Kids Don’t Know What’s Going On – Divorce

Parents know how perceptive children can be. Watch this clip of Tiana, a very intuitive six-year-old. Her parents had been arguing and she asked her mother to listen to her. Tiana asked both to stop fighting and be friends again. She asked them to calm down and to stop being mean. She said if she could be nice, they could be nice to each other too. She spoke about how she likes to see people smile and she likes to make people smile. She asked them to be ‘lower’ and ‘steady’. She wanted them to be respectful to one another and treat each other kindly.

Kids and divorce Focus mediation

Children Will Adapt, Don’t Worry.

People comfort separating parents by telling them that children are robust, adaptable and cope well with change. That’s dependant on the level of continuing conflict between their parents. It’s not the separation that harms children but prolonged parental conflict. If parents separate and the conflict ends and children continue to see mum and dad, then they are far more likely to adjust and cope. If the conflict continues after separation, then there’s no respite for the children. The arguments no longer take place in the home and so some parents think the children aren’t aware that it continues. That’s rarely true. Even if parents stop communicating, their children will be aware of the tension. I will never forget a teenage girl explaining to me that her parents didn’t talk and that this was just as painful as when they had argued. She felt so lonely when one parent dropped her off and she walked to the other parent’s home. She knew they were both watching her and didn’t want to upset either parent. She didn’t know who to look at or how to deal with their inability to communicate as parents. Before I became a Family Solicitor and then Family Mediator, I never really believed that so many children really blamed themselves for their parents’ divorce. Why would they? Now I know that when parents are separated and finances resolved, the only issue left to disagree about is often child arrangements. If a child hears their parents arguing about them, why wouldn’t they assume they are the cause?

Let Children Heal.

Separated parents grieve for their relationship and the loss of their family unit. This process takes time. If parents are unable to separate their past relationship from their future need to communicate as parents, children will suffer emotional harm. Its that’s simple. If parents can put their child’s needs first and communicate in a respectful manner, trust and respect between them as parents can build. Children feel safe when their parents can communicate. They can then adapt to divorce without suffering permanent emotional harm. A parent recently told me that she forces herself to think of her ‘ex’ as her daughters’ father. When she thinks of him in those terms, she has a
begrudging respect for him as a good father. When she ‘slips’ she thinks of him as her ex and gets angry about the way he treated her in the past. She said it required a great deal of discipline, but she forces herself to be respectful and remember that just because she feels he was a bad husband, doesn’t mean he is a bad father. For children to heal they need time and all manifestations of their parents’ conflict to end.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

 

Co-Parenting after Separation 2019

The fundamental principle, when dealing with cases involving children, is that their welfare is paramount and their best interests must come first.

co-parenting

Sometimes parents dealing with their own emotions forget their children may also be suffering. Their lives will change and it isn’t always appreciated how much an impact a separation can have on a child. If their parents are in constant conflict it will hurt and upset them. This can lead to anxiety and depression. A child can be burdened by parental conflict and an acrimonious separation can affect their schooling, peer relationships and their emotional well-being, even into adulthood.

What do children need?

To:

  • be loved and supported.
  • feel safe and secure.
  • have routine and stability.
  • have a relationship with both parents.
  • see their parents communicating and co-operating.
  • have their wishes and feelings considered.
  • have a voice –to be heard.

How can mediation help separating couples make arrangements for their children?

A mediator can assist by helping parents to discuss how to care for their children and how to communicate with about those arrangements.

The first decision to be made is where the children are to live and if they are to have a principle home or an arrangement for shared care. Whichever arrangement is chosen, details will need to be discussed, so that the children can spend time with each parent. The mediator and parents will concentrate on establishing a structure for the children to spend time with both parents, with some flexibility. If the children are old enough and want to have a say – this is possible in mediation.

Reasonable notice should always given for any changes to the agreed routine. The key to successful co-parenting is good communication between the parents. Mediation helps you work out what form of communication will suit you best.

