Category Archives: Family Mediation

Divorced Parents – New Year Resolutions and Tips for Better Parenting

Here we are again in January, the start of the new year and a new decade. January is a time for resolutions, bettering oneself and kicking bad habits. It is not surprising therefore that January is also a time when couples and parents decide to separate or divorce as part of making hopeful positive changes to their lives. Often for the sake of the children they will wait until Christmas is over and everyone is back to work and school, before they tackle this issue.

Positive Changes

So, if you are a newly separating couple this January or perhaps you have been separated for a while, it is a good time to think about how you want to successfully parent your children even though you are no longer with each other. Putting the children first and making sure you don’t drag them into your adult conflicts is just one aspect of the positive changes you could consider for the new year.

Making positive changes to resolve conflict with your ex-spouse or partner 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.

Improve Communication

Obviously, it takes two to make this work effectively, but a shift in the tone of your own communication could start to make the process better and healthier. When there are children involved in a separation it is so important for the communication to be regular and civil. There will be arrangements to make for contact, swapping over care, schools, holidays and a whole host of other things.

The stress that is caused to the children and yourself by constantly raging at each other is very damaging. Sometimes you will need to accept that your ex is not someone you like, but for the sake of a more peaceful path you can choose to not react angrily to situations that arise.  As we often see through mediation sessions, when communication is re-established, there is a much better understanding of each parent’s point of view and the anger is reduced.

Making Arrangements and Sticking to Them

Contact arrangements can become complex in today’s busy world. School holidays, work commitments, new partners and many other factors mean that planning arrangements in advance where possible makes absolute sense. It will also benefit the children if they know in advance what will be happening and which parent they will be with during holidays.

Of course, sometimes unforeseen events mean that plans must change, but it is how both parents deal with this that will make the difference to the children. There must be a certain amount of flexibility and compromise on the both sides with empathy when plans have to change. You may find it helpful to read: Arrangements for children after separation – the importance of compromise.

There are always times when parents find it impossible to reach agreement between themselves, in these cases our parenting coordination services will alleviate these difficulties. In some cases parents are so angry with each other they don’t speak at all and would rather communicate through a parent coordinator so they don’t have to see each other.

Having a Regular Pattern of Contact for the Children 

Having a regular (or as regular as you can manage) pattern of care for the children will work best for everyone. There needs to be a clearly defined time when they will be with each parent. If you are still very newly separated it can be difficult to set these boundaries, we have heard of couples spending weekends together with the kids, or one parent coming over to the others house to spend time. This can work but is not sustainable and will cause confusion in the children. They will find it hard to understand why their parents have separated if they spend all their weekends together. So, if this is the case for you, make your new year resolution to set clearer boundaries.

Some parents decide to share care of the children on a 50/50 basis, which can work very well for everyone. We have some shared parenting schedules and ideas which may help if you are looking for this kind of arrangement. We have also written a some tips for parenting children who have two homes.

Put your Children First

This may sound obvious, but it is so often the case that in the midst of a painful separation, parents can lose sight of this and forget the needs and feelings of their children. Putting the Children First after Separation doesn’t mean allowing your children to become spoiled or dictate to you as parents what they want. It is more about considering their feelings before you do something and realising the damage that can be caused by not understanding the emotional roller coaster they go through when their parents split up.

For example, imagine your temptation to bad mouth your ex when he is late again to pick the kids up. Your own anger at his/her incompetence and lack of care could easily come out when the children ask where he/she is. But just pause a moment and understand the child’s perspective – they love both parents, they want to see both parents, they will become very confused and stressed if the two people they love the most on the world are criticising each other. Emotional issues and loyalty conflict in children can damage them deeply – Read our blog here: Loyalty Issues and Conflict in Children after Separation and here: Insecurities in Children with Separated Parents.

Introducing New Partners

Has your ex recently met someone new? Perhaps you have? Or maybe part of the breakdown in your relationship was because there were other people involved. Whatever the circumstances, the way you break the news and introduce new ‘friends’ to your children is very important. There may be issues or factors that you have not considered in this situation. Have a read of our blog which looks at how and when to introduce new partners to your children.

