Monthly Archives: July 2019

Co-Parenting After A Split

When you split from a partner and children aren’t involved, you don’t have to see each other. This allows time to heal and process the split. Separated parents don’t have that ‘luxury’. Their children need them both and parents need to share information and make child arrangements. That’s difficult when it’s painful to see or speak to your co-parent. Separated parents need to transition from exes to co-parents ASAP. However, conflict and hurt are bubbling under the surface and can easily spill out. We know that its not parents separating that harms children, but prolonged conflict or failure to co-parent.

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So, what’s the answer?
New boundaries need to be established quickly. Respectful communication is a solid start. This might mean talking to each other like ‘polite strangers’ for a while. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk; on the one hand you probably don’t want your ex to come to your door, but on the other it can be very upsetting for children at hand overs if their parents won’t talk to each other or argue. Exes won’t agree on the past and so must agree to disagree so that they don’t become embroiled in circular arguments. Family mediation is a valuable process for parents. The mediator is impartial and won’t take sides. They create a safe space for difficult discussions to take place and they enable both to be heard and to clear up misunderstandings. They can help to establish new boundaries. They encourage parents to focus on the future and not the past. However, when issues keep cropping up and won’t go away, they will enable them to try and find closure.

Separated parents with good relationships
When I speak to parents who have good co-parenting relationships and ask how they have managed to remain amicable, they usually tell me it wasn’t always that way and it took time and considerable effort. They both needed time to grieve for the loss of the family unit and to adjust to the changes that often lead to financial constraints. Trust must be built and acts as the foundation stones for a strong co-parenting relationship. It can be helpful to think about the future. What will your children thank you for doing to build a strong co-parenting relationship? Remember that parenting doesn’t end at 18. There will be special events such as graduations, birthdays and weddings to attend
together. What can you do now to ensure your children don’t have to be anxious about their parents being in the same room?

Co-Parenting Apps can be a very useful and create a safe space to co-parent. You can share info about the children, a calendar and deal with parenting expenses. Many are court approved. It’s a resource that can enable you to communicate in a way that feels helpful and unobtrusive. It is clearly child focused and helps ensure discussions remain about the children and not past issues from your relationship. Some popular apps include www.ourfamilywizard.co.uk and www.2houses.com . Shop around and find an app that best suits your family.

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

Your Mediation Questions Answered – Focus Mediation

I’m nervous about my Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting ‘MIAM’.

It’s normal to feel nervous but it’s a relaxed meeting and the mediator will do their best to put you at ease. It’s an opportunity for you both to meet and establish a rapport. The mediator will ask you for background information and about your level of communication with your spouse. They will carry safety checks to ensure mediation will be safe inside and outside the room. They will explore with you the issues you want to resolve. They will explain how mediation works and outline other methods of resolving the dispute. If you have had a sole meeting, they can then contact your spouse and invite them to attend their own meeting. Many clients worry their spouse won’t agree to attend. However, the mediator will explain why mediation has a proven track record and most spouses agree to attend.  

Sometimes the MIAM is held jointly with both parties attending. If that’s the case, then the mediator will spend time with each of you in private before speaking to you both together. Feedback from clients is usually that the meeting is very helpful and provides clarity about how to move forward.

Focus Mediation - Your mediation Questions Answered

My ex is ‘taking me to mediation’ do I have to attend?

Nobody can ‘take someone to mediation’. It’s voluntary and you can’t be compelled to attend. It’s not the same as being ‘taken to court’ where you must attend to avoid detrimental consequences. If you don’t wish to attend, you won’t be judged harshly. However, only in very limited circumstances (usually where recent domestic abuse can be proven) can you make an application to court for divorce finances or child arrangements without first attending a MIAM. There’s no requirement to mediate thereafter and the mediator can issue a form for court to say you have attended the meeting. However, many clients who intend to apply straight to court, decide to mediate after attending a MIAM. 

There’s a misconception that mediation is only for amicable couples who need assistance in settling finances or child arrangements. We often see couples who have very poor communication. Mediators facilitate the difficult conversations that need to take place so issues can be resolved. It’s conducted in a safe space with an experienced and impartial mediator. The mediator manages the process but all the decisions rest with the parties.

