Struggling with next steps?
Whatever the reasons for the breakdown of your relationship/marriage it is undoubtedly a huge life change. You may feel bitterness, resentment, guilt, upset, relief, or a combination of these emotions and more.
It is likely that you have practical issues to sort out such as where you will live, how you afford to pay the rent/mortgage, who will look after your children and a host of other issues. Your head is likely to be cloudy and you may have many different friends/family all telling you with the best of intentions what you should do and how you should protect yourself.
It is important that you get proper and specialist advice at an early stage. It is easy to fall into the trap of hating your ex and everything they stand for. The danger of doing this however if you have children is that you risk alienating your children from one or in fact both of you. When looking around for legal advice look for a specialist family solicitor who is a member of Resolution and ideally someone who is trained as a Collaborative Lawyer and/or is an Accredited Family Mediator. You need someone who will give you options and try to help you resolve matters in the most constructive manner possible.
Are you listening to your children?
A huge part of separating with children is working out practical arrangements for their care.
It took both of you to bring your children into the world and it is up to the two of you how your children will adjust to living in two separate households. However you feel about your ex –partner it is important that you try to speak in positive or at least neutral terms about them to your children. The results of a recent study carried out into separated families which was published in the Observer newspaper last weekend cited that 82% of children thought it was better once mum and dad had separated and living in two different households as opposed to living in one house with bitterness and acrimony. Children can so easily become pawns in a separation with how their time is divided being drawn up on spreadsheets so that each parent achieves 50% and/or one or both fighting for “custody” which is a thankfully a defunct term.
Recent changes in Children law mean that there is no such thing any longer as “the Resident” parent. The focus instead is on trying to achieve a more fluid arrangement so that your children can spend meaningful periods of time with each parent as long as it is safe for them to do so.
Mediation is very much the forum of choice for many separating parents. It is the only process where Legal Aid remains available for resolving family issues unless there are issues such as serious domestic violent and/or child protection concerns.
A large focus upon Children related mediation as well as resolving practical issues such as where and how your children will spend their time is helping you as parents establish/maintain a dialogue as parents even though the couple dialogue between you has broken down. Specially trained mediators, called Direct Child Consultants can speak to children as part of the mediation process to enable their voices to be heard. Such a process is entirely confidential with the intention being that it is a safe space for children to air their concerns, wishes, hopes and fears and then agree what is fed back to mum and dad whether by the mediator alone or with your children present. It is a way of helping your children to become part of the journey to a different family structure without involving a formal Court application and the necessity for a report as part of the Court process. There may be occasions where a Court application is necessary and part of the mediation process, called the MIAMS appointment – the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – is looking at whether there are safeguarding issues which would mean that mediation is unsuitable as a forum. The mediator will give you information as to other forums for resolving issues so that you can choose the best process for you and your family.
Absent any serious safeguarding issues, if you are able to resolve matters concerning your children outside the Court arena then this is by far from an emotional, child focused, time and financial perspective can only be a positive step.
For more information on options and/or how mediation can help as a process you to resolve issues contact Sally Clark, Accredited family solicitor mediator and direct child consultant on 0113 357 1316.