Forgive Your Ex…and Yourself

However painful your separation is and regardless of placing blame at the door of the other, no amount of continued blame or anger will help you going forward. Forgiveness will set you free and enable you to move on with your life. You can only be responsible for your own actions, you cannot control what others do, so with this in mind you will find all of the resolutions above much easier to achieve.

It may be hard to think about doing this and something that will help you is to try to just focus on any positives about your ex. Even just small things like; ‘he always picks up the kids on time’ or ‘she allowed the children to stay with me an extra day as it was my birthday’.

Forgiving yourself can be a tough one, any break up will bring guilt, whether you consider the blame to be with yourself or your ex. Give yourself a break and move on with a positive attitude, your children will fare much better emotionally with a parent who is kind to themselves.

Mediation Can Help

If you are experiencing conflict with an ex-partner and are having difficulty communicating or resolving issues, mediation can be very helpful. Here at Progressive Mediation, we have years of experience with family mediation cases ranging a wide spectrum of circumstances. Please call us on 0788 903 9393 for an informal chat and some advice on your own situation.

 

How To Handle Christmas For Separated Parents – Putting The Children First

 

Christmas is here again and for many people it is a time to get together with family and reach out to extended family to enjoy the festivities together. However, for some people who have recently separated from a partner or spouse, new arrangements will need to be made. If the separation is civil and you both still communicate, a compromise can usually be reached and in some cases the parents can come together on Christmas day for the sake of the children.

Christmas Day

For children, especially younger children, waking up early on a Christmas morning full of excitement to see what presents have been left for them is a massive part of Christmas. It is also the most enjoyable part of the day for the parents to see their happy, excited faces. After separation it is not going to be an experience that both parents can share in the same house, unless they are on very good terms. Here are some options for reaching a compromise that is fair to everyone:

  1. If parents are on very good terms – Christmas day can be shared with both parents being present. Alternate the houses so that each parent gets to host the Christmas day every other year. If there are new partners involved and everyone is happy to muck in together for the day for the sake of all the children, then that has to be the best option.
  2. If parents are on reasonable terms – Christmas day can be alternated between the houses, with the other parent coming over for part of the day or maybe just an hour or so.
  3. If parents are on bad terms so that they can’t be in the same room as one another. This is very sad for the children but to save a frosty and hostile Christmas day, parents will have to alternate Christmas and not spend the day together.

In all these scenarios, forward planning is essential. Parents and children need to know in plenty of time what the arrangements will be and who’s turn it is to have the kids. Agree between you which house Father Christmas will be stopping at and if you can, both contribute to the gift that will go in the stockings.

Don’t Make The Children Choose

The most important thing to be mindful of is that you will make your kids unhappy and stressed if they feel they must make a choice between their parents. If the arrangement is set to make it fair for alternating Christmas’s, then the children will accept that and be glad to spend time with each parent. If you want to involve the children in the decisions, then you must be prepared for what they might say and accommodate their choice.

Equally don’t ever be negative about the time the children will spend with their other parent, that will make them feel bad. Don’t make them feel guilty that they won’t be with you on the special day and that you will be sad and lonely without them. They will struggle to know what to do and will feel sad leaving you and feel guilty having a good time with the other parent. This is manipulation and using your child’s feeling to get your own way or to try to ruin the time they have with your ex.

Seeing the Grandparents

Seeing Granny and Grandpa over the Christmas period is also a very important part of Christmas for the children. Do not deny your children access or contact with your ex-partner’s parents over Christmas holidays. Whatever situation has arisen or whatever bad terms you may have left them on, it is so important for a child’s development to have regular contact with grandparents.

If grandparents live close by then arranging a day for the children to spend with each is not too difficult. However, if your ex-partner’s parents live miles away, you may have to reach a compromise for a day to be arranged to spend with them.

Everyone will have to be flexible with arrangements and accept that after separation, it simply won’t be possible for everyone to spend Christmas day together as perhaps they once did. If everyone has the children’s best interest at heart, then everyone can be flexible but fair when it comes to making the plans.

