Monthly Archives: March 2016

Blame, it’s not your fault, but one day it won’t matter any more . . .

On the grieving cycle following death, loss or divorce, after the first shock and denial, people become angry and blaming, they may get depressed as they gradually detach from the other person and old life. Only then are they ready to move to dialogue and bargaining to sort everything out. Finally they will reach acceptance of the new life and be able to move on.

No one likes to feel guilty, especially if they might have caused the break up of a family. Or partly caused. Or not caused it at all. Or indeed it was totally someone else’s fault, nothing to do with them. So if a spouse has had an affair, they may well argue it was because they were neglected, unloved and it wasn’t their fault the marriage ended. The other spouse may argue the contrary, that they had worked hardest, put up with a lot, but nothing was ever enough and then despite being a really devoted spouse, their nearly ex cheated on them! As for the other man or woman, it is never their fault either, even if they were a close friend of the deserted spouse. The marriage must have been in trouble or the affair would not have happened.

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We – people – need deny responsibility for the chaos and misery flowing from our actions. We want people to like us, we want to believe we are good people. Opinions matter. They affect our sense of identity, of who we are. So we may re interpret the past to justify our actions. Often in the tumultuous grief following separation, couples may make things infinitely worse by demonising each other, which can lead to various other evils:
1. Fighting, arguments, violence and the appointment of a paid champion to ‘win’ in the displaced fury of legal proceedings. This results in wasted money and avoidable emotional and psychological suffering.
2. Damage to children caught in the middle of the break up. This can result in children being cut off from a parent, taking sides, looking after parents, being used as messengers, feeling guilty, falling behind at school and worse.
3. Loss of collateral relationships that may have been hugely important because the people concerned find themselves closely attached to the ‘wrong’ spouse. They feel they are from the wrong tribe, so they have to cut off that relationship. An avoidable bereavement?
4. Worsened economic situation, possibly poorer housing and reduced resources.

Of course there are benefits from divorce – miserable, violent, abusive and destructive relationships are ended. People feel relieved and optimistic about life again. They have hope for the future. It is completely unrealistic and unfair to vilify all divorce. However, what is certainly true is that by denying responsibility for your part in the break up and demonising your ex, you make matters worse than they need be. Also, importantly, the law doesn’t care whose fault it is. It only matters to you. Yes, we still have an anachronistic fault based divorce system and if you don’t want to wait two years from separation to get divorced by consent, you must have a fault based divorce, but nobody but you cares what the divorce petition says. You won’t get punished with less money or less time with any children. There are no adverse practical consequences. Despite all that, it matters to the people in the middle of the break up at the time. It matters a lot. But here’s the thing, when you have detached emotionally from your ex partner, moved on and recovered, it won’t matter to you any more either. Which is what I was saying when I started. Blame – it’s not your fault, but one day it won’t matter any more. . .

Brexit – Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

Brexit. It puts me in mind of that well known 80’s hit by The Clash – “should I stay or should I go now ” and listening to the politicians slogging it out on the radio perhaps there’s a clue in the band’s name.

But whatever we may feel about separating from the EU or not, we need to inform our decision making with appropriate and balanced information, away from the hyperbole and rhetoric of the politicians and away from headline news.

Separating couples need this too.

For years and years the perceived wisdom has been to instruct a solicitor at the first sign of separation, to get someone acting for you, someone on your side, as quickly as possible and while there can be merit in this, it is not the only option.

So what are the options for separating couples? Especially when we know that 84 Courts are closing, legal aid has long since been abolished (for all but a few family cases) and couples have not stopped separating and divorcing. Well there are a number of options and mediation is one of them.

Either a series of mediation sessions held over a period of months, or a day set aside to work through the financial issues. Mediation allows you to fix a date and time convenient to you both in a location you can both reach. It allows confidentiality and control of the issues that you and your partner need to talk through. If you are eligible for legal aid mediation is free for you and if you have to pay, you will have more money left over after mediation than if you’d gone to court, perhaps even enough to afford that holiday on the continent – visa or no.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for women, equalities and family justice has highlighted the need to inform people of the choices beyond court, her stated aim to, “develop a private law system that truly places the user at its heart”. Mediation is one of those choices offering a quick and cost effective way of resolving family disputes.

Perhaps she should be writing this blog? Or contacting Boris’ PR team to spread the word.

Co-Parenting after separation

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

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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.

For more information go to www.focus-mediation.co.uk