My wife has seen a mediator but I don’t want to see someone she has chosen; I’m worried she will have told them awful things about me.

As an experienced mediator there’s very little I haven’t heard from spouses. In fact, I think I can’t be shocked after working in Family Law for so long. Mediators are trained to be impartial and do not take sides. They also don’t make any decisions about your future – they only manage the mediation process. If the first party has painted a very poor picture of the other, the mediator is fully capable of putting that information to one side and hearing from the second party with a completely open mind. Mediators know that our past experiences can heavily influence how we perceive situations. Each party has their own perception and their perception is their reality. Sometimes perceptions aren’t based on the whole picture. When communication is poor, spouses will often draw conclusions and fill in the blanks. In mediation they have conversations that can clear up misunderstandings and assumptions. Sometimes they realise they share similar fears and concerns and that they agree on more than they imagined. The mediator constantly checks that the process is fair and balanced and both spouses feel heard. Fairness goes hand in hand with impartiality. 

Always check the mediator is accredited with the Family Mediation Council. This ensures they are highly qualified and have attained the ‘gold standard’ of family mediation. They will adhere to the FMC rules about professional conduct and standards.

What’s the point of going to mediation? I need a court order or my ex won’t stick to child arrangements.

We know that people are far more likely to stick to arrangements that they have helped make. In mediation it’s possible to create a Co-Parenting Plan. The plan can deal with how often the children will spend time with each parent, what happens during school holidays, what big decisions must be made together and even child maintenance. In fact, it can include anything you want. Once clients sign off their co-parenting plan, many decide not to proceed with a court order. However, if you think a court order will assist, it’s possible to apply to the court for a consent order. The co-parenting plan is sent to the court and you ask the judge to turn it into an order. There’s a no order presumption in children’s cases which means the court won’t make orders unless they believe it’s in the best interests of a child. However, when couples have taken the time to attend mediation and ask for their co-parenting plan to be turned into a consent order, the court will usually agree to do so.

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

How to Move Forward From Divorce Pain

  • Divorce is a huge trauma. Accept that it’s ok to be hurt and angry and that it will take time to heal. Talk, talk, talk. Confide in your friends and family and especially those who are good listeners.

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  • Don’t get bitter. There comes a point when it can be unhealthy to continuously rehash old ground. The past can’t be changed, and you probably won’t agree on it. Pour your heart out but then decide you won’t be defined by a past you can’t change. Take positives steps to keep mentally and physically healthy. Exercise – even if that just means walking the dog. Eat well and don’t drink too much – alcohol is a depressant. 
  • Resolve finances outside court. Many couples feel they must go to court as they can’t have the difficult conversations they need to resolve finances. Mediation is a safe space to have difficult discussions you can’t manage alone. The mediator has plenty of experience and will guide you through a tried and tested process. You can’t move forward until marital assets are divided. A court battle creates more conflict and uncertainty, as well as a huge legal bill. Mediation is quick, affordable and works. 
  • Child arrangements.  Remember that divorce ends your marriage and not your role as co-parents. Your children need you to find a way to be civil to one another. When parents communicate well, children feel safe. Remember that children have a right to spend time with each parent so their relationship can flourish. Don’t punish children for the actions of your spouse. A bad spouse can still be a good parent. They may not parent how you would like, but that doesn’t make it wrong. They may not have spent enough time in the past with the children, but divorce can be a wakeup call. Think about the future – do you both want to be invited to their weddings and graduations? What can you both do now to ensure that happens? 
  • There’s no shame in seeing a therapist or GP if you are struggling to cope. I see a therapist regularly and it helps me to organise my thoughts and reflect on how I want to move forward. Therapy is especially helpful when you are dealing with a trauma like divorce. Therapists are excellent listeners and you can off-load without any judgment. 
  • This too shall pass. The pain won’t always feel so intense. Its natural to grieve for the relationship and the loss of your shared future and family unit. The grief process on average takes 2 years. Feeling angry, hurt, despondent, frustrated and overwhelmed? Your feelings are normal and stages you need to experience to reach acceptance. Be patient with yourself and kind!

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

 

 

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