If you and your partner/spouse want to sort out the arrangements for the children fairly on separation or divorce, without the need to involve the Court and without the expense of solicitors writing lengthy letters to each other over a period of time, why not try setting up a mediation session with a mediator?

I am a mediator and a solicitor and frequently, I am asked to help with working out the arrangements for the children in mediation.  Time and time again, I find that the arrangements can be sorted out relatively quickly in mediation and sometimes in only one or two sessions, with my own costs as mediator being split equally between the couple rather than both parties paying separately for each of their own solicitors to communicate with each other in lengthy correspondence over a number of weeks and months.

I sit down with the couple, with diaries and find out what would work best for their children and for them and together, we work out a detailed plan for the year ahead to include term time and holidays.  As the plan is specific to the family’s needs, it is more likely to be followed and to be workable and there is clarity for all concerned.  It also means that there is a forum for dealing with any issues that may arise in the future.

Recently, I heard from a couple who were desperate to set up a mediation meeting with me; they had just come out of a contested final hearing at Court, dealing with the children arrangements and neither was content with the Order as it was totally unworkable for them as a family.  They had spent over £100,000 between them on legal costs and could not believe the situation in which they found themselves.  We had 3 mediation sessions and came up with a plan which worked for them all, both a term time plan and a school holiday plan, and they were relieved.  They only wish that they had come to see me at the outset before embarking on expensive legal proceedings.  At the time they issued their applications, neither was keen on mediation and wanted to have the security of a Court Order behind them.

Of course, mediation is not appropriate in all matters and Court proceedings will be necessary in some circumstances but that even if mediation may not seem appropriate at the outset of a matter, the possibility of trying mediation at a later stage should always be considered and certainly once an application has been issued.


The author of this article is Emma Harte.