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A ray of sunshine – how to move forward after divorce

By Marcia Mediation

Your finances are divided, your assets have been sorted and joint decisions that everyone is satisfied with have been made. This time can be tough but instead, it should be taken to congratulate yourself on the achievements you have made in resolving your issues and getting through such a difficult experience.

Aside from helping to reduce the cost, complexity and time taken by divorce proceedings, in the best outcomes mediation can help to restore communication and even to help you appreciate each other’s experience and understanding of past events.

Co-parenting after divorce
One of the best ways to co-parent after divorce is to continue to let your child’s voice be heard on issues that directly affect them – and even on broader issues that impact on the whole family.

Many young people can feel torn apart by divorce, and especially if both parents move out of the former family home due to financial concerns or bad memories of the place, this can leave children trying to settle into two new homes at once.

You can help them to do this by making sure both locations are ‘home’ to them – not that one parent is home while the other is just somewhere they visit once a week.

Give your child responsibility over what belongings and clothing they keep in each location, and don’t insist that everything they take with them for a visit comes back from the same trip.

Obviously there are practical concerns, such as making sure they have enough clothing in each place, but it is empowering to ask them “Can you bring…?” ahead of their next handover, rather than closely policing which clothes are where at all times.

Ultimately, co-parenting at its best puts the child’s welfare first anyway, within the broader context of your household setting, finances and so on.

Re-breaking the ice
Any divorce redefines your relationship with one another, whether you choose to never speak again, or you would prefer to remain on civil or even friendly terms – and this is often influenced in part by any children you might have together.

But because this sense of change is inevitable during a separation, it is also an ideal time to renew the lines of communication so that you can move forwards positively not just during the divorce, but in the years that follow too.

Again, mediators can help you to do this, and however acrimonious things may have been in the recent past, finalising your divorce can draw a line under that and allow you to return to more civility surprisingly quickly.

Acknowledging the good
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the good aspects of a relationship even at a time when you are legally separating from one another – it can help to put things into perspective and focus proceedings on the negotiations that need to be made.

Mediators know that all the involved parties are people with feelings, emotions and hopes for the future, and mediation is the process by which everyone is given the best possible chance for positive change.

In cases where mediators are involved from the start, this can allow the entire divorce to take place quite amicably, without getting into a stalemate situation over an important issue, or even over something trivial where a compromise just cannot be found.

Even if your divorce is already well underway, you can call in a mediator to advise on any impasses, to help you to get back on to the right track and to ensure that when all the negotiating is done, you are able to divorce with dignity still intact.

About Marcia Mediation

Marcia Mediation, based in Greater Manchester, is a child-inclusive family mediation specialist, run by Marcia Lister, a qualified family lawyer, mediator and qualified child consultant. Marcia aims to maintain dignity throughout divorce or separation, having worked as a mediator since 2004, on divorce, civil partnership and separation cases. If you would like any further information on how mediation could benefit you throughout your separation or divorce please visit: https://marciamediation.co.uk/

National Family Mediation Week 21- 25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Mediation

For separating couples, mediation is an opportunity for both of you to talk face to face, to resolve together all the issues arising from your separation or divorce, such as arrangements for children, money and housing, with the help of only a mediator in the room with both of you.

Mediation is not:

  • counselling
  • about reconciliation
  • a chance to rehearse past arguments, ‘point score’ or place blame.

Benefits of mediation

If it is right for you, mediation can:

  • reduce conflict and improve communication
  • create better family relationships
  • reduce legal costs and avoid court battles
  • create self-determined practical solutions
  • recognise emotional needs and address losses, hopes, risks, needs and fears
  • redress power imbalances
  • embrace legal support.

Mediation may be right for you if you want to:

  • face your apprehension and talk to your ex face to face in a safe space with a mediator present
  • actively engage and be heard but without any reprisals
  • take charge of your own decisions and be empowered to change
  • see if it is possible to have a better relationship with your ex, and learn how to co-parent with your children.

Mediation will help you see if you can decide jointly with your ex what is best for your children, your finances and your family.

You need to be prepared to listen to your ex and to the mediator, to forgo blame, and to focus on the future.

The process will allow you to protect your legal rights and get legal advice. You will not be forced into any decisions.

