We understand that breaking up can leave you with a lot of questions. We've used frequently asked questions to address some of the common problems experienced by people affected by family or relationship breakdown.
We also have separate sections on our website dedicated to Frequently Asked Questions about Family Mediation and Child Maintenance.
Separation, Divorce or Dissolution of a Civil Partnership
For separation, divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships to be a respectful process, the couple must be prepared and ready to separate their lives on all levels; legally, practically and emotionally.
Our legal section provides a very brief outline of the legal rights in relation to Divorce, Dissolution and Separation, Children and Young People, Finance and Property and Domestic Violence. Please be aware that these are general principles. It is important that you seek independent legal advice in relation to your own particular circumstances
Mediation is considerably less expensive than litigation or court and it takes less time for an outcome to be reached. Parties have an opportunity to engage in constructive discussions at an early stage before the legal costs and time escalate and become a stumbling block themselves.
The average time for "All Issues Mediation" (including finances, property and children) is between 3 and 5 meetings. However, the time needed depends on:
- Individual circumstances
- The number and complexity of the issues that need resolving
- How flexible you can be regarding days/times for appointments
Our articles on family mediation and frequently asked questions about family mediation provide further information.
You do not require a lawyer to get divorced or have your civil partnership dissolved. An increasingly common route is to appy for a 'DIY Divorce'. However, please be aware that this only deals with the legal issue of your divorce or dissolution of civil partnership. It does not deal with the financial remedy or child arrangements.
However, if you decide to use mediation, you will be able to address all issues relating to your divorce or dissolution. The mediator will confirm whether they think it is appropriate for you to seek further advice alongside the mediation process. This is because mediators do not give advice. You might need to seek legal or other specialist advice (financial, debt, welfare benefits etc.) and it is important to ask your mediator were you might find some good and cost-effective advisors locally.
You might be separating, divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership. Coping through the early days is difficult, but it is possible. It takes time to adjust. As adjustment takes place it is important not to push feelings under the carpet and pretend they are not there. They will bubble up in adults and children, sometimes triggered by incidents and memories.
After separation, it is important to try and get your life back on track as soon as possible. Instead, take the bull by the horns and make changes in your life to suit what you want and need. It could be a simple as getting a new haircut or signing up for a membership to your local gym. Whatever the remedy may be, doing things for yourself will help you heal from the stress and emotional strain that separation can cause.
Adjusting to life after divorce can seem difficult at first. But with time, the emotional wounds you feel will heal. Giving yourself a chance to cope with the changes you face in life will allow you to build a way forward and to find out what is most important to you.
Our articles in our parental wellbeing section include: Dealing with Anger, Stress and Depression, Disability, Drug and Alcohol Misuse and other risk behaviours. You may decide that a support group or individual counselling could be beneificial. It might also be helpful to meet with a family mediator to discuss how you might approach the separation process.
Co-parenting after Separation
If your ex is making communication difficult it is tempting to respond in kind. The risk is that bad feelings and behaviour easily escalate. Remember that you have the power to influence the other parent's behaviour even if you can't control it. It may be that your ex-partner is going through a tough patch. Provided that you stick to your original goal of focusing on the children's needs and remain patient you'll hopefully get through it without doing too much damage to your co-parenting relationship.
Devising a plan can help you to become “business-like” in your relationship with each other. You can concentrate on what you can agree on, not on your arguments.
Once arrangements have been agreed, it is often helpful to write them down. This sets out a framework which is clear since it is on paper and can be shared with others supporting you. This is especially helpful where children are involved
It is challenging to be a parent and it is even more challenging to be a separated parent. By putting children first, parents can do a lot to reduce the negative effects family breakdown may have on children and give them a better chance to have happy and healthy lives. How a child adapts to a separation largely depends on how parents interact with each other.
Obviously, interacting with your ex-partner might be the last thing you want to do; however, it's important that parents respect each other and help their children maintain strong, close and respectful relationships with the other parent.
- although you have less time with the children, try to appreciate how much time the other parent spends doing the exhausting, routine jobs.
- don't assume that you can please yourself when you see the children and that the other parent will always be happy to change their plans to fit around you.
Before doing any button pressing, try to weigh up the short term satisfaction of 'winning' an encounter with your ex-partner against the longer term satisfaction of having a successful parent partnership. Remember that in a few years time the competition about who is the better parent or who was right will feel pointless.
Disagreements are bound to arise when dealing with your ex-partner. If you find yourself, time after time, locked in battle, and frustrated about his or her inability to put the children first, try to step back and remember the big picture. It sounds clichéd, but it will be best for your children to have a good relationship with both of their parents throughout their lives. If you can keep that long term goal in mind, you may be able to avoid disagreements about daily details.
While parents are likely to approach remarriage, new relationships and a new blended family with great joy and expectation, your children or your new partner’s children may feel left out of your choice and uncertain about the change. What will the new person in their life mean to them? What will their new step-siblings be like? How will their relationship with their biological parents change?
As you get ready to expand your family, a few important things to remember are:
- Be realistic – things won’t be perfect overnight.