A Focus mediator will take parents through the various arrangements that may apply. Weekends, what is to happen during school holidays (Easter, Summer and the three half terms). It is important arrangements for Christmas are decided on and this can be very difficult, also what is to happen when special occasions arise that might affect the children’s planned routine.

How can a child have a voice in mediation?

Focus Mediation offers Direct Consultation with children, with specially trained DBS checked mediators, if both parents and the children agree to this. The children will meet with the mediator to discuss their wishes and feelings and the mediator will relay back to the parents what the child wants to say. This often helps a child who is worried about speaking to their parents directly.

Co-Parenting Plans

Once decisions have been made about the arrangements for children a Co-Parenting Plan can be prepared by your mediator, setting out details of all issues referred to above. This document sets out the arrangements that parents intend to follow with their children.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations; Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk 

The Perils of Social Media + Divorce

Divorcing couples experience trauma. It takes time to grieve for their marriage and eventually heal and move forward. Anger forms a significant part of the process and doesn’t mix well with social media. Before posting about your divorce on Facebook or other social media platforms, here are some points to consider:

The Perils of Social Media + Divorce Focus Mediation Blog

  1. You aren’t only sharing your post with Facebook friends who regularly engage with you by ‘liking’ or commenting on your posts. Most users have some Facebook friends who read their posts but never interact with them. Are you comfortable sharing your divorce related updates with everyone on your friends list? Is it something you would share with them individually if you saw them in person? Recently a friend told me they saw a private letter on Facebook that I had sent to a client. The client had scanned it and uploaded it and it had my name and work address on it. I was less than impressed and felt it was inappropriate. I am not Facebook friends with my real-life friend & so my client had no idea I would ever find out. When I rang his ex-wife to invite her to mediation, she immediately said no. She had seen my letter (a friend had shown her) and the post her husband had shared about ‘taking her to mediation to make sure she played fair’. She said she felt humiliated by the post and couldn’t trust he would abide by the mediation rules and keep the sessions confidential. Mediation is voluntary and it was easy to see why she didn’t want to attend. Her husband was desperate to resolve finances and as she refused mediation, he issued court proceedings. His wife told me if he hadn’t posted on Facebook, that she would have accepted the invitation to mediation. Mediation could have saved them thousands in legal fees and a great deal of time and heartache. A costly Facebook post you might agree.
  2. Remember that Facebook friends of your Facebook friends can also see many of your posts, even if you have privacy settings. Even if they can’t, there’s nothing stopping a Facebook friend showing someone else your post. You lose control of the content as soon as you post. Deleting the post will only work if it has not been read by someone you don’t want to read it.
  3. You may feel momentary satisfaction for speaking your truth and/or calling out your ex’s behaviour. However, do you want to be someone else’s source of gossip? Are you Facebook friends with the parents of your children’s friends? What if they discuss the content in their children’s earshot and place your child in an uncomfortable position? I recall a situation when parents had to tell their children their father was gay because he had followed gay sites on social media and school children’s parents had started gossiping. The father had no idea anyone else could see what sites he was interacting with.
  4. Even with privacy settings, snoopers or even employers can see and read any comments people have made on your current profile picture and your previous profile pictures.
  5. Don’t write anything that you aren’t comfortable with your ex reading or showing a judge or even the police.
  6. The divorce process is painful, and it can feel never ending. A year or so down the line, will you feel embarrassed by the posts you have shared? Private people fuelled by pain or anger, sometimes post information that they would never normally share. Confide in people you can trust such as close friends, family and/or a therapist.
  7. Negative thoughts encourage a negative mindset. When I read status updates with negative quotes about relationships, I know the poster is in pain. Find a more positive outlet. Write letters to your ex and don’t post them or keep a diary. Exercise and take long walks. Look after yourself and eat well. If you find you have alone time, do something for yourself that you don’t usually have time to do. Read the books you’ve always wanted to read, take a long bubble bath. Think about what small steps you can take each day to improve your mood and help you cope with a very painful, but fortunately temporary, period of your life.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

Controllers – Do They Come in Pairs?

