Agreeing how and when the children will spend time with each parent can be very difficult. If you previously lived together as a family it was possible for the children or adults to see one another almost whenever they wished simply by walking into a different room. When the adults separate and live apart this is no longer possible and guaranteeing time with the children will be very important to either parent. It will also be very important for the children, who may or may not know what they want, as they are young and also dealing with a new situation. They may also struggle to express how they feel to their parents as they will not wish to upset either one. Very often everyone concerned feels that the situation is unfair. The resident parent may lose time with the children and feel they did nothing to “deserve” that, the non-resident parent may have to accept much more restricted time with their children and feel that they are being “punished” for leaving the family home. The children may feel that their parents no longer being under one roof is a “disaster” and possibly that it was something to do with them. Sadly, the situation itself is not a “fair” one and everybody involved may feel that. Finding something that is “good enough” for both parents as well as the child may be very difficult without assistance. As well as deciding the “normal” arrangements for the children, separated parents will have to consider how to deal with special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, school holidays and holidays abroad. They will have to deal with parenting decisions such as bed time, diet, activities for the children, what school they should go to and medical treatment. Making these decisions in the aftermath of a personal relationship breakdown can be very difficult. If things have been done and said that resulted in one or both parents experiencing negative emotions, it can be very hard to think “normally. Most people are aware that the angry, resentful, hurt version of them doesn’t always think, do and say things the way the happy, calm version of them does. Mediation will provide you with a safe space in which to try and have these discussions. The mediator can interpret and reframe what each person is saying to maximise the chances that the other person will clearly understand what has been said.
This is important because quite often people who are in dispute and have been for some time do not hear or understand each other in the way they would if they were strangers or business colleagues. The mediator can help re-establish this level of communication. While this does not guarantee agreement, it is an essential first step! The mediator can also let you know what options other parents in your situation have tried and help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of those options. This means that you and your ex-partner do not have to “re-invent the wheel” and can benefit from the experiences of the other clients that the mediator has assisted.