How does it actually work?
In the initial session I would meet you together and it would be a time for you both to talk about the situation from your point of view. We would then go onto discussing what issues need agreements and what issue/s you would like to start with. What needs immediate attention?
In the ongoing sessions I encourage you to bring anything that you think is relevant to the situation such as:
- Financial responsibilities and arrangements - who will be responsible for purchasing items such as school uniform or shoes and coats? What about child maintenance - how will you transfer money, how much, who will pay who ? how much and when?
- Parenting and care arrangements, often people find they want a weekly or monthly timetable to share the responsibility of bringing up children separately.
- Health and education where will the children be registered for the doctor, how will you contact one another in an emergency? School - how do they know who has parental responsibility? What does it mean in terms of how they communicate with each of you?
- Thinking ahead to the future - can there be any flexibility with arrangements? how much notice is reasonable? what will the arrangements be if one parent is ill? How will we deal with holidays and other special times?
- New partners : when is the right time to introduce them to children, what role will they have? Do you need to agree some rules and boundaries? Do you have enough non parenting time for relationships with new partners?
- Communication - what works best for both parents and children? How are you going to work together if the children are finding the separation difficult?
- What will happen if arrangements and agreements are not stuck to?
- Emotions that are bubbling under the surface? Guilt, relief, sadness, disappointment ? Difficult emotions can get in the way of successful negotiations? Do they need to be expressed before practical arrangements can be put into place?
- Past problems or behaviours - are they still relevant or are they getting in the way of being future focused? Do the problems of the past need to be resolved or talked through so both people can stick with the present and future arrangements?
Through out sessions I would be listening in for possible starts to agreements, reflecting back to you both what I am hearing and start getting agreements onto paper.
Once agreements are on paper then both parties need to put them into practice. Over the weekly sessions agreements are put in place, put into practice then discussed to see if they are working.
How many sessions will we need?
I would suggest a minimum of 3.
In the first session I will meet both people involved an opportunity to hear about the situation from their point of view and to find out what they want from separated parent mediation.
I then suggest weekly sessions each lasting for 2 hours. Usually if both parties are willing to process and work on say communication, sticking to arrangements involving the children and so on outside of the mediation sessions then I find that weekly sessions are no longer needed and we may meet twice a month until both people agree that they are in a place where they do not need a mediator to support them.
The aim is to get to a point where people involved can reduce conflict in their lives, be able to communicate , to have an understanding of their needs and their ex partners and to be able to make decisions and agreements that put the children in the centre. Some people aim to become co-parents, others find separate parenting suits their circumstances. Sometimes one parent wants to work towards friendship the other parent may not be ready for that sort of relationship , sessions respond to the needs of the people involved.
At present I can’t be in the same room as my ex - partner - can separated parent mediation still work?
Yes I do offer what is called shuttle mediation where both people involved sit in different rooms and I move between them.
Do you ever see us separately?
If I think it is useful and that seeing you individually will help you come to an agreement then I would encourage it.
What happens when there is an issue that one of us wants to discuss and the other refuses?
We would discuss what the impact will be if the issue is not discussed in terms of our process and also on your relationship as separated parents. It may be that we start with the ‘easier’ issues and move onto more complicated or sensitive issues when you have for example begun to re-build trust between one another.
What happens when we make an agreement and one of us doesn’t stick to it?
We would have a discussion about the situation giving you both an opportunity to say how the breaking of an agreement has had an impact on you. We would re look at the agreement and ask does it need amending or is it that one person needs to change what they are doing.
Can the children have a say?
Yes, if your children are at an age where they want to be involved. It maybe useful for them to have an opportunity to talk about the separation from their point of view. It may also be useful for them to have a chance to say what they would hope to happen in terms of arrangements. However, I would not allow the child/ren to be involved if I thought they were being used by one or both parents in a way that could be viewed as manipulative, coercive or controlling.
If there is or has been abuse or control within our relationship can you still work with us?
Yes, and only if both people are transparent, honest, feel in a safe place and if relevant willing to make changes. I would need to know if the person or people are on a program offered by Devon Domestic Abuse Support Services who offer 1 to 1 victim support, survivor groups and perpetrator programs. If at any point I felt that the separated parent mediation was doing more harm than good then I would speak to you both and we would make a plan of action.
Are the sessions confidential?
Yes,with the exception that if I thought that you or somebody else was at risk of significant harm I would have to share the information in order to keep you or others safe. If I did feel concerned about something that you had told me, I would aim to speak to you first so you feel involved in the process.
How are your sessions different to those with a solicitor?
In separated parent mediation sessions there are opportunities for you to examine your feelings about the separation and how this is currently effecting your daily life, your emotional wellbeing, behaviour, decision making and the impact it has on you, your child or children and the other parent and people involved. Sessions with a solicitor don’t include that opportunity, with a solicitor you go straight to arrangements. I imagine your next questions would be why not go straight to making agreements ? The answer to this is that it is often done under time pressure because of the costs per hour solicitors charge, the agreements are often not sustainable because they have been rushed and they are often unfair because people’s needs are over looked.
<>In the mediation sessions you have the time to understand what is happening, make sense of the changes in your life, the sessions also enables you and the other parent to make agreements about the practical aspects of bringing up children separately. People say that they find it is ‘easier’ to work through issues with a person who is not a friend or extended family, someone who is neutral and non judgmental. To add to that a given time where both people involved can arrive at the session prepared, knowing that its the time dedicated to ‘sorting things out’ is often more fair, calmer and more appropriate than expressing concerns and annoyances or trying to sort out arrangements in front of children.
Would our agreement be legally binding?
Many people don’t find they need a legally binding agreement because they have reached an agreement (written on paper, occasionally verbal )and are sticking with it day to day. Agreements made in separated parent mediation can be easily taken to a solicitor to be made part of a legally biding agreement or court order or divorce settlement.
Can members of family, current partners or friends get involved?
Yes sometimes an issue or situation gets stuck and one possible way to move forward is to have other involved people present. This would ONLY happen if there is FULL agreement and NO signs or even a hint of one of the parties being coerced into agreeing.
What happens if we can’t agree on something?
If there is an issue or detail that cannot be agreed upon we would go deeper into the issue looking at what surrounding it for example discussing people’s belief’s or try to connect with any feelings that are triggered.
What are your expectations of us?
For this process to work as quickly and efficiently as possible I need people involved to have a ‘positive and I’ll try’ attitude. In my experience this process reaches agreement when those involved want to make an agreement, stick to agreements made, are prepared to try new arrangements outside of the sessions and discuss if they have or haven’t worked, come back together see if things need renegotiation or just a small tweak. In other words you both need to make the effort on a daily basis and put agreements in practice . For example this could be anything from ensuring you are on time for dropping off, sticking to an agreement about how much money you will contribute to a school trip right through to sticking with agreement about who will spend time with the child/ren on a birthday, holiday or other special times.
What happens when circumstances change or if agreements need to be changed?
As part of the separated parent mediation process I’d hope that you would both be learning new ways to communicate with one another and in the future be able to express needs, negotiate calmly and fairly and come to new agreements on your own. And if this was not possible you would be very welcome to contact me again for support. Agreements made need to be reviewed from time to time, this can be done between yourselves if you both feel you have got to a point in your relationship as separated parents where you can communicate and renegotiate. Sometimes it is helpful to meet with me for a session or two if life circumstances change be it a new partner, job opportunity, a move of house or school.
At present my ex partner does not want to attend mediation - are you still able to help me?
Yes, definitely. I have experience of working with individuals who bring the issue of a relationship (past or current) to sessions.