plan with the children’s interests at the forefront
  • Change over timings and meeting points
  • Regularity of contact and holidays
  • Medical decisions
  • Education choices
  • Identify and manage conflicts
  • To communicate more effectively
  • Understanding the impact of conflict on children and develop a more sensitive approach in this area
  • Negotiate appropriate post-divorce or separation boundaries
  • Identify mutually agreeable parenting goals
  • Brainstorm ideas and options to reduce conflict and achieve the parenting goals

Do I need a Parenting Coordinator?

Are you in high conflict with your ex-partner? Do you argue regularly about arrangements for your children? Are you constantly going back to court to get disagreements sorted?

Parents can make their own decision to appoint a parenting coordinator, but in some cases they may be appointed by the court. It might be that there are serious concerns over the mental health or behaviour of one of the parents or a history of substance abuse or family violence.

Can we Help You?

Here at Progressive Mediation, we are fully qualified as parenting coordinators as well as being extremely experienced in all aspects of family mediation. If you would like to speak to us about your situation and find out more about our parenting coordination services, call us today on 0117 924 3880.

Taking your new Partner on Holiday with your Kids

 

Families come in all shapes and sizes these days and holiday time can mean organising trips with a mixture of children from different relationships, new partners, step parents and many variations. There are many guides and articles online designed to help the parent who has been left behind; with guidance on what do to fill their time and cope without their children as well as not show their anger for the ex’s new partner going away with their children.

But this blog is about the parent that is taking the children away with a new partner in tow. Whilst the parent left behind could be envisaging their children having a glorious time with the new step mum or Dad and feeling jealous, there are just as many visualising their child having a dreadful time away with the evil new partner. The truth be known it is probably somewhere in the middle!

When is too soon to take your new partner on holiday with your children?

Once children are familiar with a new partner and a relationship has been established, you will be in a much better place to judge if you think the children would be happy and comfortable with the idea of a holiday together. It is going to depend a lot on the ages of the children and also on how their other parent reacts and behaves about the holiday plans.

A new partner who gets on well with your children is likely to be a fun addition to the experience and also an extra parental support from your point of view as a single parent.

However, if you are a newly separated parent, dashing off on holiday with the kids and bringing a new partner along for the ride could be a very different story. It is important to remember that if your kids are still adjusting after their parents’ separation, they will be feeling vulnerable and confused. If you are in a very new relationship, where the children are not used to seeing their Mum or Dad with someone new, going on a family holiday in the early stages would be a mistake. Holidays with kids can be stressful and everyone would be stuck in close proximity for the duration.

So to answer the question; ‘When is too soon?’ It will be different in every situation but to judge it you need to think from your children’s perspective. You may be madly in love with your new partner, but your children need to build their own relationship with them and that should not be forced upon them in a situation where they can’t get away. They may feel jealous of attention you give to the new partner and feel even more abandoned.

Tips for making the first holiday together a Great Trip

  • Travelling with your kids (especially the under 10s) can be stressful, so consider the destination and the travel time when you plan the holiday. A long haul flight and long transfers will start things off on a stress filled and tired note for all involved.
  • Make the first holiday, short and sweet so that if it does go a bit wrong, you aren’t stuck somewhere together for 3 weeks wishing you were home. A prolonged period of time stuck with anyone can be intense and from your new partners point of view being thrust into family life whilst off home territory could be enough to send them running for the hills.
  • If you can, make sure you have a kids club or babysitting service arranged so that you can get a little alone time with your new partner. After all you don’t want to kill the romance completely, you deserve some ‘you time’ too and your new partner will also be happy about this.
  • Be sure to involve everyone including the kids, in the process of planning for the holiday, if everyone has been involved they will be much more likely to be excited about it and keen to go rather than apprehensive.
  • Make sure that you have given the other parent plenty of notice about the holiday, and you have spoken to them to make sure they are ok with the fact that your new partner is going along. The last thing you want to have to encounter is an angry ex-partner who may feel that they have not been consulted about plans with their own children.

