Category Archives: Family Mediation

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

Effects of Conflict Between Parents on Their Children

Conflict between separated parents can have catastrophic effects on children. That knowledge can sometimes encourage parents in conflict on to make changes to the way they relate to each other.

Anyone can make changes in the way they relate to each other, although it is not easy.

Why does conflict between parents have such a damaging impact on children?

Continue reading Effects of Conflict Between Parents on Their Children

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

Direct Consultation for Children over the age of 10

When parents decide to separate it can be a very difficult time for everyone involved. The age of the child needs to be considered when determining how involved they should be the decisions concerning the arrangements for them.

Babies and toddlers will obviously have little understanding of what is happening and wouldn’t be able to vocalise or even make choices about their situation.

As children get older their awareness becomes more mature and due to the now very complicated arrangements that can be made for children after separation, it is more important for their views to be heard.

Continue reading Direct Consultation for Children over the age of 10

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

Family Mediation Week 2017 – 23-27 January

This year Family Mediation Week is the 23rd to the 27th January (2017). The aim is to raise awareness of how mediation can help separating families resolve their issues in a collaborative way. January is often a time for reflection and new beginnings and this can mean couples realising their differences cannot be overcome and so decide to separate. Sometimes families have already decided to split but want to wait until after Christmas so as not to disrupt the family festivities where children are involved.

Continue reading Family Mediation Week 2017 – 23-27 January

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

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

Family Mediation Week 2016

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

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

Consulting Children of Separating Parents in Mediation

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

How to Share Child Care Over the Summer Holidays

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

International Child Abduction – Is Mediation Possible?

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?

Unmarried Couples and the Law when Separating

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

Pensions

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’.

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.

Child Maintenance

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.

Spousal Mainteneance

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.