Often in mediation we see the couple separately for their first meetings. This gives people an opportunity to be very frank and open about their situation. Often one will say “S/he’s a controller, and I’m unsure I can cope with mediation!” Then the other person comes and says the same. What might be happening? Each clearly feels they’re not getting their way enough. They have come to resent and oppose the control or influence involved in being part of a couple. Whether this is reasonable or unreasonable is a matter of opinion.

Contollers - Do They come in pairs? Focus mediation blog May 2019

So for example, if Harry went out alone to the pub every night, their partner might object, then Harry might complain of being controlled, but who would be at fault?

What if John complained Sally spent too much money on shoes and the family had a huge debts and Sally had 1000 pairs of shoes? Sally might say John was controlling, if he tried to stop Sally buying shoes, but would his actions be inappropriate and who would be at fault?

These exchanges are the overt text, the surface conversation. What is really going on is what I call the subtext and it is the subtext that is so interesting. It is a matter of opinion whether there are inappropriate control issues as opposed to an expectation of a reasonable conversation about something important with the person with whom you share your life. A conversation might be initiated by the so called controller in the hope of influencing the other person to change behaviour which they feel is threatening the foundation of the relationship. Whether this attempt to influence or control is reasonable or unreasonable is depends on your point of view. If the relationship is strong these exchanges are productive, useful and keep the relationship on a sound footing. If the relationship is struggling, the exchanges may become aggressive, negative, recriminatory or  accusatory. Things may have gone too far for the couple to put things right, however much talking they do. Perhaps reasonable exchanges about what is fair and right in a relationship needed to be had years before, before the situation became irretrievable. So influencing your partner through rational discussion is vital to a healthy relationship. This is appropriate and to be expected.

However, it is easy to think of situations where one person is seeking to control the other inappropriately. Examples might be trying to prevent them seeing their friends and family, to cut them off from other relationships, force them to eat, drink or dress in a certain way, or control their conversation, thoughts or beliefs. These would be issues where controlling behaviour would be inappropriate and usually wrong. So accusations of control need exploration and not just to be accepted at face value. We need to unpick the behaviour behind the assertions and ask what is really going on.

So people should change their understanding of the word ‘Control’ and dig deeper. They should think about what is really being asked, is it a reasonable or unreasonable request?

At the point where the so called controller says, in answer to a question about a request: “OK, it doesn’t matter, it’s not important.” there are two possibilities:

The first is just that it’s not important

the second is in getting close to terminal – they giving up on both on their partner and the relationship, it doesn’t matter any more. Then they may well find themselves in family mediation, quite possibly with me, saying “My ex is a controller . . . ”

Author: Mary Banham-Hall, Family Mediator, Milton Keynes & Bedford

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations; Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk 

Getting the most out of Family Mediation

Here’s our guide to help clients get the most from their family mediation sessions.

Getting the most out of mediation focus mediation

  • Choose a good mediator

How experienced is your mediator? You can ensure they are highly qualified if they are Family Mediation Council Accredited. The accreditation process is lengthy, and mediators must complete an extensive portfolio evidencing their competency and expertise. Can a friend or your solicitor recommend a mediator? Many Focus Mediation clients are recommended to us by our previous clients. Check your mediator’s website and their reviews. Is the website informative and helpful?

  • Write down your concerns, hopes for the future and any questions.

At the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting ‘MIAM’, the mediator will ask you about issues between you and your spouse. They assess whether mediation is suitable and explain how mediation works. Its also your opportunity to consider whether mediation may assist you. Keep an open mind. Most people have a rough idea of what mediation involves, but the MIAM often dispels several mediation myths. Write down your concerns, hopes for the future and any questions. Emotions can run high and this will enable you to ensure you cover what is important.

