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Mediate or Detonate?

Separation is one of the most traumatic events that can occur in your life and yet how you embark on that journey can increase the stress, anxiety and frustration endured.

Will you decide to mediate or detonate your coparenting relationship?

As a couple you can work together through mediation to reach agreement that you have both decided is an acceptable outcome for you both or engage lawyers at the onset of separation which will detonate your coparenting relationship into an explosive battle over shared parenting and property settlement.

Of course, you will need independent legal advice to gain guidance of what you could expect if you went to court as a baseline for negotiation, but this should only be a single consultation rather than signing up with a retainer to have all communication between you and your ex negotiated. Many people fall into the trap of having ‘their’ lawyer write letters back and forth to their ex’s lawyer racking up thousands of dollars with the communication being combative. This is a sure-fire way to cause damage to your coparenting relationship creating a ‘win at all costs’ battle. At this stage of the separation, you haven’t established ground rules, boundaries and a respectful coparenting relationship as a strong foundation to help your family navigate separation.

You may think you just want to get your case to court as soon as possible so the judge can decide who is right to be declared a winner! Believe it or not, the court wants couples to resolve their own disputes and come to agreement. This is why the court process can take up to and beyond a year to get a final hearing to resolve your matter as they order you both to do parenting after separation courses, mediation or family reports to assess what is best for your family so you have the opportunity to settle out of court. Why waste thousands of dollars going through a legal battle to be financially and emotionally drained for the court to try and get you to resolve your own matter?

Instead of a legal battle, couples can be empowered and supported through their separation together with a Mediator to negotiate on parenting and property. Shared parenting is usually negotiated first to enable the children to have time with each parent based on what is in the best interests of the children and enable them to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Mediators do not create options or solutions, this is for you as parents to create as you know what will work best for your family. As parents, this may be the first time you have been able to sit and talk together without escalating into conflict as the mediator ensures you both have an opportunity to express your thoughts, feelings and viewpoints. Gaining an understanding of why you both feel the way you do due to fear, uncertainty, and helplessness, can give a more compassionate perspective on negotiations rather than a combative smear campaign to discredit the other parent through legal representatives.

Mediation is a faster process than a legal battle as the outcome of the mediation session is a parenting plan that will outline the agreed parenting time, holidays, special events, communication, handovers etc. The parenting plan becomes your ground rules that you have both agreed upon. You can also include boundaries such as when contact can be made by what method such as facetime calls with the children to the other parent, where handovers will occur and who drops off/picks up, as well as who attends doctor’s appointments for the children. You can return to mediation to modify the arrangement at any time. Once your arrangements are working well for your new family structure you can arrange to have your parenting plan changed into consent orders, so it is legally binding.

Property settlement is also negotiated in another mediation session taking into consideration financial and non-financial contributions and future needs. It is important to not go into mediation with a fixed position of what you should get but rather as a starting point to negotiate and agree a fair and acceptable solution. The mediation agreement should then be used to create financial orders to in-act financial settlement.

The difference between a legal battle and mediation is that a legal battle seeks a winner which can be destructive to future attempts at developing a civil coparenting relationship. Mediation enables the couple to be empowered to listen to each other’s viewpoints without escalation through a neutral facilitator, identify options and agree on win/win solutions to foster a mutually respectful coparenting relationship.

So remember, mediate instead of detonate to setup your new family structure with a foundation of cooperation, flexibility and your children’s best interests at heart. Children should not be collateral damage from their parents’ separation. Children benefit from parents who are good role models, problem solvers and are accountable and responsible to ensure their family transitions to a new family structure with minimal conflict.

At The Divorce Centre we offer Mediation, Parenting After Separation Courses, and Divorce Coaching to help you be empowered through your separation journey.

See how we can help you

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Author

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