Tips for the new partner whilst on holiday with his or her kids

  • Don’t try to take over the discipline of the kids if they get unruly, equally don’t ignore the situation, you need to support the parent in their decisions on how to deal with it.
  • Respect the kids’ relationship with their parent and don’t try to come between them by demanding attention and alone time.
  • Don’t try to force everyone to do an activity on the holiday that really is all about you, the children will not take kindly to being forced to walk up a deserted hill to a monument just because you want to. Try to include everyone in the decisions so that everyone feels heard. But if you really want to see that monument and no one else does, go by yourself and give your partner time with the kids, this is just as important.
  • Don’t get upset if the children refer to their other parent by saying things like: ‘When we are on holiday with Dad, we usually do….’ It is only natural for children to want to talk about their other parent and memories that they have with them. It is not a deliberate dig at you, you need to remain positive about any mentions of the other parent.
  • Be natural and be yourself – don’t try to be a super hero replacement parent that is determined to give them a better holiday than their other parent would. Children aren’t daft and they will pick up on this kind of behaviour.

On behalf of all of us here at Progressive Mediation, we hope you have a happy and successful first holiday with your children and new partner! Just remember that nothing will always be 100% perfect and problems or arguments may arise, but it’s how you deal with these situations that will matter the most. Always put the children first – happy children = happy holiday!

Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

This is obviously a massive topic and a very complex one. It is very important to point out that children can react very differently to situations and no two families are the same either. It is also important to emphasise that children become stressed in any situation where they don’t feel secure, so it can happen just as often in families where the parents decide not to split up.

What I am trying to say is that whether you have decided to separate or stay together as a couple, children pick up on everything, even if there are not raging arguments, silence and a lack of demonstrative affection between parents will still affect your children.

Continue reading Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents

Children Back to or Starting School – Tips for Separated Parents

Going back to school in September can be a tough time for children, as it marks the end of the long care free summer holidays. There will be new teachers to get to know and possibly new class mates too.

It could be that your child is starting school for the first time, going into reception class or perhaps they are starting a new school, leaving old friends behind to adjust to a new school and new peers. All this is plenty to deal with, but if your child is dealing with the break-up of their parents over the summer on top of these stresses, it can be a very difficult time.

Here are some top tips for newly separated parents of school aged children who now face an emotional time coupled with new routines between two households or maybe just one with one parent.

Continue reading Children Back to or Starting School – Tips for Separated Parents

Shared Parenting after separation – The Highs and Lows

This month’s blog post is written by a Mum in Bristol who has followed the route of shared parenting for over two years now since separating from her husband.

Of course, all separated couples will have a different experience of shared parenting and the way they choose to do things but the following insights are true experience and will be useful to anyone considering shared parenting or any couples who are experiencing it for themselves.

Continue reading Shared Parenting after separation – The Highs and Lows

Long Distance Mediation via Skype for Separating Couples

Ideally, mediation sessions for separating couples work best if both parties can be present in the same room with their mediator. However, this is not always possible with people living far away from each other with heavy work commitments or perhaps child care issues. Some couples may even live in different countries after they separate. Also, if the split has been particularly traumatic, one party may not feel comfortable actually being in the room with their ex-partner.

Thankfully, with modern technology there are ways to overcome the difficulties of conducting mediation sessions where it isn’t possible for all involved to be in the same place at the same time.

Skype Mediation

Mediation via skype is a popular choice, as you can join the meeting using a laptop, tablet or even just your smart phone. You would still need to prepare fully before the meeting and ensure that there would be no distractions during the session. Here are some points worth bearing in mind:

  • Be aware that arranging a time for the mediation may be a challenge in itself, especially if both parties work. You may also be dealing with different time zones which will further complicate things.
  • Make absolutely sure that you have completely uninterrupted time for the session. Just because you can take the mediation session from your sofa doesn’t mean your children should be around to walk in, listen in or distract you. If the mediation is about arrangements for them it is especially unwise for them to be privy to any sessions.
  • The great thing about Skype is that you will be able to see everybody, this is preferable to just a conference call where meaning can be lost without seeing someone’s expressions. However, be mindful of the time delay that might occur. Everyone will need to be briefed to speak slowly and clearly.
  • There may be breaks in the connection which will mean some of what you say may need to be repeated. If one person’s internet connection is very slow there may be multiple interruptions, loss of sound or visual which may be frustrating. Your mediator will check all of these aspects in a pre-briefing and will trial a Skype call to check connectivity.

