Children’s lives can become very complicated when their parents separate. A young person may be an only child in one household and the youngest of stepsiblings in another. There may be many new relationships to navigate.
It’s helpful for children if their parents are able to use mediation as part of making the transition to being separated parents. It can also be helpful for the young person to have the opportunity to meet the mediator.
The views of young people are an important factor when arrangements are being made which affect them. Because I am trained in child inclusive mediation I am able to offer young people the chance to have direct involvement, if they wish.
The objectives of child inclusive mediation are:-
- the opportunity for children to have a voice in practical decision making
- to allow young people to feel they understand better what is going on in their family and that they have been heard in the midst of the changes
- to allow parents a supported process to gain a fuller understanding of how separation feels for their children and what might make things easier
The building blocks of child inclusive mediation are:-
- it is for children aged 10 and over
- both parents need to agree
- the young person has a choice about whether to participate
- the young person has control over what, if anything, is fed back
One of the benefits of child inclusive mediation is that where young people have a voice in making arrangements, the arrangements tend to work better!
There are really good reasons for using mediation as a route out of conflict into building a more workable future. But sometimes one partner has behaved very badly during the relationship and been violent, manipulative or dishonest. They may want to keep control. The legal framework gives a route out of that situation. It’s there to provide a safety net in that situation.
A relationship like that can be so upside down that the one who was violent, manipulative and dishonest behaves as if they are in the right. The one at the receiving end can feel responsible and guilty. If that sounds like your situation it’s important to get advice from a family lawyer.
It’s unlikely that mediation will be appropriate in those circumstances.
Because separation can feel like such an earthquake, sometimes it can be hard to make sense of the situation. Things can get particularly complicated where a new partner comes on the scene at the time of a separation. It can be hard in those circumstances to avoid seeing the new partner as the only reason the relationship is ending. It can seem like a violent betrayal of trust that rules out co-operation for the future. The trouble is that makes it really hard to work together as parents and also to sort out the practicalities sensibly. Children and finances can become collateral damage. Mediation can help in those circumstances to rebuild communication and establish a working relationship as parents.
So, before pushing the thought of mediation away give yourself the chance to consider whether you’re trying to move away from a violent, abusive or dishonest relationship or whether you’re trying to cope with the hurt of the ending of what seemed to you like a good relationship
I was a divorce lawyer for 42 years. Clients often said they imagined I’d heard their story many times before. Actually, every story was different. Every separation is unique. Every separation is challenging. Some turn out well. Some don’t.
I was keen to help clients come through in good shape and to know what would make that more likely, what made the difference.
Any separation involves a major change in how each of you relate to yourself, your family and your friends. It changes who you think you are. It changes who you think your partner is. It changes how children see you as parents. It’s a seriously major transition.
Sometimes a couple recognise they have grown apart. They can look back and accept they had happy times, agree they are no longer working as a couple and choose to separate and be good separated parents. They can help their children feel supported by both parents in two households.
However, quite often one partner decides the relationship doesn’t have a future at a point when the other is still working at it and expecting it to last. It’s usually helpful to try couple counselling if things are at that stage. Couple counsellors can help a couple check the pulse of the relationship and if it is past the point of no return, help make a separation more sustainable.
The biggest risk is if one or both partners start believing the only way to make sense of what is happening is to establish the other person was at fault. One reason that’s such a risk is it would mean any children involved end up with at least one ‘bad’ parent and possibly in the middle of a big fight to establish which parent that is. Fighting over who is more to blame usually leaves everyone bruised.
Accepting separation is a big challenge and recognising the sadness from the loss of the relationship both hoped for at the outset usually makes a better starting point for sorting things out in a more sustainable way, both emotionally and financially. In turn that brings emotional and financial benefit to the children.
If a separation has to happen, mediation can help you plan for a manageable future rather than getting stuck in the blame game about the past.