Separated and divorcing couples can find it difficult to agree on important arrangements surrounding their children. Family Mediation is a process whereby separated parents can communicate in a neutral space, facilitated by a trained, impartial mediator. Through mediation parents agree a co-parenting plan.
This article outlines the process of mediation and takes you through each of the steps involved.
- Agree to take part in family mediation
Mediation is voluntary, both parents come forward and agree to take part in the process.
- Contact FMNI
FMNI is under contract with the Department of Health to provide an early intervention service to separated parents who are not in the court system. Both parents can contact FMNI either by email or phone to arrange a Pre-mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (IAM).
- Pre-mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (IAM)
Both parents will meet with a mediator individually. At an IAM meeting you will have the opportunity to learn more about the process of mediation, your role in the process and the role of the mediator. The meeting allows you time to ask questions and will help you decide if this service may be useful to you and your children.
During the IAM appointments, the mediator will ask you a number of questions so that an assessment for the suitability of the facilitative model of mediation for your situation can be completed. It may be the case that the timing is not right and other services may be more beneficial for you at this time, including counselling providers, family therapy, a family solicitor, a financial adviser, an independent advice agency, social services or another type of support service.
The mediator may provide other information in relation to assisting parents become ‘mediation ready’, this may include books and relevant websites and on-line material on parenting apart and child development.
Depending on your family’s particular needs, a child focussed mediation process will include two individual pre-mediation information meetings. If mediation is suitable for your family at this time, joint sessions will be arranged. Parents own the process, bringing their own agenda items for discussion. The process can be ended by them or the mediator at any time. If progress is not being made from one session to the next the mediator may end the process and refer parents to other support services.
- Joint sessions
IAM appointments are followed by (on average) four joint sessions where both parents will work towards negotiating their own bespoke co-parenting plan or full mediated agreement. If the agenda brought to the mediator includes decisions regarding finance and property, mediation is likely to require additional sessions. (Please note finance mediation is not funded by the Department of Health, but client funded)
In a child inclusive mediation it may be assessed as useful to include the child’s views, this is organised via another mediator who is trained to discuss these issues with children and then bring the agreed feedback into the parents’ mediation process.
- A co-parenting plan is agreed
Parents agree a co-Parenting plan. A co-parenting plan is a detailed outline of negotiated and agreed arrangements for the care of children and teenagers following parental separation. It is a schedule which states clearly how your children will share time with you both, how to manage responsibilities; and how to share decisions. The plan covers more than contact, residency and maintenance issues. It includes aspects of family life parents wish to discuss, e.g. school arrangements, holidays, visiting grandparents, birthdays, holidays, afterschool activities, health care, childcare costs (this is not an exhaustive list).
Key points about mediation
- Mediation assists separated parents to manage conflict and focus on the needs of their children at the current time and into the future. Early intervention and an agreed plan may reduce potential for negative impact on children.
- Family mediation is a non-judgmental and confidential service. Mediators are impartial – the agenda is brought by both parents. Mediation is empowering for parents, they are the decision makers, they take responsibility for the end of their relationship and recognise that they continue to be parents, even though they are no longer a couple. Family mediation is less stressful for everyone involved and enables families to avoid the court process.
- Parents are ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of their children, the process of mediation assists parents to focus the best outcomes for their children and agree solutions that are in their best interests. Mediation is child and future focused.
To find out more, get in touch.