After 15 years of marriage, followed by one year of separation, Claire and Jason attended mediation in an attempt to resolve their childcare issues. Since leaving the family home, Jason had had almost no contact with their two children, Harry, 11, and Amber, 8. He desperately wanted to be a part of their lives once more, but the separation process had become so bitter and conflicted that he could no longer communicate with Claire.
Being unable to discuss matters of their own accord, Claire and Jason agreed to try mediation. At the first meeting they began by sharing their concerns. Jason believed that Claire was cutting him out of their children’s lives, and was doing so in order to hurt him. As a result he felt upset and powerless, and was very anxious to re-establish contact with them. On the other hand Claire felt that Jason, in leaving the family, had abandoned his children. She was also worried they would be distressed by Jason’s new partner, and did not want them forming a relationship with her.
After expressing their fears, the mediator helped Claire and Jason put aside their personal pain and anger and instead focused the attention on what would be best for the children. In doing so, they realised that they both had a common cause – namely, the happiness and well-being of their children. This shared ambition gave them a strong foundation to work from, and together they began to consider how to reduce the anguish Harry and Amber were going through.
Consequently Claire realised that just because her relationship with Jason had broken down, did not mean that her children should be denied a father. She agreed that he should have contact with them and be involved in everyday decisions. Jason also appreciated for the first time why Claire was nervous about his new girlfriend, as she did not want Harry and Amber to become attached, only for this relationship to collapse in the near future. He agreed to be sensitive about the introduction of his partner, and would only do so when he and Claire felt the time was right.
With these broad brushstrokes in place, the mediator gave Claire and Jason a parenting plan to prepare for the next meeting. At the following session this was discussed in greater depth, and the mediator set out the various options for contact arrangements, taking into account their working routine and the children’s activities. Soon enough a comprehensive arrangement had been devised. Their plan gave them both time with Harry and Amber during the week and at weekends, and also clarified how holidays and special days would be shared.
By the end of the meeting even the finer details had been agreed upon, such as how the children would be transported to and from each parent’s house and how Harry and Amber would be allowed to contact Jason. Afterwards the mediator recorded these proposals in a Memorandum of Understanding, which Jason and Claire took to their separate solicitors. Once legal advice had been sought and both parties were happy, the document was turned into a legally binding contact order.
Within a matter of months, Jason and Claire were able to settle those childcare issues that had remained unresolved for over a year. Both were surprised that only two meetings were needed, and were also shocked at how easily decisions had been reached. Mediation had allowed a line of communication to be rebuilt between them, ensuring they were able to work together to look after the best interests of their children. This had a positive impact upon all the family, particularly upon Harry and Amber, who were able to adjust to the new set-up happy in the knowledge that they had the love and support of both their parents.