Christmas Presents

Although Christmas presents would seem to be the most important thing to any child, really, they just want to feel loved and have fun family time. However, communicating with your ex-partner or spouse about what gifts you will be giving will save you both the stress and hassle of trying to work out what the other parent might have got for them. Liaising on this could even mean that you might decide to give a joint present from both of you which will show the children you have come together to get them a larger present they know is perfect.

Don’t try to ‘buy affection’ by getting a ridiculous gift that has been purchased to ‘out-do’ the other parent. This can be a common behaviour of the parent that doesn’t see the child as often since the separation. Overcompensating in this way won’t fix anything and younger children aren’t aware of the monetary value of things anyway.

When it comes to helping the children choose and buy a gift for their other parent, you must once again, set your feelings aside and realise that it is important for your child to feel they can give something to their other parent from themselves. You are doing this for your child’s benefit, so try to keep that in the forefront of your mind.

Inappropriate Gifts

Another issue that has arisen in parents we have spoken to is the other parent buying age inappropriate games for gaming consoles. In this instance the parents of an 8-year-old boy were arguing because the Dad had bought an Xbox for his son and was then allowing him to play Fortnight which has a has a PEGI rating of 12. As this was all set up in the Dad’s house the mother felt she had no control over this, and the game was clearly designed for older children. It caused a real problem for the parents who had mostly managed to agree on arrangements until that point.

If you are Alone This Christmas

If it’s not your turn to have the kids and you won’t be joining them for any part of the day remember it will be your turn next year or perhaps you will be spending another day or two with them over the holidays. You can make your time with them positive and happy and have your own fake Christmas with them. Make sure that you make arrangements with friends or other family, so you don’t spend the day alone.

A separated Mum said:

“It is the kids’ turn to be with their Dad this year, which is sad for me, but with the ‘every other year’ arrangement that we have it is the only fair way to do it. I have had plenty of time to make plans with friends so that I don’t spend the day alone. I will be doing our fake Christmas Day with them on Boxing Day with my side of the family, so I suppose in a way they get two Christmas Days!”.

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. Mediation can resolve disagreements between separated parents to find a way to move positively forward with the children’s best interests considered. 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 0788 9039393.

Tips For Parenting Children Who Have Two Homes

Shared Parenting is becoming a much more common way to bring up children after divorce or separation. With both parents now taking a much more active role in bringing up their children these days as apposed to the more traditional roles in times gone by.

Whilst there are so many positive aspects to parenting in this way, with the children spending similar amounts of time with both parents and maintaining these relationships and bonds. There can be some difficulties to overcome which may not be initially apparent. There are logistical issues with changing homes a couple of times a week, but also emotional implications for the children which can be managed by being aware of them.

Changeover Day

Depending on the parenting schedule that you have arranged with your ex-partner will determine how many switches between the two homes the children will be subjected to. Also, the age of your children will define how involved you are in terms of picking up and dropping off. For example, teenage children will be walking themselves to school, so it is just a case for them which home they return to after school.

For younger children, getting used to having two homes can be harder. So, to make the change over as stress free as possible, try to follow these tips:

  • Be punctual, don’t leave children waiting passed the agreed time to collect them.
  • Be positive about the change over and enthusiastic about the time they will spend with the other parent.
  • If the children want to share what activities they have enjoyed with the parent they have just been with, then be positive and happy to listen to them.
  • Don’t pass judgement on the plans or activities that the other parent has set out.
  • Be organised, so that everything is ready for the other parent when they turn up to collect the children.
  • Be flexible – sometimes, days and times must be changed, as long as this is done in plenty of time and not on a regular basis this will cause less emotional distress to the children.
  • Respect your ex-partner, in turn they need to be respectful of you, your time and your way of doing things.
  • Never argue or berate your ex at changeover times in front of the children. For your child to see the two people they love the most fighting is the most stressful situation for them.

House Rules

Learning the rules in different houses helps children to develop skills around managing different situations and learning how there can be different way to approach things. However, as separated parents it is important that you communicate with each other on key rules and boundaries so that the children don’t become too confused.

