Category Archives: Family Mediation

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

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?