Working together for the benefit of your children

Ian Walker

Ian Walker: Child Law Specialist Solicitor, Arbitrator, Collaborative Family Lawyer and Accredited Family Mediator.

When contact arrangements don’t work

As a solicitor and Mediator I am often presented with cases where arrangements for contact between children a parent or grandparent have broken down or become very strained.

With willing on both sides, these cases can be resolved without even more divisive court proceedings.

When the adult relationship breaks down

When a relationship breaks down there are a lot of emotions; for example; Anger, fear, guilt, hatred.

The breakdown may have been triggered by the actions of one of the couple. The reality is something would probably not have been working, possibly for some time for at least one of the couple. They would have found it difficult to resolve the problem with the other, even if they were able to talk about it.

Without going into too much detail, one of the outcomes of an end of a relationship is a breakdown of communication and of trust.

Often when we get to see couples who want to talk about the arrangements for their children, they have not spoken to each other for some time. Alternatively they do communicate, but badly; in other words, having arguments, saying hurtful things.

Their children are stuck in the middle of the arguments. The arrangements for contact have either broken down completely or are not working. Contact can even become part of the adult argument with one or both playing games with each other, for example by being deliberately awkward when making arrangements; by being inflexible; by being late or unreliable or unavailable. Often both want there to be contact, but find it difficult to break out of the argument.

The couple often find themselves trapped in a negative cycle.

Have a look at the diagram below. This is the negative cycle.

Once parents are trapped in it, it can be very difficult to escape.

A Court process will often only make the situation worse, because you are adding extra negative ingredients such as resentment.

 

Cycle - Working together for the benefit of your children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What needs to change?

Basically the ingredients of good contact are good communication, delivery and trust. Each time an arrangement is delivered both parents gain confidence [and trust] that the next arrangement will be delivered. This process is supported by good communications, but would be undermined by bad communications. The better things work, the better things will work next time; the more parents are willing and able to overcome minor problems. The better things go, the more willing both parents are willing and able to be flexible. What parents need and want [and what their children want is a positive cycle.

 

Positive cycle - Working together for the benefit of your children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can we do?

We can assist both as solicitors or as a mediation service.

If we are advising as solicitors we can support you in setting up a mediation process with a good mediator and support you in making the best of the mediation process. Taking legal advice at the outset is also a demonstration that you are serious about moving things on. We also offer the option of collaborative family law. This has similarities to mediation, but the solicitors sort of take the role of the mediator. If the other parent wont engage we will be able to represent you in a court application.

When a court application is necessary we are mindful that parents need to work together afterwards. It is therefore fundamentally important to maintain focus on the objective – a reasonable arrangement. This means conducting the case in a way so as to try and avoid causing any further damage to the relationship. Being measured and reasonable and demonstrating that you want to move things on sensibly should gain the sympathy of the court and make the case easier to resolve satisfactorily. We have one of the strongest teams of children law specialist solicitors in the south-west.

We can also assist as a neutral mediation service. Interestingly, mediation clients will often express a willingness to mediate but say that they do not think the other parent will agree to mediation. Very often the other parent says exactly the same thing! This is positive. This demonstrates that very often both parents recognise that there is a problem and want to do something about it. Unfortunately they are stuck and need some professional assistance to get things moving again.

Using Mediation to move things forward

The mediator’s job is to move the parents from the negative cycle to the positive cycle!

The can be done. The mediator has skills which they can use to assist the parents look at what they want to achieve and how to work together to make arrangements work.

This can take several meetings, but if the parents commit to the process they will be able to change cycles and they will be able to achieve durable arrangements which put the needs of their children first.

 

You may have questions such as: Why is it important for parents to work together? What happens if you don’t follow a court order for visitation? Can a parent stop a child from seeing the other parent? How can a mother lose custody of her child? We have created an FAQ’s page that can help answer those questions.

More on this topic

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The Resolution Code of Practice
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Collaborative Family Law
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Collaborative law is a good alternative to mediation. Find out more about the collaborative family law process here.

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