Rules can be about bedtimes, homework, screen time, behaviour or any routine. The difficulty can come if parents have wildly different rules to the other home. For example, if in one home the children are not expected to do any chores, it can make life harder in the home where they are asked to help around the house.

Arrange a time to communicate with your ex about the way you do things in your home so that you are aware of each other’s routines. This is also a perfect time to discuss any behavioural issues that may have arisen since the separation. It is not uncommon for children to react in a negative way as they struggle to deal with their emotions.

Children’s Space

If you are the parent who has moved out of the family home and must now make a new home, let’s face it the change will also be difficult for you. The child’s bedroom is an important consideration as it is their new space. Here are some things to consider when making the transition:

  • Let the children have some say on the decoration and furnishing of their new space or bedroom (within reason!). It could be as simple has letting them choose a duvet set or painting a chest of drawers in their choice of colour.
  • Allow them to bring some of their favourite books or toys so that there are some familiar and loved items in both homes. You do not want to be packing an entire suitcase every few days as the children move between the two homes. Communication with your ex on dividing these items is key here to make things fair.
  • Don’t let the creation of your child’s new bedroom become a competition with your ex-partner. Resist the urge to go completely over the top by creating a palatial space. Try to remember they really just want comfort, familiarity and quality time with you.

For the parent staying in the family home, the main advice is to try to be enthusiastic about the children excitedly telling you about their ‘new, amazing bedroom’ at Dad’s. Don’t be tempted into one-upmanship to try to keep the children loving the home they have with you more than their new home.

Family Pets

This can be a tricky one to handle, as for some children leaving the beloved moggy behind each week when they go off to Dad’s can be tough. Each situation is different and of course pets are more important in some families, but there are ways to help your child with this difficulty.

  • I have heard of cats, gerbils and hamsters travelling with the children between the two houses. If this is something you think is absolutely necessary and it works for both parents in a practical sense, then there is no reason not to do it.
  • Most people opt for getting a new pet at the new home so that a new relationship can be formed. However, this should only be done if it can be managed properly, for example, don’t rush out and buy a new puppy to please your children only to find you can’t cope with all the walking and care for the dog alongside your job. You could start with a low maintenance hamster and see how you get on.

Communication

With all separations, there are going to be issues arise that you couldn’t predict, but the important thing is to keep the lines of communication open with your ex-partner. Put the acrimony and bitterness aside and focus on what is best for the children to maintain a strong and healthy relationship with both parents. Here are some further blog posts which you may find useful to read:

Arrangements for Children after Separation – The Importance of Compromise

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

How can Mediation Help?

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.

 

 

When Separated Parents Remarry – Through The Children’s Eyes

When a family breaks up and parents separate there can be some unsettled times ahead for everyone, particularly the children. They must get used to their parents living in two separate houses and possibly moving to a new school too. Sometimes all too soon new partners arrive on the scene bringing a whole host of new issues, even if the intentions are all good. A lot will depend on the ages of the children and how the separation was dealt with by the parents.

A parent dating someone new is one thing and much has been written about how and when to introduce new partners to children. In an ideal world the new partner would move in after some time when there is a solid relationship between them and the children. However, a marriage proposal can be a big worry for children as there is a permanence and finality about marriage which may cause insecurities or fears in children and teenagers, even if they have become close to the new partner. It can also re-open old wounds with the ex-spouse causing strains in the relationships there too.

Here are some examples of how these situations make children feel – being aware of things from their perspective will help you give them the reassurance and understanding that they deserve.

Sense of Loss

Whilst you and your new partner are experiencing all the excitement and happiness that comes with a new relationship, just remember that your children, although happy to see you happy, will be mourning the los of what was. In their eyes the best possible family set up is with both parents that they love and their siblings all in one house. As happy as the new set up may be, they will always feel nostalgic for the loss of the old family unit and having both parents on hand 24/7.

Jealousy Issues

Sharing their parent, who was most likely a single parent for a while, with someone new will stir up feelings of resentment and jealousy towards the newcomer. These reactions are perfectly normal, and the child should not be reprimanded – from their point of view, they had their parent all to themselves for a while and mourned the loss of the other parent. Then no sooner have they got used to this, they must now share their parent with an outsider. It will take time to trust and build a bond with your new partner, it is important not to force it. Children will often find fault with new partners to vocalise their jealousy and it is important not to react badly to this as the child will feel unheard, rejected and replaced.