  • Resolving Finances

Come prepared. The mediator at the MIAM will provide you with a file containing the documentation you need to complete so you can correctly disclose your assets, income, liabilities and pensions. The better prepared you are the more productive the sessions will be. If you haven’t valued the family home or obtained a mortgage redemption figure, then this will halt discussions about how to deal with it. If you struggle to complete paperwork, ask a friend or family member to assist. There are also helpful guides online.

  • Ground Rules

You and your spouse make all the decisions in mediation and not the mediator. However, the mediator manages the sessions and asks you to agree to ground rules that apply to the session and perhaps even outside. An important ground rule is respectful communication. For progress to be made its important to listen and to be heard. Mediation isn’t about convincing the mediator that you are right and your ex is wrong. Mediation focuses on the future and not the past that cannot be changed. This particularly applies to the division of finances. The court rarely considers the conduct of parties and is far more interested in finding fairness and trying to meet the needs of each person, as best it can. Its hard, but do listen to your ex. By listening you may be able to clear up misunderstandings that have arisen from poor communication.

  • Where’s the compromise?

People go to court to win but the court doesn’t look for a winner and a loser – it tries to meet both your needs from the available resources. Mediation only works when there is some ‘wriggle room’. It won’t work if each person tries to impose their will on the other. So where can compromise be found? Think about what matters most to you. Where can you afford to make concessions? It’s a scary time but try to put yourself in the other persons shoes. Where will they live? How will they pay their bills? Ask your solicitor what advice theyd give your spouse. If they advise you that you should receive 85% of the assets, would they have told your spouse (if their client) they should receive only 15%? It’s important to receive realistic advice.

  • Stay Open Minded

Explore all options. If you are asked to explore your mortgage capacity, but don’t feel you can afford the repayments, bring information about this to the sessions. You might find it is a viable option. If it’s not, then without this evidence it can’t be ruled out. Meditation allows you to reach creative and tailor-made arrangements. What works well for your family, might not work for another. When we are fearful, we can become positional. However, when we are willing to explore all options, it can lead to proposals that work well.

  • Can’t communicate – don’t worry.

Clients often worry that their poor communication will rule mediation out. However, that’s exactly when mediation can assist. A negotiated settlement requires parties to work together to find solutions to problems they believe can’t be resolved. The mediator is skilled at facilitating positive communication and enabling couples to move forward. Yes, the sessions are difficult; but client’s efforts are very well rewarded. We often find that the sessions improve communication and that this can in some cases provide a form of closure and peace.

  • Be patient and don’t give up.

Mediation is voluntary but needs your commitment. If each threaten to leave if they don’t like what’s said, then mediation will fail. Be patient, trust that whilst the issues you face are new to you and often very painful, that similar issues have been resolved many times before in mediation. You are treading a well-worn path. Your mediator can get you both to the finish line; but you must commit to the process and not allow yourself to dwell too much on the past that can’t be changed. You don’t need to agree on the past; you just need to draw a line on it and focus on resolving the issues standing between you and a happier future.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

 

The Length of a Relationship – Dividing Finances on Divorce

We know that the law treats unmarried couples very differently from married couples. Recently, whilst reading comments in a public divorce forum, I saw several members giving someone inaccurate legal information about the length of a relationship upon divorce. The issue had cropped up before and had each time caused confusion. The poster said she had lived with her husband for 20 years before marriage and they had 3 children under 14. She had been a full-time mother since the children were born. The marriage had lasted a year as her husband had decided it wasn’t working. He told her that as they had only been married for a year and the assets were all in his name, that she would only receive a share of any assets accrued in that year and no spousal maintenance. Several people agreed and said it was a very short marriage and she had no rights to assets her husband had built up prior to the marriage, as unmarried spouses are treated badly by the law. The legal information the non-legally qualified members provided was wrong. If she acted upon it, she could go on to agree a settlement that didn’t meet her future needs. Her legal position was much stronger than she appreciated, or the forum members realised. Sometimes a short marriage isn’t quite what it appears. Also, even if a marriage is short but there are children, it can significantly impact the division of assets.

