When preparing for a parenting mediation, it’s essential you cultivate an attitude that places the best interests of your children first. This may come across as patronizing because it would be there would rarely be anyone in mediation who wasn’t there to secure a good outcome and happy future for their children.
Unfortunately in a state of grief and loss, and feeling angry, betrayed and sad, it can be hard to separate out what is best for children and what is just hurt.
The most important thing you can do prior to coming to mediation is to repeat this mantra to yourself: “The most important thing for my children is to keep them away from conflict”. Research has repeatedly shown that keeping your children away from parental conflict, in ANY form, is the best protective factor in ensuring their happiness after separation. This can be be so hard to do when you are hurt and angry with your former partner.
Adopting this attitude ahead of mediation will give the process the greatest chance of success.
Have a good idea of what you want to include in your parenting agreement. Our checklist of potential parenting plan inclusions is a succinct list of items you could cover during mediation. Prior to coming you could think about which of them might be necessary to cover.
You’ll need to consider the time a child spends with each parent, how you’ll communicate with each other and the children, the way you’ll make decisions in the children’s best interests, managing the ongoing costs of raising children and how you’ll manage special occasions, holidays and extended family contact.
Items you might need to refer to during the session include work timetables, calendars or diaries showing work commitments and annual leave, school holiday dates, lists of childcare and school fees, and any other document that may help you to make solid and concrete arrangements for your children.
If you have an existing parenting plan or Parenting Court Orders, bring them along for us to see. If there are any Domestic or Apprehended Violence Orders in place, we will need to see copies.
Parents who get along well together seem to be better off with a flexible arrangement, and flexibility is always better for children. Those experiencing more conflict find more structured and less flexible agreements give them firm guidelines to stick to in order to protect children from harmful conflict.
Often in mediation one party will be keen on a more structured agreement and the other party might prefer a more flexible arrangement. For some people, flexible can feel like “unreliable” and for others, structured can feel like “controlling”. If only parents could see that this is a common perspective difference and is not always unique to their situation.
They don’t care about the kids being disappointed when they’re unreliable” and “They are trying to control me even though we’re not together anymore” would be two of the most common phrases we’ve heard in mediation. And sadly, they may be based on a mis-perception about the other person’s intentions. These kind of ideas contribute to pervasive conflict.
If these comments sound anything like you – you might find it helpful if you can keep in mind that your ex-partner’s “unreliability” or “control issues” are really not intended to hurt you or the children – they may be well meaning ideas on how a plan feels workable from their unique perspective.