Attachment Issues

Another common way that children react to these changes in the home is to display increased attachment bonding issues. This is particularly applicable in younger children, who may start suddenly not wanting to go to school or refusing to leave your side whilst you are together at home.

Abandonment

As a child watches their parent become close with a new partner, they can feel a sense of abandonment if they feel they are no longer receiving the attention that they once did from you. Plenty of reassurance is required to help them realise that they are still important and nothing about your relationship with them has changed. Remember in their mind they may be thinking “Where do I fit in now?”.

Loyalty Struggles

It is important to remember that your child will struggle with the concept of a new father or mother figure. If they have fun with them or show affection to their stepparent, they may feel that they are being disloyal to their real Dad or Mum. It is very important that both you and your new partner let them know that they are not there to replace their real parent. Never bad mouth or run the other parent down (even if you feel it is justified), this is possibly the cruellest position to put a child into. Read our post on loyalty issues and conflict for children after separation.

Comparisons

It is quite normal too for the children to draw comparisons between your new partner and their real Mum or Dad. During the adjustment phase, show some understanding if your child comes out with something like: “My Dad is much stronger and better at football then you”. It is best to laugh it off and agree that he probably is. This is no time to let your ego get in the way of bonding with your new stepchild.

Involvement in the Wedding

When you have set the date for the big day, it is important to involve your children in the process and bear them in mind when planning for everything. If your children feel shut out or disregarded it will cause resentment issues. It is a fine balance to keep moody teens happy in this situation if they have decided to take a dislike to your new partner – tread with caution, understanding and love.

Custody battles

Sometimes, when a separated parent decides to remarry, it can reopen custody arguments that had been previously laid to rest. Keeping open discussions with your ex-partner will in most cases quell this situation as nobody will suddenly be sprung a surprise about a wedding.

However, it does happen, for example, a father marrying a new partner may suddenly feel he can look after the children full time now he has a new wife. Or a mother may take a dislike to new partner of her ex-husband and refuse to let the children stay over with him anymore. Communication is key through out all these situations and if possible, all the adults should get together and meet to discuss what is best for the kids.

How can mediation help?

In all these situations, from the initial separation through to the arrangements for the children and introduction of new partners, emotions can run high. Each situation will be different, but when adults struggle to communicate effectively with each other the children will suffer. Mediation enables all parties the opportunity to get to together to resolve issues with the help of an experienced mediator. If you would like to speak to a mediator to discuss your circumstances please call Frances on 0788 903 9393.

 

Back To School – Guide To Managing Term Time For Separated Parents

As the long summer holiday draws to a close, there will be parents all over Devon (and the rest of the UK) who will be relieved that school starts back next week. If you are working parents, you will have been juggling your childcare and work commitments for the last 6 weeks which can be exhausting. If you are a separated parent, you will have possibly had a harder time organising everything over the summer.

There are plenty of guides about how to juggle the summer holidays as a separated parent, but often the start of the school term or year can be just as daunting for separated parents. If you have little ones starting reception it can be a stressful time with the worry of pick up times, uniform and packed lunches whilst dealing with a separation too.

It is also very important to think about things from the child’s point of view, starting a new school and settling in with new teachers, friends and timetables can cause anxiety if everything is turned upside down at home with a recent divorce or separation.

Parental Communication

As with anything, communication is the key to making things as easy as possible for both parents and the children alike. A regular and clearly defined routine between you, the parents, will be very important so that your child will always know who is picking them up from school. Working out a schedule that fits with both of your work commitments can be done but it will take organisation and communication.

Clear communication with the school will also be necessary so there are no mix ups, they will need to know who will be picking up each day, particularly with young children in reception.

Sharing and Coordinating the Expense

Once children are at school, there are many expenses that will need to be covered and discussed between you. As mediators, we see many cases of conflict between parents around the finances which could be avoided with planning and compromise.