As mentioned above, it may not be a geographical obstacle that makes online skype mediation the preferable option. Someone may feel very threatened by their ex-partner and whether this is well founded or not, the fact that the two people are seeing each other via video screen takes much of the stress and emotion out of the situation. In the case study below this very situation is highlighted.

Bristol and Devon Mediation Case study

Geographically Bristol and Devon are not worlds apart, but they might as well be for a divorcing couple going through a very stressful and tempestuous marriage break up. Amy (as we will call her), was so distraught by her situation that she moved herself and her four children down to Devon to be near to her parents and also put some distance between them and her soon to be ex-husband.

Whilst this alleviated tensions in the home environment for the children, it became clear very soon that Amy and Richard (as we will call him) needed help to reach resolution on every aspect of their split. The most pressing was that Richard was wanting to see his children on a regular basis, but communication had broken down so much that no arrangement could be made. Amy realised that the children were becoming distressed by the situation. But she couldn’t bring herself to even be in the same space as Richard.

Skype mediation was the perfect solution for these parents. The fact that they were not in the same room took all the trauma from the situation for Amy who was highly emotional. With careful guidance from the mediator, the couple were able to discuss a set of agreements which related to the children’s arrangements as well as the financial disputes that they were having. It meant compromise on both sides but both of them felt that the outcome was fair.

Can we Help?

Here at Progressive Mediation, we are very experienced in all aspects of family mediation and have resolved many disputes between divorcing couples, including international mediation cases. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you then please call us on 0117 924 3880.

How Court Proceedings can Damage Children of Separating Parents

In many of our blogs we have looked at the emotional effect of parents’ separation on the children involved. Fighting and involving the children in the disputes will cause stress and anxiety, putting unnecessary  psychological burdens on to young shoulders.

Continue reading How Court Proceedings can Damage Children of Separating Parents

Putting The Children First After Separation

Deciding to divorce or separate when you have children can be a hard decision to make. Depending on your circumstances and the reasons for the break up can mean a very different experience for different separating couples. Some will dither over the decision for years, wracked with guilt about what impact the split may have on the children. Others may be in an impossible or dangerous situation where a quick clean break is the best option.

Continue reading Putting The Children First After Separation

Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce or Separation

In our last post, we talked about how to understand and help younger children through their parent’s separation. In this post, we will look at how to understand and help teenagers through a family break up. Teenagers are already at a difficult stage in their lives, with emotions up and down and the pressures of reaching young adulthood. Continue reading Understanding and Helping Teenagers through Divorce or Separation

Children Under 11 – Understanding their Confusion after Separation

Divorce or separation is a difficult time for everyone involved, including extended family and of course the children. Whatever the age of the children, they will feel a great sense of loss, confusion and uncertainty. Although to a certain extent this can’t be avoided once the decision to go your separate ways has been made; there are many ways that you can make this time of upheaval a much less painful and traumatic experience. We will look at ways to understand and recognise issues for the under 5’s and also children aged between 6 and 11. Continue reading Children Under 11 – Understanding their Confusion after Separation

The Challenges of Becoming a Step Mum or Dad – How to Bond with Step Children

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.

Continue reading The Challenges of Becoming a Step Mum or Dad – How to Bond with Step Children

Parental Alienation – What is it?

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?

Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

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.

Continue reading Tips on how to Prepare for Family Mediation regarding Children’s Arrangements

Changing Terminology for Children’s Issues after Separation

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

Loyalty Issues and Conflict for Children 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.

Continue reading Loyalty Issues and Conflict for Children after Separation

Christmas Presents and Separated Parents

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

What Makes a Good Mum and Dad

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

What you Need to Know About National Dispute Resolution Week

This week is National Dispute Resolution Week. The idea of the week is to try to raise awareness of non-confrontational methods of resolving family breakdown – mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.

Resolution, the Association of Family Lawyers who launched the week have conducted a survey which concludes that most people in the UK believe that putting a child’s interests first and avoiding conflict are the top factors to consider when going through a divorce. Four out of five (78%) say that putting children’s interests first would be their first or second most important consideration in a divorce, and 53% would prioritise making the divorce as conflict-free as possible. Continue reading What you Need to Know About National Dispute Resolution Week