The process

The mediator will explain what to expect from the process and how much it will cost. They can set out a flexible time frame that suits you both.

During the process the mediator will help you by:

  • identifying the issues that need to be resolved and helping you consider options
  • working through a parenting plan
  • seeing the children if needed
  • helping you gather all the relevant financial information and other paperwork, and identifying any gaps
  • keeping your lawyers informed and providing them with the information you have produced
  • reality testing the proposals you have made
  • bridging any gaps during negotiation
  • recording the outcome in the relevant mediation documents.

Where there is higher than usual conflict the mediator can suggest:

  • co-mediation with another mediator working together
  • solicitor supported mediation
  • shuttle mediation if you and your ex are not able to talk face to face.

Your solicitor can help you to arrange mediation.

Day 5 A ray of sunshine – what a relief

By Philippa Johnson, Chair of the FMA

The goal of family mediation is helping families to find fair solutions that make the best of the situation the family is in. Which begs the question, what is a fair solution?

A fair solution is one that everyone in the family can make work for them.
A fair solution is one that everyone in the family will accept and will make a real commitment to.
A fair solution is one that has taken everyone’s concerns into account.
A fair solution is one that the courts and, if you have them, lawyers, will understand is one that meets the family’s needs.
A fair solution is one that will allow everyone in the family to get on with their lives.

So what will help you to find a fair solution?

  • Ask questions about and reflect on what the other person is feeling and thinking – ask them what they think about the situation and really listen to the answers. Be kind, don’t blame the other person; try to think about conversations that have gone well in the past and use strategies that have worked before.
  • Don’t fix yourself into a ‘position’, saying “I won’t” or “I will”. Instead find out what the other person’s needs are and explain what your needs are – when we talk about needs we mean what negotiators describe as ‘interests’, in other words the reasons behind your “position”.
  • Manage your emotions. That doesn’t mean ignoring them; it can really help to explain that you have strong emotions. It does mean working out how to express those emotions in a way that doesn’t end the conversation or cause such hurt that the other person won’t listen to you. It also means accepting that the other person will also have strong emotions.
  • Acknowledge what the other person is saying and feeling. It is especially important to say thank you when someone offers you something you have been saying you wanted – don’t say “thank you, but”. Just say “thank you”. If there has to be a “but” save it until later. Recognise the things that the other person is contributing and has contributed to the family and let them know that you have noticed them. If you show them that you have seen things from their perspective, they are much more likely to see things from yours.
  • Make your points in a positive not a negative way. If you blame and criticise the other person they will stop listening – that is simply human nature. Suggest changes rather than explaining what is wrong. If you don’t like a suggestion that has been made, instead of rejecting it, explain what adaptation you think would work. If you can, find solutions that involve building on the other person’s suggestion, instead of building on your own. Try to offer a number of different solutions; if none of them work for the other person, ask them which one they thought was best and try to adapt that in a creative way.
  • Try to identify some independent standards for what is sensible, fair and reasonable – one of the best independent standards is whether or not the solution is reciprocal – would you accept the solution you are suggesting if you were the other person? Try to let go of the idea that you have a monopoly on good sense, fairness and reason. Accept responsibility for your own feelings and your own part in the disagreement – no-one is right all the time. Try not to use language that suggests that you understand your family situation or what the children feel and that the other person does not.
  • If the conversation is not going well, try not to react. Anything which pushes you back into the old patterns of conversation will probably get in the way of finding a fair solution. Instead ask what you can do to make things better.

Of course a fair solution probably isn’t the same as the solution you wanted when you were thinking about what was best for you, and it isn’t necessarily the same as the solution that you thought was best for the children. A fair solution doesn’t necessarily leave either of you feeling overjoyed. Mediation sometimes helps couples find a good solution that neither of them had thought of before but often finding a fair solution requires compromise. Compromise is rarely easy and it can leave both people a bit dissatisfied with the outcome. No-one feels thrilled about compromising – it just doesn’t sound like fun. But when the alternative is to drift around in the fog, waiting for someone else to make the first move, that’s even less like fun.