- Be patient – good relationships take time and children need to time to trust and count on you.
- Limit your expectations – know that you will probably give a lot of time, energy, love and affection that will not be returned immediately. Think of it as making small investments that may one day yield a lot of interest, but don’t expect anything in return for now.
Given the right support, children should gradually adjust to their new family members. It is your job to communicate openly, meet their needs for security and give them plenty of time to make a successful transition.
Children, as well as parents, feel the stress and confusion of family breakdown. Many kids feel angry, sad and frustrated about the prospect of their parents splitting up for good and are uncertain about what life will be like after separation occurs.
Your ability to support your children by communicating successfully with your child, meeting their needs for safety and support, taking care of yourself, and maintaining a civil relationship with your ex-partner will have a positive effect on your child. Given the right support, your child will be able express their feelings, grieve their loss, and emerge from this unsettling time a stronger more resilient person.
According to the definition adopted across government departments in 2013, domestic abuse / violence is ‘any incident or pattern of incidents, of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (whether psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between individuals who are associated with each other.’
Domestic abuse / violence normally occurs in intimate or family-type relationships and the majority of those affected are women and children. Women’s Aid estimates that at least 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and between 1 in 8 and 1 in 10 experience it annually, even though only half of the incidents are reported to the police.
If you are a victim of abuse and wish to go to Court, it is advisable to seek help from a Solicitor. In certain circumstances of family violence, Legal Aid is still available. Solicitors can look at restraining orders, non-molestation orders, prosecution, etc.
If the situation is less dangerous or there are instances where the violence has been on both sides (neither partner has more power over the other), it may be that more standard services can be accessed. In relationship breakdown, family violence is very common but each situation should be assessed separately. If you are considering family mediation, you will not be turned away because of a history of violence. Your situation will be discussed with you on your own. The mediator will be trying to work out if you would feel intimidated by your ex-partner in mediation. If you feel safe and the mediator agrees that it is appropriate once screening and safeguarding checks have been made, it may be okay to proceed with mediation. If there is doubt, the mediator might decide not to proceed with mediation.
Read more in our articles on family violence, contact activities which the court might decide to order / direct you and your ex-partner to should you proceed to court and how mediation might work in family violence cases.
Finance and Property
Being supportive to a person going through separation or divorce is crucial. Separation can be one of the most difficult things a person can encounter.
Many times well meaning friends or family do not know what to do when their loved one need help; instead of helping, they actually make things worse. Some practical tools and information might help.
Making decisions about who lives where after separation is not easy. Obviously it’s important to try to arrange something that will minimise disruption for yourself and especially for children, if there are any involved, but of course it has to be affordable for both parties.
If you think it might be possible to sort something out with your ex-partner, taking into account any children's needs and your financial situation, then family mediation might well be worth a try.
Understanding your finances is a vital part of gaining, or regaining your financial freedom. While everyone's finances are different, the following list is a good place to begin if you find yourself needing to regain financial control.
- Develop a budget
It is important to put together and follow a budget. Now that you are living off one income, instead of two, understanding what income is coming in, as well as what is flowing out, will allow you to plan for expenses and ensure you are not overspending.
You may need to cut back or you may have more money to save! Either way, it is important to know for sure. During this process, it is also important to understand how you income is being taxed. For instance, child support is not taxable. Speak to a tax professional to help you determine what is and what is not taxable.
- Manage your credit cards
Have you pulled your credit lately? It is important to review your credit report to ensure that your ex-partner is no longer authorised on your cards. This is an important step for home and car loans as well.
- Develop a retirement plan
During divorce or civil partnership dissolution settlements, retirement assets, like pensions cash equivalent tranfer value (CETV) are often up for negotiation. It is important to understand what you can expect, and what you need to plan for. A Certified Financial Planner can assist you in forecasting your retirement need, developing a savings plan, and determining which investments are right for you.
- Reassess your health needs
If you have private health cover, it is important to be sure that it is sufficient to cover your needs, but isn’t too expensive. If it is through your work, don’t forget to remove your ex-partner from the plan. If you were previously on your ex-partners plan, you do not need to wait until open enrollment to sign up at your company. Just make sure you act quickly. Most insurance companies consider divorce a "qualifying event" or "life event" and allow thirty days to change your plan accordingly.
- Revise your will / trust
Whether you have had a will or trust in place in the past, now is the time to draft one. This document allows you to determine who will inherit your hard earned assets, who will care for your children in the event of your death, and how your children will inherit the assets you have left to them. It is important to establish these guidelines rather than leaving the decision up to the state.
Our articles on division of assets and liabilities, dealing with debt, and how mediation can assist you to work out all your financial responsibilities provide further information.
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
National Family Mediation Member Services charge £25-£100 for a MIAM, depending on geographical locality, which may include the fee for the completed FM1 form. Meetings usually last for 45 minutes – 1 hour. This includes the means assessment to check whether you will be eligible for Legal Aid, determining whether your mediation will be free or not. Mediation sessions which follow the initial MIAM are charged at a sliding scale according to income, but start at around £80 per session, and usually last up to 1½ hours.
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.