School Dinners – This is a regular expense and soon mounts up particularly if you have more than one child. How you divide this cost will depend on your individual circumstances; how care is shared between you and maintenance agreements. If one parent is constantly having to pay arrears for the other parent at school, you can see how the arguments and resentment will grow over time.

After School Care – This can be a huge financial burden for parents who work, in most cases the division of this expense can be worked out according to the ratio of care or can be included in the maintenance plan.

Uniform and Shoes – It is quite amazing how often, shoes and uniform need replacing due to wear and tear or getting too small! If you have more than one child; kitting them out with all the shoes and clothes they need can be a huge dent in your budget. Pre-empting this cost will save a frenzied panic at the end of August, when you try to reach your ex-spouse for help with it.

School Trips – The cost of these becomes greater as the children get older and often letters will come home in your child’s school bag regarding cost and deadline. When children are living in two houses, it is all too easy for these notes to be mislaid and a payment deadline missed. For young children, they can’t be responsible for this type of thing and will only suffer if you can’t cooperate with each other as parents.

School Activities and Involvement

With most schools there will be an array of situations where parents will be invited to attend the school, this can be anything from parents’ evenings, through to school plays, fundraisers and fairs. It is important to remember that your interest and involvement in your child’s activities are so important to them. If you can set your difference’s aside to attend the nativity play to support your child, it will give them a real confidence boost. Providing positive support and showing that your love for your child hasn’t changed despite your separation will eliminate the effects of conflict between parents on your children.

Homework and Exams

Depending how much time your children spend with each of you in your separate homes will depend how much influence you will have on the completion of homework. Remember it is all to easy for kids to find a way to leverage parents who don’t communicate.

“I left my Maths book at Dad’s, so I can’t do my homework today”

“I did it all yesterday at Mum’s house”

These are great excuses that will work if you aren’t in communication as parents. In Infants’ school this is not so vital maybe, but as the kids approach their GCSE’s they need as much support from both parents as possible. It is during these difficult teen years that all the classic rebellion will come into force. Playing truant and experimenting with drink and drugs is any parent’s nightmare, this will be so much easier to monitor if you are coordinated as parents and the lines of communication are open.

Help for Parents

In an ideal world separated parents would remain friends and communicate with each other openly about their children and the arrangements for them. Sadly, there can be so many factors in these situations that prevent that from happening. Some find it just too hard to put their own feelings aside, perhaps there has been violence or one parent refuses to talk with their ex-partner.

Here at Progressive Mediation in Totnes, we have vast experience with mediating these types of conflict and provide comprehensive family mediation services and parent coordination services. Call us today for advice on 0788 903 9393.

End of an Era – The Big Move to Totnes

We set up Progressive Mediation in 2010, with a clear vision of providing affordable family mediation in Bristol. Now, after nearly 20 years, we have taken the decision to move down to Totnes to continue to provide our mediation services in South Devon.

We feel we have achieved so much during our time in Bristol, we have helped so many families and individuals to resolve their issues during their separation or divorce. In fact, we have spent hundreds of hours mediating in complex family disputes including direct consultation with children.

Family Mediation

Family mediation is at the heart of what we do and includes mediating for separating couples whether they are married or not. Usually the arrangements for the children are at the centre of the disputes for these couples and there is nothing more rewarding for us than to help them to resolve their differences and arrive at a compromise which is fair to all.

We are advocates of child inclusive mediation where appropriate and this has been a highly successful way to mediate, particularly with high conflict couples. We have mediated for couples over long distance too which has its challenges but thanks to technology we have made it possible.

Along our journey we have enabled all individuals to gain access to our services by offering the opportunity for people to apply for Legal Aid for Mediation which has proved invaluable for low income families. Making our services affordable to everyone is the ethos that motivates our business.

Parenting Coordination

This is a relatively new service that we started to provide in June 2018 and has proved to be a popular option as an extension after mediation has finished.  It enables separated couples who really struggle with the ongoing communication for arrangements for their children to reach agreement through the coordinator.

You can read our Devon Parenting Coordination Case Study as an example of how this service has worked so well for a high conflict couple in Devon.