So why do we think the end of the mediation will feel like a ray of sunshine? Because finding a solution, even if it is a compromise solution, will take you out of the crisis of separation and divorce and let you start living the rest of your life. You will know that you looked at all the options and worked together to find one that all of you could live with. You will feel relieved and happy, knowing that you sorted this out between yourselves. You will be justifiably proud of the hard work you put into sorting out your family’s problems in a fair way. And that will definitely feel like a ray of sunshine.

National Family Mediation Week 21-25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Importance of Sleep in Divorce and Life

Written by Wendi Schuller

Sleep is crucial in divorce to ensure that information is retained and appropriate decisions are made that can affect the rest of one’s life.  Both the Slow Wave sleep of Delta and REM are required for optimal processing of material taken in and new skills that are learned. There are three parts to memory formation and these are Acquisition where new material is obtained, and Consolidation when memory is stabilized in the brain. During sleep the neural connections that form memory are strengthened and this stage is called Recall. The hippocampus is the region of the brain that goes over the events of the day. When there is poor quality of sleep, Researchers at University of Berkeley found that memories do not travel from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex, where long-term information and memories are stored. Not retaining information can impact divorce hearings or cause complications post-divorce if a client feels that he never received important facts.

In Delta sleep, the growth hormone is released and is the stage that consolidates new memories and learning. Cell growth and repair of cellular damage occurs in Slow Wave sleep. Too little Slow Wave Sleep can cause weight gain, increases the risk of pre-diabetes, and affects the functioning of the immune system. Not having enough deep sleep can affect a divorcing person’s health.

In the REM stage of sleep, it is as if a secretary is going through memory files and sending less important ones to the archives. New research indicates that REM increases activity in the right hemisphere of the brain which is linked to creativity. Some inventors, such as Thomas Edison, have gotten ideas and answers in their dreams.

Insomnia decreases the ability to focus and take in facts. Various studies indicate poor quality of sleep hinders being able to recall facts. Irritability and poor judgement can occur when a person is sleep deprived. If a person is getting out of control, it may not be entirely due to stress, but also because of lack of sleep. Here are some tips to try:

Bright light can hinder the release of melatonin, so do not use the computer for at least one half hour before bedtime. Exercise earlier in the day and develop a bedtime routine to wind down and relax. Listening to a relaxation CD can help. Sleep in a cool, dark room and recharge cell phones and other devices in another room. Write in a journal or jot down future tasks on a to-do-list to deal with a later time.

Family Mediation Week 21-25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Find the light again with a clear action plan

By Marcia Mediation

Day Four of Family Mediation Week this year is focuses around the idea of parting clouds which show the way to move on with your life and overcome the hardships of divorce and separation.

The mediation process itself offers some structure to divorce and a clearly maps out the pathway so for many families this does significantly lift the pressure on families. At this stage in the process, every individual involved should feel as though they have been heard and listened to which means assets should be divided to a level of satisfaction for everyone involved and there should be a level of clarity about how the separation will work in the future.

How mediation can help you to find clarity in your separation –
All too often a separation can lead to a feeling of stalemate, where neither party wants to compromise at all for fear of admitting guilt, or where emotions simply run too high to see the situation from the other party’s point of view.

This is where mediation can be particularly helpful, offering a middle ground and a genuinely independent point of view, and in the worst cases shuttle mediation can be used to facilitate communication between parties who cannot bear to be in the same room.

But aside from helping to reduce the cost, complexity and time taken by divorce proceedings, in the best outcomes mediation can help to restore communication and even to help you appreciate each other’s experience and understanding of past events.

Ensuring your children are happy with the arrangement going forward –
It’s important to realise that involving children in divorce and other family law cases means more than just asking them what they want. Mediators can also make sure that children receive continual updates about the proceedings, without legal jargon, so that they do not feel like they have been shut out.

But even after separation, mediators can continue to provide much-needed support as parents adjust to new residency arrangements and shared responsibility rather than round-the-clock co-parenting. Your responsibilities as a parent do not end with divorce, and while they do not change fundamentally either, the practicalities of being there for your child can be very different after separation.

Mediation is there for both parties and for your children too, without judgment or partisanship, but always for the mediator to share with you their expertise and experience, to calm the waters, and crucially to resolve any future disputes as they arise, before they can cause undue trauma to your child.