The Length of a Relationship – Dividing Finances on Divorce

When is a short marriage not a short relationship?

The starting point for sharing assets is that they are shared equally (50:50) as spouses are equal parties in a marriage and should share “the fruits of the matrimonial partnership” equally. When deciding what (if any) financial orders to make, the courts must have regard under section 25 of The Matrimonial Cause Act ‘MCA’ 1973 to “all the circumstances of the case” (the “section 25 factors”). The first consideration is given to the welfare whilst a minor of any child of the family who has not attained the age of eighteen. When assessing “needs” the court will have regard, in particular, to the matters set out in section 25(2).

Amongst the matters to be considered when assessing the needs of each party, are the age of the parties and the length of their marriage. Since 2003 the courts have taken the stance that when a relationship moves seamlessly from cohabitation to marriage, without any major alteration in the way the couple live, that the cohabitation should be taken into consideration. The cohabitation and marriage are usually added together to determine the length of the ‘relationship’. The date for the end of the marriage for this purpose, is the date of separation and not the date of Decree Absolute. Assets accrued during the ‘relationship’ – cohab + marriage (don’t confuse periods where a couple date but don’t live together), will usually be subject to the sharing principle. When the court considers all the S25 factors and all the circumstances of the case, it may conclude that one parties’ capital or income needs are greater. Perhaps their earning capacity is significantly less, and they would not be able to obtain a mortgage, or they have a disability or are caring for a disabled child. Each case will turn on its facts.

Accept legal advice with caution

Online forums can be useful. People can see that they aren’t alone. However, applying legal information to the facts of a case can be complex and require years of legal training. I often see poor legal advice continually repeated online. An appointment with a solicitor could save someone many thousands of pounds if they have received inaccurate legal advice from friends or acquaintances. They can advise you about what may be in your best interests. There’s also plenty of free good quality legal information available online and we have listed some resources below. Attending mediation is a good way to avoid any hidden pitfalls and to ensure you receive accurate legal information. The mediator is impartial but does provide legal information throughout the process. They also alert you to any hidden pitfalls such as a tax liability or an issue with a course of action you intend to adopt. They signpost you to experts that can deal with these issues and often save you considerable sums of money in the long-term.

A List of Free and Accurate Legal Information Resources

Citizens Advice Bureau.

The Government Website: Money and property when a relationship ends

Resolution: Splitting up – Money and home

Money Advice Service – Divorce and separation

Sorting Out Separation – Helping you deal with relationship break-down

Gingerbread: Single Parents – Money after separation

Family Mediation Council – why choose mediation?/

ITV This Morning – Divorce/ separation helplines and links

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

 

A Safe Place to Talk? – 2019

Has talking to each other become impossible? Are the things you’ve got to sort out too difficult? Does it feel as if there’s a brick wall between you that you can’t bring down?

Mediation offers a safe, neutral environment in which you can tackle your impossible problems. The kids. The money. Where you are each going to live. The mediator structures your conversation, sets ground rules so that no-one feels put down by the other one, makes sure you each say what is on your mind, and – critically – makes sure the other person has heard and understood it.

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Focus mediators are trained and practised in addressing any power imbalances. They are completely neutral: they don’t take sides. Most importantly, they are non-judgemental. Nothing shocks them. The mediator keeps you focussed on the plans you need to make for your future, rather than dwelling on the past. She uses her wealth of experience to help you both knock down that wall and build a future.

However, this ideal scenario can be knocked for six if a couple comes to mediation intent on playing out their battles in front of an audience. Mediators can help people for whom talking has become difficult, but they will find it nigh-on impossible to help people who insist on dominating the process, no matter how many times the mediator repeats the ground rules of ‘no shouting, no interrupting, no threatening, no undermining’. Mediation can only help those who want it to work and are willing to set aside their old habits, under the mediator’s guidance. The mediator has a right to end the mediation if she feels the process is being abused.

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

Children and Court Orders Both Age!

