Welcome to the Co-parenting mediation preparation page
‘We must put children first because we are all children first’
Before you come to your first parent mediation session please:
- Read the answers to the most commonly asked questions, below
- Read the questions in each section of the Parenting Plan, and set out your preferred option(s) in this document, which you will find on this web page
- Please send this to your mediator and bring it with you, to use in the first mediation session
- If you really want to prepare in depth for mediation, please complete the children and the parent questionnaires and return these to the mediator before your first mediation session. These form part of our video series – How to create a shared parenting plan
We hope that the answers, documents, guides, on this page, provide you with everything you need, at this stage, but please do not hesitate to contact you mediator, if anything is unclear, as you prepare for your first mediation session.
- What is a parenting plan?
Raising children involves many joint decisions between parents. If you do not live together this can be hard to manage, as you go along.
You might experience all sorts of communication challenges arising from – Different views and beliefs about what is best for your children, different personalities and parenting styles and, in some cases, different personal values, as well as different emotion journeys you may be experiencing, resulting from the end of your relationship.
Despite all this, your child(ren) NEED you and the other parent to be working together, with the minimum of conflict. Therein lies the challenges, as well as the rewards, if you can manage to do this effectively.
A parenting plan is a written agreement between you and the other parent, recording how you will share the care of your child(ren), now and in the future, providing the children with, among other things, some structure and routine.
However, like all best laid plans, circumstances constantly change to challenge them so, it is important to remain flexible and to review the plan when necessary, as circumstances change.
The mediator will discuss the need for a parenting plan with you in the MIAM and refer you to this webpage (coming soon), before your first mediation session.
- Why is a plan so important for our children?
Anything that helps provide clarity and structure to your co-parenting arrangements and reduces the risk of arguments about your children, will be in your childrens’ interests.
Don’t take our word for it. Watch the video on this webpage by someone directly involved talking about; Sorting out day to day arrangements and making the big decisions about your children (coming soon).
It is worth the work and struggle to create a parenting plan in mediation because research tells us that ongoing unresolved conflict between parents, which the children are exposed to, is the very worst aspects of many children’s experience of family breakdown: they suffer more from parents anger and hatred towards one another than from the actual separation!
How do you want your children to look back, when they are older, and remember their experience of your separation? We know, as a fact, that children’s happiness and wellbeing affects the kind of people and parents they will grow up to be!
‘Children’s wellbeing is the key to a society that is good for everyone so ensuring it is everybody’s responsibility and in everybody’s interests’
Your parenting plan plays a key part in this responsibility you have as parents.
Please have a look at the anchor commitment statement for parents in the Parenting Plan Guide which serves to clarify and reinforce your joint responsibilities and obligations to your children.
There are many benefits to having a plan such as – Setting positive expectations, providing anchor and reference points to avoid confusion and misunderstanding and setting out key practical joint decisions about the children, such as their living arrangements, education and health.
- What goes into our parenting plan?
The most effective way to use this parenting plan, for mediation purposes, is to highlight for the mediator the bullet point questions in each section, which you wish to focus on with the other parent, in mediation.
If you have chosen to come to mediation, we do not recommend that you share your parenting plans and views with each other, before mediation starts, since this could result in disagreement, polarized thinking and an expectation of resistance and conflict, as mediation approaches, which is never a good start for a process which requires a clear, open and flexible mindset, from the outset.
Even so, it is important that you come to mediation with a clear idea about your options and why you think they might work for the children, you and the other parent. Therefore, please use each option section to set out your thoughts and options (not a rigid position) for discussion in mediation i.e. I believe it would be helpful to explore these options because…
You and the other parent will need to think about and be able to make decisions about the child(ren)’s living arrangements in mediation and the plan sets out a list of specific questions on which to focus your minds and creative energy, in mediation. Please highlight those bullet points you wish to focus on in mediation.
The same applies to the money sections. At this point, we also refer you to the monthly expenditure schedule and video series- how to reach your own maintenance agreements in 5 stages. Please have a look at the children section of this monthly expenditure schedule setting out how much each parent spends on the children.
The plan also requires you to think about the children’s educational requirements and finally any other issues.
- Is our plan legally binding?
The important point is that your parenting plan is just that, YOUR joint plan, not the Judge’s or your solicitors’ plan. You create and design this together, in mediation, for YOUR children and yourselves, as a separated family.
A Judge would of course make an order if he or she is required too but they often do so reluctantly, understanding that no one responds well to feeling judged or coerced, knowing that it may not provide the outcome that either parent really wants and that, if there is a change of circumstances, the order may become unsuitable for the changed circumstances.
What do you then both do? Keep going back to court?
Please watch this video – A better option than the court, which you will find on this webpage.