About Marcia

A pioneer for mediation since commencing legal practice as a family solicitor some seventeen years ago Marcia has worked exclusively as an independent mediator since 2004, focussing initially on family mediation, and latterly on workplace mediation. Marcia’s accreditations include Family Mediation and she is a qualified child consultant practitioner. Her associations include the Professional Mediators Association and Resolution. Marcia is also a Resolution qualified Professional Practice Consultant (PPC). If you would like to resolve your separation issues through mediation please visit: marciamediation.co.uk

 National Family Mediation Week 21-25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Day 4 The clouds are parting – starting to see a way through

By Philippa Johnson, Chair of the FMA

One of the most difficult things about divorce and separation is all the uncertainty and confusion. Mediation can help you work out what your options are. Sometimes none of the options will be very good ones from your point of view; sadly, life sometimes brings difficult times and unhappy choices. However, once you know what your real choices are you can start to take control back in your life and decide on the choice that seems to be the best one for your family.

How does the mediation process help?

Mediation is a sort of a structured conversation, in which a professional helps the people who are mediating to discuss difficult things in a safe space. A qualified mediator will keep the discussion focused on the important issues and will encourage you both to think about the future rather than the past. In family mediation much more than in other kinds of mediation the people mediating have probably had a great many difficult conversations over the years, especially recently and you may be used to conversations that make things worse rather than better. If that is true, it can be difficult to hear the other person or to feel that you have been heard. The mediator is there to help you have a very different conversation. It often helps to set your own ground rules for the conversation – what is or isn’t going to help both of you to talk to one another in a positive way.

The first thing to do is to identify the issues – in other words you need to set an agenda. To make best use of your time with the mediator it really helps to go to your first mediation knowing what is important to you. Try to keep an open mind about what the practical solution might look like but identify the questions that you believe need answering. These will be unique to your family, but might include, for example: “how can we protect our children from all the adult stuff?”, “where will we both live”?, “how am I going to pay the bills?”

You will both have an opportunity to explain what you think the important issues are. It is very important that you both listen carefully to what the other person is saying. In particular you both need to explain to the other person what things are making you anxious about the future – what you are most frightened of happening – and to identify anything that you believe will improve the situation for both of you. Try to think about what you would believe would be a good outcome for the family at some time in the future – in six months’ time or a year’s time or in two years’ time. Often, people have remarkably similar ideas about what a good outcome would look like in the future. In all your discussions with your ex partner keep that good outcome in mind as a goal and try not to do anything that will make that good outcome less likely. You may have important questions – the mediator can’t give you advice about your individual situation but they can give you information about the way the courts approach divorce and separation and suggest places you can go to find out more. They are there to help you to make decisions, although not to make decisions for you. If you want to understand more about the legal background to divorce, have a look at https://www.advicenow.org.uk/tags/divorce which has a collection of useful guides.

If you have financial issues to discuss, you will need to provide each other with the important financial information so that you can understand what your real financial choices are – you can decide between yourselves that something isn’t important to you as a family, but you will need to show each other all the information you have about your income, your property, your savings, investments and pensions and any loans or debts. You can find some useful free advice on how to do this, including a budget planner at https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/how-to-sort-out-your-finances-on-divorce-or-dissolution. You will also need to understand what you spend your money on so that you can work out a budget going forward. The mediator will record all the information provided in a document, which you will sign once it is ready and which both of you can use outside the mediation, including in court.

If you have children arrangements to discuss, you will need to gather together the important information that impacts on them so that you can understand what your real choices are. If you are feeling overwhelmed, have a look at https://www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk/children-parenting/parenting-arrangements-children/ who will give you some ideas about what usually happens. There is an expectation that children aged 10 and above will have an opportunity to talk to the mediators about what they think is important, unless there is a special reason not to send them an invitation. Their views can then be fed into your discussions – you are still the parents and it is your responsibility to make decisions, but knowing what your children think and feel about their situation is likely to help you to make better decisions.

