Tanya and Lee were referred to mediation by court.
Communications had broken down significantly between them following a difference in opinion about where their son would attend secondary school. An application to court for a specific issues order was made and subsequently withdrawn.
Tanya was upset with Lee for having made an application to court. Lee was upset with Tanya for enrolling their son at a school near her home (and further away from his home) without discussing and agreeing this first.
Whilst their son had settled in well at school and both parents encouraged him to keep in touch with his primary school friends, communications between Tanya and Lee were strained.
A further application was made to review their shared care arrangement. Following their first hearing, the court recommended they both attend mediation and return with a parenting plan.
In the early sessions, Tanya and Lee were focused on the arrangement being equal and fair. Whilst they acknowledged their present arrangement of four overnights each on a rolling basis allowed them to each parent their son equally, weekend arrangements were not consistent. It was difficult for everyone to plan around these arrangements, and, more importantly, was confusing for their son.
How it was managed
Family Matters conducted an initial mediation session in which Lee and Tanya talked about, and agreed to try, a slightly different arrangement for their son to spend time with each of them. They also talked about and agreed to a child inclusive mediation where, with the agreement of both parents, a specially trained mediator listens to the views of the child, which are then shared with the parents in a feedback meeting attended by both the mediator and the child consultant.
A child inclusive mediation took place, followed by the feedback meeting in which both parents said their son had enjoyed speaking to someone outside the family.
Conclusion and outcome
Over the course of three sessions (one and a half hours each) in mediation and a child inclusive mediation session, Tanya and Lee trialled and agreed a revised arrangement for their son to spend time with each of them. In their discussions, they remained focused on their son and his experience of the arrangement.
In addition to Tanya and Lee agreeing an arrangement for their son, they explored strategies and tactics to improve their communications. Tanya and Lee were especially interested in understanding more about the benefits of civil parenting and simple courtesies, and by the end of the mediation process, their communications had improved significantly.
Tanya and Lee’s willingness to listen to each other’s views and listen to their son, along with the help of the mediator, helped them to work together and explore alternative options to their present arrangement.
They agreed to trial an arrangement and returned to mediation to review it. Tanya and Lee refined the arrangement further following the feedback from the child inclusive mediation session. A parenting plan was agreed, which Tanya and Lee took with them to their next hearing at court.