Workplace Disputes

Disputes within the workplace are common and can be hugely stressful to the individuals involved; so much of modern life is spent in the workplace. We have helped resolve some complicated and highly emotional civil mediation cases using sole mediation, co-mediation (particularly useful for complex multi-party disputes) and shuttle/caucusing mediation models.

As with all mediation, the successful outcome arrives when all parties feel they have been heard and have a better understanding of the position of the other parties. During our time in Bristol we have mediated many workplace disputes with the same passion and success as our family mediation cases.

Inheritance Act, Property and Business Disputes

Commercial disputes can arise and be associated with property or business agreements, partnership disputes and a host of other issues. The fundamental principles of mediation remain the same; the involved parties are all encouraged to listen to each other’s points of view and a compromise is reached through mediated discussions. Often, there are new ways or suggestions from us that have not been thought of.

Fond Farewells and Thanks

As we close this chapter of our mediation journey in Bristol, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in Bristol who has helped us and all our clients.

Totnes Here We Come!

As our Bristol office closes, we are transferring all our energy and enthusiasm for what we do to our new Totnes premises. Our new contact details are:

Mobile: 0788 903 9393

Address: 17 Smithfields, Totnes TQ9 5LR.

We cover the whole of the South Hams and South Devon area. This includes Totnes, Paignton, Torquay, Newton Abbot, Buckfastleigh,  Ashburton, Plymouth, Kingsbridge and Modbury.

We are welcoming new clients here in Totnes already, so please get in touch if you need advice on any aspect of our mediation services.

Best Wishes

Frances and Charles Place

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 greater distances apart 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 being in the room with their ex-partner.

Thankfully, with modern technology there are ways to overcome the difficulties of conducting mediation sessions at long distance.

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.

Making Skype Mediation Work

The great thing about Skype is that you will be able to see everybody on the call, this is preferable to just a conference call where meaning can be lost without seeing someone’s expressions.

However, here are some points worth bearing in mind to make the session as successful as possible:

  1. Be aware that arranging a time for the mediation may be a challenge, especially if both parties work. You may also be dealing with different time zones which will further complicate things.
  2. Make 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.
  3. Be mindful of the time delay that might occur. Everyone will need to be briefed to speak slowly and clearly.
  4. 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 these aspects in a pre-briefing and will trial a Skype call to check connectivity.

Using Skype Mediation for High Conflict Couples

As mentioned above, it may not be a geographical obstacle that makes online skype mediation the preferable option. Sometimes there is so much emotion and ill feeling between separating couples that they would really prefer not to be in the same room.

Someone may feel very threatened by their ex-partner and whether this is well founded or not, the communication via video screen takes much of the stress and emotion out of the situation. The case study below highlights this situation.

Devon Skype Mediation Case study

Geographically Totnes and Plymouth are not worlds apart, but they might as well be for a divorcing couple going through a very stressful and high conflict 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 Totnes to be near to her parents and put some distance between herself 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. The result was arrangements that were agreed by both Amy and Richard as they had set aside their feelings for each other to focus on what was best for the children.

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 0788 903 9393.

Arrangements for Children after Separation – The Importance of Compromise

When parents decide to separate, one of the biggest decisions that they must make is how to arrange the schedule for their children. Who will be the main carer? How often will the other parent see the children? In theory, there are many options open to explore and discuss, but often emotions are running high during these initial discussions and it is easy for both parents to lose sight of what is the most important – the children’s best interests.

Your Child’s Best Interests

Your own ideas of what is best for your child may well be influenced by your own emotions, particularly if the separation has been traumatic and you have a high conflict relationship with your ex. Remember that consulting your children on their arrangements is important but can only be done if they are old enough to understand. Asking a toddler how often they would like to see Daddy is too big a question and will only cause upset. Here are some pointers to consider:

Adjustment to the separation – to make this as smooth as possible the child needs ‘order’ in the upheaval, a predictable routine that they can rely on and get used to.

Avoid conflict – openly arguing with your ex in front of the children will cause distress. Also, bad mouthing your ex to your children will force an unhappy loyalty conflict by making them choose a parent to side with.