The next stage involves exploring the options that are in practice open to you – these will depend very much on your personal circumstances and what is important to your family. Both of you can and should say how you feel about these options but you will probably both find it less frustrating if you have a full and honest conversation about each option, including the ones that you don’t like very much. Make sure you think about all of the practical options rather than rejecting or accepting an option quickly. Talking through the options will often mean going away and finding something out. Sometimes talking through the options will involve inviting someone else into the mediation room, an expert or an adviser. Sometimes talking things through will help you both transform an option from one that really doesn’t work for one person to one that works for both of you, by changing one element. Sometimes, understanding why someone doesn’t like a particular option helps the other person to come up with a different solution that works better. A solution will never be forced on you so please don’t worry that just discussing an option leaves you vulnerable.

Working your way through to a clear understanding of your options isn’t easy but there is a clear pathway and once you have started down it, each step will take closer to your goal.

National Family Mediation Week 21-25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Reflections on my work with separated parents

By Leigh Moriarty, The Conflict Clinic

A little less than a year ago, myself and my colleague Ashley Palmer published the UK’s first ever Handover Book which is a communication tool for separated parents. The book was conceived in the context of our relationship with many separated families who were searching for a resource that enabled them to reduce parental conflict, improve communication and create a more robust co-parenting relationship post separation.

This article aims to provide an explanation of why the book was created in the context of our many years’ experience of working therapeutically with children and families.

Since it’s delivery to the world of family law, the book has been gaining momentum both in the UK and Australia. It is fast being recognised as an invaluable tool in the context of Family Mediation, Court ordered parenting programmes and across the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

In the UK, the Handover Book is now court ordered for separated parents involved in court proceedings and is recommended by Court Consultants in their Section 7 reports.

As a Systemic Family Psychotherapist, Mediator and consultant for Collaborative Law, I have for many years immersed myself in the world of working with families presenting with a myriad of difficulties and dilemmas in many contexts. My curiosity has grown over time in relation to how best to support clients through the transition of separation and divorce. How to assist parents with being able to navigate their own journeys of separating whilst centralizing the emotional and physical needs of their children.

Conflict is a normal and inevitable part of family life. However, the inability to resolve conflict and move forward in a constructive way can have a negative impact on parents and children’s psychological well-being both in the short term and over time. Wittgenstein (1958) suggests that if mediation is deemed a success then parties involved know how to ‘go on’.

Reflecting on my work with separated parent’s positions me to consider some of the common dilemmas presented in the context of my work.

Entrenched stories of conflict, blame and hostility towards one another. Winslade and Monk (2000) suggest that for those of us working with separated parents our goal is to contribute to building a story of a relationship that is incompatible with the continuing dominance of the conflict and that we need to open the space for people to make discursive shifts.

When this can be achieved, we create new future possibilities for enabling parents to be able to mentalize about their child’s emotional fragility and to consider what needs to be different in relation to facilitating a smooth transition between homes post-separation.

 

Whilst consulting with children in the context of this work, I have heard all too often a dominant narrative of experience which is punctuated by episodes in which a child feels painfully positioned between waring parents. A sense of divided loyalty, blame and a responsibility for passing and filtering information from one parent to another. In its extreme these children will resist contact with one parent and align themselves with the other because the turmoil is too great to bear. Sadly, the unresolved parental conflict will often lead to long and protracted court proceedings and the presentation of emotional difficulties for the child in the future.

Research over the last decade has provided deeper insight into not only the outcomes for children of exposure to destructive conflict but also how children are affected and why some children appear more vulnerable or resilient than others. Research has also focussed on how family relationship patterns are passed from one generation to the next. One explanation is that conflict between parents disturbs other relationships within the family such as between a parent and child. (Grych and Fincham, 2001). There is also evidence to suggest that a family environment marked by destructive conflict affects normal developmental processes, such as brain development, which in turn affect children’s emotional, behavioural and social development. Goozen et al, 2007)

An integral part of my work with separated parents is to support parents to understand the importance of their own emotional regulation in order that they hold in mind the positive effect that this will have on their child’s emotional development by increasing their child’s sense of security and belonging. In turn, this will enable them to accept and trust in the attachment relationship.

A child transitioning between both homes may experience a parent presenting as highly anxious before and after contact with the other parent because the parents are conflicted and distrustful of one another. This may be verbalized or covertly communicated through action. Often, in my experience children of highly conflicted separated parents are highly attuned to the subtle messages of concern that parents display.

