The festive season is a time of joy, celebration, and family gatherings. However, for separated or divorced parents, it can also be a period of stress and conflict, particularly when there is no clear plan for where the children will spend this period. In the UK, there are a number of different process options to resolve such disputes, with mediation being a popular method.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party, known as a mediator, helps you to reach an agreement. The mediator does not make a decision for you but they will facilitate communication and negotiation between you and your child’s other parent. They will ensure that you both have an equal opportunity to express your views and concerns and help you to have those difficult conversations together, to reach a mutually acceptable solution.
There are several advantages of mediating rather than litigating. It is generally quicker, less stressful, and less expensive than going to court. It also allows you to maintain control over the decision-making process, which can be particularly beneficial when dealing with sensitive issues such as child arrangements. Moreover, mediation encourages cooperation and communication, which can help to improve the long-term relationship between you and your co-parent, ultimately benefiting your children.
Mediation and Christmas: What to Do When There Is No Plan
If you are unable to agree where your children will spend Christmas, mediation can be an effective way to resolve this issue. The first step is to contact a mediator and arrange an initial meeting, commonly known as a MIAM (Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting). During this meeting, the mediator will explain the process, assess whether mediation is suitable for your situation, and answer any questions you may have. If you and the other parent both agree to proceed with mediation, it is likely that you will then have a series of sessions where you can discuss your issues. Before engaging in mediation it is useful to think about what you want to achieve and any potential compromises you might be willing to make. It can also be helpful to seek legal advice so that you understand your rights and responsibilities. Try and stay open-minded during the sessions: the goal is not to ‘win’ but to find a solution that works for everyone. It is important to listen to the other parent’s perspective and focus on what is in the best interests of the children. The mediator will help you to explore different options when trying to reach an agreement and if an agreement is reached, they will draft a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining the terms agreed. This document is not legally binding but records the arrangements that you and your child’s other parent have agreed to abide by.
While disputes about child arrangements during Christmas can be challenging, mediation offers a constructive and cooperative way to resolve these issues. By focusing on the best interests of the children and working towards a mutually acceptable solution, parents can ensure that the festive season is a time of joy and celebration for everyone.