Formal or Informal Arrangements
There are different ways of sorting out the arrangements for your children. You do not need legally-binding agreements. In fact, Courts encourage you to make your own family-based arrangements <LINK> or agreements in Family Mediation or elsewhere and would prefer not to make Court Orders about child contact or residence.
As parents, you are the experts in what your children need. You know them far better than a Court Judge could know them. The Court process also takes a significant amount of time and can foster more conflict between the parents.
After a separation, many parents find they have to trial certain arrangements to see what works and what doesn’t. If children are consulted within this process, it can be very helpful and may lead to a longer term arrangement which suits everyone and causes less conflict.
All National Family Mediation providers offer an additional session(s) for children (usually involving siblings together) which runs alongside the family mediation process. This is called Direct Consultation with Children. We offer children an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them post separation. Parents will only be told what children wish them to hear (with the important exception to confidentiality in relation to risk of harm).
It is worth remembering that as children grow up the arrangements may need to change. This could be to accommodate after school or social activities. Parents may also find their routine has changed, i.e. they may need to work more or different hours and childcare has to be worked out. Because this requires flexibility over time, a fixed Court Order can be very unhelpful and clumsy.
If you would like to make your own arrangement but find communicating with your ex-partner difficult, Family Mediation might be an option for you. The mediator will keep the focus on the task in hand so that arguments don’t escalate. It can also be an opportunity to trial and review arrangements. If it feels appropriate and helpful, mediators can also consult children so that they have a voice too. Remember you can meet the mediator on your own to start with so that you can talk it through without your ex-partner being there.
If this not possible and a more formal intervention is required, it may help to consult a Solicitor. Sometimes Solicitors can propose arrangements and facilitate an agreement that way. Solicitors can also give you advice on what your rights are and how the Court is likely to see your case. Remember, Legal Aid is unlikely to be available for legal advice to you so this intervention will cost you.
National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.