When a child feels unable to talk about their experience of contact in either home this can also exacerbate parental anxiety. A vital component to children feeling able to have the emotional permission to have a close and loving relationship with both parents is their ability to express their feelings and emotions without fear of upsetting a parent or contributing to the already conflicted parental relationship. This process is often referred to as emotional literacy which is the ability to recognise, understand, manage and appropriately express emotions. Children who are able to do this are often more able to initiate a helpful response from others and develop strategies for coping and building resilience.

In my experience, it becomes essential for children of separated parents to be able to develop these skills. Sometimes as part of the therapeutic work this is about supporting and developing one or both parent’s ability to do this with their child. If a child is only able to achieve this with one parent they will feel the need to ‘hold it together’ for the duration of the contact with that parent but on returning to the other parent whereby they feel emotionally contained their presentation is often one of ‘emotional dysregulation’ which in turn raises that parents anxiety about their time in the care of the other parent.

Arising from our work with separated families, the issues of concern highlighted in this article are common, regardless of the context in which parents are engaging in a service to resolve issues arising from the separation. Whether that be mediation, collaborative law, parenting programmes or therapy. What appeared to be evident was that armed with a plethora of information about the need to develop a workable co-parenting relationship which centralized the needs of the children, parents were often unsure as to how to implement this approach.

The Handover Book creates the opportunity for children to see their parents working co-operatively and diminishes children feeling a sense of divided loyalty. Furthermore, it increases their ability to develop their emotional permission to have a loving relationship with both parents.

The book which is passed from one parent to another aims to reduce conflict and improve communication post-separation.

It is designed for separated parents but it will also be a fantastic resource for any professional working with separated parents who believe in a constructive and non-confrontational approach to Family Law. It centralizes the practical and emotional needs of the child and the completion of the book creates the development of a robust co-parenting plan. The book is divided into sections relating to all areas of a child’s life which parents need to be involved in such as contact arrangements, education and health.

Because this is a book which should be shared with all family members, there is also a children’s section in order for their voice to be heard. Through the correct use of the book, children are encouraged to talk positively about their experiences in both homes which in turn will enable them to have the ’emotional permission’ to have a positive relationship with both parents. We have also included some therapeutic tools for parents in order to support and encourage them to talk to their children about how they are feeling.

In the UK, a number of family law professionals have undergone training to deliver Handover Book sessions for parents wanting to get the most out of the book. We are in the process of developing an on-line training programme for our colleagues in Australia in order to equip them with the skills needed for delivering these sessions with parents alongside FDRS already currently offered.

The aim of the Handover Book session is for an experienced practitioner to guide parents through the process of implementing The Handover Book which is a working tool which if used correctly will improve parental communication, reduce conflict and create a robust co-parenting relationship post-separation.

At the Handover Book session, the practitioner will navigate parents through each section of the book in relation to what information needs to be shared as well as the practicalities of using the book so that their children can transition from one home to the other as smoothly as possible thus reducing the likelihood of fraught and stressful handovers.

The Handover Book is in its infancy. In light of this, to date research is qualitative. Feedback from professionals working in the arena of Family Law has been extremely positive. For professionals working with parents involved in on-going court proceedings, the book is being used as an evidenced based assessment tool for ascertaining parent’s commitment to working cooperatively in developing a co-parenting relationship. Court ordered parenting programmes are integrating the book as part of the course programme to give parents a workable tool to implement their knowledge gained on the course. When used as part of the mediation process, completion of the book forms the basis for a robust co-parenting plan.

But let’s bring it back to what this book is really about!!

On-going conflict and hostility can have a profound effect on children’s emotional wellbeing and shape the formation of their relationships for years to come. The ability for children to transition smoothly between both homes, talk openly about their experiences to both parents and be confident in the knowledge that having a close and loving relationship with both parents post separation is integral to their development.

Whilst in principle parents understand the importance of shielding their children from conflict and hostility, in reality this can be a struggle. Quite often, parents can be blaming of each other, fearful of losing their relationship with their child or resentful about the breakdown of their relationship. This conflict is played out post separation through the use of destructive communication, exposing the children to explosive handovers or positioning the children to pass information from one parent to another. In its extreme, parents can alienate their children from the other parent exacerbating the child’s sense of divided loyalty and inability to feel that they have the emotional permission to have a close and loving relationship with both parents.