Parents attending mediation may already have a Child Arrangements Order. This doesn’t surprise mediators. One or both may believe the existing court order is out of date. That’s a problem with child arrangements orders; they can become less relevant as the child grows older and their needs change. For example, if an order provides a toddler will spend 9am – 4pm with a parent every Wednesday, that’s fine until the child begins school. If the child starts school at 9am and finishes at 3.15pm, and the parents can’t amend and update the arrangement by agreement, then there’s a problem. Litigation is expensive and time consuming – plus it’s impractical to return to court every time an arrangement needs to be altered.

Focus Mediation Blog 25042019

Parental Conflict

When parents are in conflict, one may feel the only option is to apply to court for an order. Sometimes this is a necessary step – it depends on the individual circumstances of each case. However, a court order alone won’t improve parental communication. Court proceedings also often increase conflict as they are adversarial in nature. Some parents tell me they don’t need to communicate and it’s best they don’t. Sometimes parallel parenting, (parallel parenting is when separated parents co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner), is best for a short amount of time. However, research tells us that it’s not parental separation that causes children the greatest emotional distress; it’s prolonged parental conflict. This doesn’t just include shouting or negative conversations; children also find it very upsetting when parents ignore each other and don’t communicate at all. It can make them insecure, different from their friends and most children dislike passing messages between parents.

Our involvement with our children doesn’t end when they reach 18. Separate birthday parties might work at 7 or 8 years of age, but an 18-year-old will probably want one party with both parents present. They may also go on to graduate, possibly marry and have children… How will the events be managed? Will the adult child be forced to choose which parent can attend?

You Never Have To See Your Ex Again

If we split with an ex and don’t have children, we never have to see them again; or at least we can cross the street if we do! Co-parents share an unbreakable bond. To their child, a mum and dad will both always be family. Family mediation can enable parents to move forward and focus on the future and not the past that can’t be changed. I’m often told that it won’t work as he/she won’t listen and won’t change. I reply that if they are right, they can later tell me that they told me so. However, mediation has a proven track record and what is there to lose apart from the conflict? There’s no magic involved. The mediator is trained to improve parental communication. The parents work hard between sessions and return to discuss what worked and what didn’t. Arrangements are made that are child focused, clear and practical. Some parents later return to amend arrangements if they struggle and that’s fine. However, they often leave equipped to deal with differences of opinions, without the need for third party or court intervention.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

Divorce – It’s Your Fault, Accept The Blame

Im a Family Mediator and work with separating and divorcing clients. Before that I practised as a Family Solicitor. I have worked closely with many divorcing couples and based on that experience, I welcome Divorce Reform and the removal of blame. However, I am aware that some people fear that it will undermine the institution of marriage and make divorce too easy.

the blame game focus mediation blog

Few take the decision to divorce lightly; especially parents. Children thrive when parents together provide a loving and happy home. However, its well documented that children suffer more emotional harm from prolonged parental conflict, than from parental separation itself. A high conflict marriage is just as damaging as separated parents in conflict. If parents decide to divorce, (and of course it’s sometimes one person’s decision that the other has no choice but to learn to accept), then a divorce that removes blame, is far more child friendly. When separated parents can communicate well, children feel safe. When parents are in conflict or disconnected, children suffer. When fault is removed from divorce it will create a better foundation for separating spouses to transition to co-parenting.

