By Louise Martin, Head of Family & Family Mediator
I attended a course recently on Child Inclusive Mediation at which a woman in her 20s, now a successful professional working in the city, gave a brief address to the delegates on her experience of her parents’ divorce.
From the perspective of her as a child and her younger siblings, it was a upsetting and uncertain time for them. What was most apparent, was that she felt that no real care and attention was afforded to listen to the children. Her parents favoured an antagonistic attitude to one another, where the children were caught in the middle of the intense escalating hostility. She explained how her experience, and her relationships with her parents, would now be very different had they communicated with the children in an age-appropriate way.
When you consider the comments made in the video, they seem obvious. However, it is so easy to become wrapped up in the fall out from the relationship breakdown. This is not an exercise in patronising parents or telling you how to parent your children. This is a tool, an idea generator, possibly a way to think differently when the challenge of a relationship breakdown arises.
“Talk to me, and let me know what’s happening.”
Children have reported in surveys over the years that they have felt their parents have placed additional stresses on them post-break up, or tried to turn them away from the other parent. You can talk to your child about the separation without involving them in the dispute. This is about reassuring the children by giving them information and support in an age appropriate way. They do not make the decisions, but they should be listened to.
Resolution says that the Voice of the Child must be heard loud and clear in the family justice system, and has devised a ‘Parenting Charter’ which sets out what children should be able to expect from their parents if they are separating and what separating parents need to do in the interests of their children.
“Don’t bring me into your fights, or make me choose between you!”
Ongoing unresolved parental conflict in front of the children can be very damaging. The key here is about resolving the conflict. Taking the burden of ‘refereeing’ between Mum and Dad away from the children, and showing them that you can work together to resolve the challenges and make good decisions for them.
“Both of you are still my parents, and I have the right to love both of you.”
The ethos of the Parenting Charter is that a greater shared understanding of rights and responsibilities of both parents (and their children) will reduce the likelihood of parents going to court. The law says that a child has the right to spend time with both parents where it is safe to do so. Subject to safeguarding, the Courts want parents to make their own decisions for their own children, in the best interests of the child. The child’s welfare is paramount.
Family mediation can be a means to make arrangements for your children, and can include hearing directly from the children. This is called Child Inclusive Mediation and all children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the mediation, should they wish. We can provide further details about CIM if this is of interest.
As a solicitor and family mediator I am always delighted when parents explain that they have worked out a way to communicate between them in order to make arrangements in the best interests of their child or children. But, for some parents, successful communication seems impossible, and there may be issues that overwhelm either or both party, such as acceptance of the relationship breakdown, or the behaviour of the other parent, which mean that legal advice or family mediation is needed to help achieve the right decisions for those children. There may also be external factors meaning that legal advice would be recommended.
For an appointment to discuss making arrangements in the best interests of your children, call 01630 652405 to make an appointment with Louise Martin for Family Mediation, or any of the family team for legal advice on private family law issues.