It is our hope that The Handover Book will assist professionals to support separated parents to strengthen their parental alliance and in doing so develop a co-parenting relationship for the future.

For further information and to place an order visit:
www.thehandoverbook.co.uk

Family Mediation Week 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help. 

Pensions Made Simple

‘ Bluesky are a firm of Chartered Financial Planners who have been involved in producing pension sharing reports for nearly 18 years.  One of our missions is to produce reports at are easily understood, where the answer to the instruction(s) isn’t hidden in text and where we can add value to both clients by the provision of case specific financial advice.  At the pension on divorce workshops that we have run for matrimonial lawyers we have been asked for a simple guide to the differences between different types of pensions so have produced a ‘Pensions made Simple’ guide.  It is necessarily brief in order to fit on one page but has been well received as an aid to demystify such a complex area.’

Click here to download the above chart

Family Mediation Week 21-25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

Day 3 The storm will end when the pressure lifts

By Philippa Johnson, Chair of the FMA

If you are divorcing or separating and you have children they will be your main concern – and both of you probably agree on that, whatever else you may disagree about. You may be worried about how your children are going to react when you tell them what is happening; you may be worried about the emotional trauma they will go through during a divorce process; you may be worried about how they are going to manage over the longer term with the realities of having two homes. Whatever your fears for your children, it will help to discuss them with each other – expressing your fears for the future is often the first step to lifting the pressure on your family and finding a way forward together.

You are the experts about your family and your children are uniquely important to you but having that discussion can be much easier if you have it in a safe space with a professional who has seen things that have worked for other families and who knows about the relevant research. Family mediators are specially trained to focus on the needs of the children in the family, and help parents do that together. The family mediator will ask you to keep your child’s needs at the centre of your discussions – they might do this by meeting with your child or by arranging for another mediator to do so; or they might do it by introducing you to the research and by thinking through every proposal from the child’s perspective.

All the research shows that the most damaging aspect of divorce and separation for children is conflict between their parents. Children need to love and respect both their parents; anything that makes that more difficult for them is likely to damage them in some way. The research suggests that children are much less concerned about the specifics of the arrangements made for them and much more concerned about having a relaxed, positive and loving relationship with both parents. Your child needs to know that both parents love her and care enough about her to work together as a team.

Here are some suggestions about how you can work together as co-parents to help give your child the best possible foundation for life as a happy and well-adjusted adult:

Communicate directly with each other and when you do:
Don’t make assumptions, ask genuine questions to find things out; if something is wrong avoid accusations, as these are unlikely to improve the situation; try not to take things personally, but bear in mind that what you say may be taken personally; keep the focus on your child and don’t refer to any of your relationship problems; use positive clear language; never use the children as messengers; briefly acknowledge texts and emails as quickly as possible as a sign of respect but don’t reply until you have had time to think things through calmly

Operate as a team
When a problem comes up try to work out with your co-parent how to approach it; ask each other for and provide each other with help whenever possible; set clear boundaries together and try to be tolerant of the differences between you; if you disagree don’t do so in front of your child

Prioritise your children
Ask yourself if the issue really matters to your child and if it does ask yourself if it will still matter in a week, a month or a year; weigh in the balance the impact of any conflict about this issue on your children; ask yourself if the issue would be resolved with some trust on both sides and also ask yourself whether your child will actually have a problem if things go as badly as you fear; ask yourself if you can offer a compromise on this issue in exchange for a compromise about something that you feel more strongly about; ask yourself every time whether your attitudes and behaviours are helping or making things worse for your child; never ask your children to keep secrets

Arrange for your child to spend as much quality time with both of you as possible
Make straightforward arrangements for your child which both of you and your child are clear about; encourage your child to look forward to their time with their other parent; don’t ask your child to tell you about the other parent’s home or new partner; respond positively when your child tells you something good about their time with the other parent

Respect yourself and your co-parent
Accept that while you can change yourself, you can’t change your co-parent; accept that you are two separate individuals now, connected only through your child; give yourself space and time to deal with your own emotions without involving your child or your co-parent; don’t waste your time focusing on what went wrong, focus instead on how you can improve things in the future; respond positively to suggestions your co-parent makes and think carefully about how to make them work; don’t interfere with your child’s relationship with your co-parent; concentrate on being happy rather than being right