A Case Study involving blame

Parents currently separated whilst under the same roof, attended mediation. They’d privately reached agreement about child arrangements and attended mediation to discuss how to share their assets. I asked if anyone had commenced divorce proceedings. The husband had applied for a divorce based on his wife’s unreasonable behaviour. He explained it was his decision to end the marriage and she didn’t want to apply for the divorce. As they had only recently separated, the only fact he could rely on was her unreasonable behaviour. The husband explained he didn’t feel comfortable about this, as they had each contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. However, he had no choice unless he waited 2 years. She said she wanted to divorce but didn’t want to divorce him or accept the blame. I gave legal information about her options but said she should see a solicitor who could advise her. She felt the most straight forward and cost efficient way to proceed, would be to agree to the divorce, but make it clear in the Acknowledgement of Service that she didn’t accept the particulars of unreasonable behaviour and reserved the right to defend them if they were raised in respect of finances or child arrangements. She felt that was a pragmatic approach, but far from perfect. I confirmed that many respondents struggle with this issue as marriage is complicated and to entirely blame one spouse is hard for that spouse to deal with. However, when we returned for the next session to discuss finances. I could tell something wasn’t right. Clients often feel tense when discussing finances as it’s so important to their future that their housing and income needs are met. However, this felt like something more. I asked the wife if she was ok and she wasn’t. She said she kept reading the divorce application and it made her angrier each time. she said her husband had unilaterally ended the relationship and stopped trying and yet she was being blamed. She felt he had cited petty things that weren’t even true. She said she had a long list of genuine unreasonable behaviour about him and she began to list it. The husband explained that they had argued continuously since she received the application. The wife demanded to know if he had shown anyone the divorce application.

I asked how their children were coping and they said they were struggling. Neither spouse could afford to leave the family home until finances were resolved. Blaming the wife in the divorce application had added to the strained atmosphere in the home. They both agreed it was intolerable to live like this. Of course, they would have suffered if no fault divorce had been available. However, blaming one spouse had added fuel to the fire and had clearly impacted the children. This isnt an isolated example. I could provide many more and I know my colleagues could too.

Let’s trust separating parents and help make a traumatic decision less strained. It’s not about undermining marriage; It’s about supporting their evolving co-parenting relationship and not damaging it.

Author: Sara Stoner, Family Mediator, Broxbourne & Potters Bar

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations: Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk

Kids Easter Activities in Hertfordshire 2019

  • Ware Spy Mission Treasure Trail – ‘Your super spies in training can flex their skills on the Ware Spy Mission Treasure Trail. They’ll have to prove their mettle by cracking codes and working as a team, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for a picnic!’ The Ware Treasure Trail starts at High Street, Ware, and Hertfordshire, SG12 9DJ, England. Full details HERE. Pricing: £6.99 per Trail (not per person).

Kids in Herts one

  • Geocaching – have you tried it? It’s an outdoor treasure hunt game using GPS-enabled devices like mobile phones. Download the app and explore countrywide. It’s fun, free & great exercise.
  • Hertford Museum – Easter Holiday Activities for Children. The show must go on! Tuesday 9th April to Thursday 11th April 10.30 am – 3.30 pm (last entry 3.00 pm). Dive in to the world of show business and explore the current exhibition. Make your own mini theatre stage and actors. Super Heroes! Tuesday 16th – Thursday 18th April 10.30 am – 3.30pm) last entry 3.00 pm. Become a superhero for the day and design your own mask. FREE places available for families on lower incomes. Contact the museum for information.
  • Hertford Yarn Bombers & Hertford Town Council’s annual FREE Easter egg hunt in Hertford town centre is back this Easter. Two separate Easter trails aimed at families and friends. Both trails run from Saturday 30th March until Saturday 27th April. Knitted bunnies will be hiding in shops and other locations around the Town Centre in one of the trails, and in the other will be Easter animals, chicks, characters and eggs – these will be in different shops. To take part, visit Hertford Town and Tourist Information Centre in the Wash opposite Hertford centre, to pick up trail maps. Children can participate in both trails on the same day or separate days, and there is no need to complete the hunts until 27th April. Once they have completed each hunt, collect a free sweet treat from the Town and Tourist Centre.

Kids in Herts two

Call us on 01908 231132 or Email: info@focus-mediation.co.uk for further information or to book a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting (MIAM) (11 Locations; Milton Keynes, Bedford, Broxbourne, Hemel Hempstead, London, Northampton, Oxford, Potters Bar, St Albans, Harrow and Watford).

Read more about family mediation at:  www.focus-mediation.co.uk 

 

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