How to Work Out the Arrangements

It is important to remember that most children will benefit from being in regular contact with both their parents and receive input, love and care from both. This is where the difficulties of making arrangements can start. For example, if one parent feels they want to punish the other parent by refusing access to the children or making contact difficult, it is the children that will suffer the most. Your own feelings for your ex-partner must be set aside for the sake of your kids. In their eyes they love both their parents and will be traumatised enough by the split, without the extra stress of dealing with parental conflict too.

The pattern that you choose for your own situation must be a decision that is agreed by both parents, often meaning a compromise must be reached. These decisions can only be reached if both parents are willing to listen to the other point of view and discuss the situation fully and fairly with empathy.

For example, a common occurrence can be that the Dad will say he wants 50/50 shared responsibility for the children and have them stay with him for 50% of the time. This sounds fair in theory, but it may be far from practical to arrange around his work. Also, from the mother’s point of view, she may have been the main carer to the children since they were born, why should she suddenly relinquish this now and only see her children half the time? So, you can see how both parents in this situation will not agree and will also feel the other is being completely unreasonable.

Shared Care or Shared Parenting

Shared care of the children can work for some families if work commitments allow and both parents are committed to the arrangement. It can mean less complications in terms of finances too, as technically no maintenance need change hands if both parents hold equal responsibility for home, food and utilities.

However, the best interests of the children must also be considered, changing between homes a few times a week can be very disruptive for them emotionally particularly if they are young. Alternatively, it could be too long between seeing either parent if an alternative week schedule was decided upon.

There is also the practical side of things where they may need to transport personal belongings between the houses. Imagine the distress if the favourite teddy got left at Dad’s one day and the toddler can’t sleep without it. This is not to say that it can’t work, in fact, we have seen many couples who have made it work very successfully and their children are balanced, happy and enjoy time with both parents. It is just important to consider the aspects of 50/50 shared care that can make it more challenging.

We have written a very comprehensive blog which gives many examples of shared parenting schedules and how to make the arrangements that will make shared parenting work in different situations. You may also find it useful to read the highs and lows or shared parenting.

Other Parenting Schedules

Alternating weekends

A very common pattern that is set up between separated parents is where the mother will remain the main carer, but the children will have regular visits to their Dad. This is often worked out that the father has the children every other weekend for a long two day/two-night visit. Sometimes an issue with this arrangement is that the father wouldn’t see the children very often, so you can add a mid-week overnight stay every week on a Wednesday to increase the time.

60/40 Schedule

Another example of how it can be worked out is the 60/40 schedule. This works well if both parents want plenty of time with the kids, but the 50/50 schedule has too many change over times. The parents will need to live close to each other for it to work and the children will need to be comfortable and happy living in two houses for nearly equal amounts of time.

70/30 Schedule

Again, this is another option that can work very well, as with any other schedule it needs to be organised, so the children know the pattern and get used to it. You can work this out so that every week one parent does 5 days and the other does 2 days. Or you can schedule every third week, the children go to their Dad. This can work well for older children or teens as they will be happier to spend a week away from a parent, than a toddler.

The Importance of Compromise

Whatever your individual situation, reasons for your separation, age of your children or your location you can see that there are many ways in which you can arrange to split the time with your children. However, these schedules only work if both parents agree on and stick to the plan. If one parent keeps letting the children down on the weekend that is his or her responsibility, the arrangements won’t work. This also leaves the children in a state of confusion, feeling very insecure and unloved.

The magic of compromise is that it creates a good place to move forward with how the relationship between you and your ex will work. At the end of the day you share the responsibility for your children and if you can manage that from a place of empathy and compromise you will manage the relationship in a much better and more healthy way. This is in the best interests of your children. If they see you both being respectful and flexible with each other it not only sets a good example to them of how adults should manage difficulties, but they will feel loved by both parents.

Can Mediation Help?

Are you trying to work out a parenting schedule with your ex-partner? Are you finding it difficult to reach agreement on this aspect of your separation? Here at Progressive Mediation, in Totnes, we are experienced with family separation situations and the conflict that can occur as parents try to work out finances and children’s’ arrangements. If you would like advice, please call Frances on 0788 903 9393.

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

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