Children in the middle
As a Family Lawyer and Accredited Family and Child Inclusive Mediator I am often asked to advise or provide information on children stuck in the middle of separating or separated families. Conversations are usually with a parent or parents although quite often they can include grandparents and other extended family members.
Going through a separation is usually one of the hardest things that someone may go through and when there are children involved the difficulties experienced can be magnified. Separating parties’ attention can be distressingly conflicted because of the practicalities that their heads demand to be focused on issues such as property, financial needs and resources compared to their hearts demanding focus on the emotional reality of their situation and what it means to them and the children of the family.
As a Resolution Lawyer (see below) and an Accredited Family Mediator (see below) I like to encourage discussions that focus thoughts and attentions to what might be best for everyone and not just the individual. Focusing on resolving the issues rather than making them worse can be so important to keep matters calm for all and away from the threats of taking each other through stressful and costly Court proceedings.
When it comes to children, by opening up a dialogue I find both parents or carers for children are usually looking for the same thing but because their direct line of communication with each other has broken down they are blinded to seeing a way forward in communicating about the children, as well as other issues. There is also recognition that a lot of families now come under the umbrella of blended families which in itself can mean that more complicated arrangements need to be considered, which can be difficult to figure out when your head-space is full of all sorts of worries.
It can be helpful to separate the issues and encourage separate conversations, which are usually split into two categories being the practicalities on financial needs and resources of each party and contact and arrangements around the children of the family. By breaking down the issues it can assist with a more structured and manageable approach in dealing with the individual points.
Where there is apparent high conflict with parents surrounding a child’s needs or arrangements I find it is helpful for parents to keep on track by focusing on the bigger picture, which can be key to successful outcomes. Remembering they will be parents forever and any conflict they are in will affect them and everyone else around them, potentially for years to come, especially with regard to the children of the relationship it can be a good approach in bringing everyone back down to earth and recognising the real needs of their situations.
Resolution - Resolution is a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way http://www.resolution.org.uk/code/
Accredited Family Mediator - an Accredited Family Mediator is a Mediator who has been competence assessed to provide a high-quality mediation service and is registered with the Family Mediation Council https://www.familymediationcouncil.org.uk/mediator/deborah-whicker/