So, as you can see and, hopefully understand, a parenting plan, created and designed by you and the other parent, reflecting your mutual views and desires for your children is, in the vast majority of situations, the best outcome, for your children and yourselves.
- How do we use our plan to best effect?
Having created and designed your parenting plan together in mediation, that is not the end of the story, by any means.
You and the other parent now have to make the plan work for you both, and the children.
This is where your ongoing communication is so important, being aware of your own and the other parent’s internal barriers to communication and constantly working to address and overcome these barriers and how to respond to it and each other.
This is also why it is so important to carefully complete the children and parent questionnaires and return these to the mediator before you first mediation session. These will help you both and the mediator focus on specific ways to improve your parent communication, about your children
This is where both or either or you would benefit from the help and support of one of our family coaches/consultants or parenting co-ordinator.
You may want to watch the video about how to ensure your plan is successful which you will find as part of our video series – How to create a shared parenting plan (coming soon).
In mediation, the mediator help to prepare you both to respond more positively to one another (rather than react emotionally and defensively) by exploring with you both a series of ‘what if’ scenarios, rehearsing how you might respond differently to each other, in order to break the cycle of conflict.
The rest will be down to you both, to put these new strategies and skills into practice, building a healthy trust and respect in each other, as parents, as you begin to collaborate and work together in a more cohesive and constructive way.
It will feel better and your children will benefit hugely from experiencing you doing this.
- How well do we need to be able to communicate, as parents?
The obvious answer is; the better you communicate as parents, the better for the children.
You will see from the parenting plan, on this webpage, that it begins with some important joint parenting declarations, focusing on your children and their rights.
It then goes on to ask important questions about your parenting communication. One of the keys to successfully creating and implementing your parenting plan is good preparation and good communication, during mediation and beyond.
This can mean all sorts of things, in your situation, but it will be important for you to discuss, with the mediator, what you and the other parent need to do, in and outside mediation, to ensure that communication is as good as it can be, in the circumstances, and be open to constantly exploring ways of improving it.
At this stage, it would be helpful to the mediator if you indicate which of the bullet points, in the communication section of the parenting plan, you wish to focus on in mediation. Then, hopefully you will both be able to make some decisions about communication in mediation, which the mediator will record for you both, to help keep you focused on this.
We also provide a communication questionnaire for you to complete and return to the mediator, if you think they will find this additional information helpful. You will find this document as part of our video series – So you are thinking about mediation?
- Are you emotionally ready and able to work with the other parent in mediation?
Emotional readiness is acknowledging your own feelings and any negative thoughts and feelings you have about the other parent, and then being able to manage them sufficiently well so that you can direct your focus and attention on meeting your children’s needs.
If you can do this you will be better able to understand and respond to your children, in ways that are most helpful for them.
We refer you to our video – managing strong emotions, which you will find in our video series – So, you are thinking about mediation?
There is also some excellent information on the CAFCASS website about emotional readiness and how emotional readiness will help you
- How do we include our children’s voice after separation
Children can often feel caught in the middle, between two parents, when they separate.
With everything happening around them, some parents may be focusing so hard on the routine day to day parenting, without taking the time to really listen to or pay attention to what their children’s behaviour, is telling them.
The mediator will discuss with you and the other parent, what you can each be do to carefully listen to your children and be in the best position to respond to what your child(ren) are saying, feeling and needing from you both.
The CAFCASS site provides guides about: what to say and what not to say and top tips for listening to your children.
This site also provides a guide for how to communicate with your children when they aren’t telling you how they feel.
We also have family mediators who are specifically trained in holding direct consultation with children, where both parents agree to the mediator speaking to the children.
- Can we still mediate if there has been or there is domestic abuse going on?
When thinking about this question it is as well to remember the purpose of mediation and what mediation requires of those participating.
The purpose of mediation is to help two people, in conflict, to communicate sufficiently well so that they are able to make decisions together and reach agreements together. This could involve child arrangements or financial arrangements.
The mediation requires those involved to be willing and able (have the capacity and resources) to communicate so that they can make decisions together, with the mediator’s help, using a range of strategies and skills, to help and support you.
During your initial MIAM with the mediator they will explore with you what you might need from them and the mediation process to support you to be able to communicate with the other person in mediation and whether, for example, support from other agencies and professionals might also be needed, such as solicitors, family therapists, coaches, Social Services, CAFCASS, alongside the mediation process.
As an organisation, we, at Compass, are reluctant to give up on anyone too quickly where there is a challenging relationship and there is continuing to be a significant amount of conflict and even abuse, especially where children are concerned, unless we take the view that we cannot provide a safe environment in mediation for you both and/or the court is involved or needs to be involved.
A good starting point is the MIAM where the mediator will decide with you whether they will be able to help you in mediation, or not.
Also, check out our video series – So you are thinking of mediation.