Enjoy the time you have to yourself
Identify some things that you used to enjoy doing; identify some things you have always wanted to do and never had time for; if you do want to spend time getting through work or chores, make sure that you give yourself a treat as well and talk to the children about the treat; use the time to connect with your friends and family more

Never speak negatively about your co-parent
This applies if your children are in the same building and to all written communication – your child may hear you or see it even though you didn’t want them to; even if your child is complaining about your co-parent make sure you stay positive; acknowledge that your personal relationship didn’t work but never describe it as a mistake (which suggests that your child is also a mistake); ideally you will even find something positive to say about your co-parent

Take time with your child – it is now more precious than ever
Focus on the child you are with as much as possible; when your child is with you they need to you to be every sort of parent (fun, caring, firm etc) and that takes effort; find things you can do together that make your child feel important and loved; give your child space to be sad sometimes but let them know you are there for them

This is your chance to show your child that separation and divorce doesn’t have to mean a broken family – your child’s family may look different afterwards but it is still a family, still a happy place to live and still an environment that your child can be proud to call home.

National Family Mediation Week 21- 25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.

How mediation can shelter you from the divorce storm

By Marcia Mediation

For Day Two of Family Mediation Week, the focus is on seeking shelter from the storm through mediation exploring the service a mediator provides and how this could benefit your family, how much mediation costs and what child-inclusive mediation is.

It’s difficult to hear the word divorce and imagine anything positive about the process, however, there is a less stressful, cheaper and more dignified alternative than dragging the whole family through a lengthy court process. That alternative is child-inclusive mediation.

What is mediation? –
Divorce can put a lot of stress on a family. Separating is difficult for both adults and children, but going through the court systems can be far more upsetting for children. Unlike solicitors, mediators act in the interests of all the parties involved and aim to make the experience less distressing for all members of the family.

During the mediation process, mediators aim to bring your divorce or separation case to a mutually agreeable resolution. This gives all parties involved more control by putting the decision making in their hands rather than leaving it to a judge in a court hearing. Mediators will listen to parents and children’s views and opinions on matters such as shared care and the dividends of property and will then try to find a solution that suits everyone involved.

How will I afford mediation? –
Mediation is generally a more cost effective and quicker forum to solve disputes. This reduces legal fees and means mediation takes less time than going to court, which reduces emotional tax too.

By coming to a quicker agreement between parents, this allows lawyers to do their part more effectively, cutting down their costs significantly and again keeping families out of the family courts which further reduces stress and anxiety levels.

What is child-inclusive mediation? –
For many families, keeping children away from the stress of the court system is very important, but children can feel anxious if they are not involved in the process. This is why child-inclusive mediation aims to include children throughout every stage of the process, giving them a say in their own future.

Inclusive child mediation prevents children from feeling powerless about their situation, when many are mature enough to have a say in their future.

Even if the children are not old enough to make a decision in their future, mediation will allow them to feel less ‘left-out’ when it comes to decision making on their behalf and reduces stress on the family as a whole.

While the final decision is always likely to be a compromise, child-inclusive mediation makes sure the child’s voice is heard, so the arrangements made on issues like where the children live and how often they see the other parent are more likely to be satisfying to both parents and to the child too – equipping everyone for a brighter family future, whatever the outcome.

Consider mediation –
Child inclusive mediation is an inclusive process that involves children and ensures their voices are heard. Mediators can meet with children one-on-one to understand their perspective on the situation, especially hearing their preferences in living situations. If you would like to find out more about child-inclusive mediation, click here.

About Marcia

A pioneer for mediation since commencing legal practice as a family solicitor some seventeen years ago Marcia has worked exclusively as an independent mediator since 2004, focussing initially on family mediation, and latterly on workplace mediation. Marcia’s accreditations include Family Mediation and she is a qualified child consultant practitioner. Her associations include the Professional Mediators Association and Resolution. Marcia is also a Resolution qualified Professional Practice Consultant (PPC). If you would like to resolve your separation issues through mediation please visit: marciamediation.co.uk

National Family Mediation Week 21- 25th January 2019, Click here to find out everything you need to know about Family Mediation and how it can help.