What are the types of dispute that might arise between separating parents?
Making the decision to separate or divorce is understandably one of the most monumental and emotional decisions that a parent will make, whether it is by mutual agreement or otherwise. It represents only the first step in the separated parents’ co-parenting journey and, at that early stage, it is difficult to know which aspects of co-parenting will be capable of agreement or those that will lead to conflict.
How you can resolve issues
When you are dealing with these types of co-parenting issues following separation you have many options in terms of how you may reach a resolution. Many of the issues that arise can be dealt with between you and your co-parent amicably and it is important to bear in mind there are many pathways to reaching a solution which avoid going to court. Exploring ways to come to an agreement together will benefit your co-parenting relationship and most importantly, your child.
You may wish to consider the following ways of reaching an agreement with your co-parent:
- Arrange a face to face meeting (without your children) to discuss the issues you are facing.
This may seem an obvious solution, however, it is easy to become embroiled in non-effective communication via text message or emails but a face to face discussion allows you to sit down and take stock of the issues at hand and listen to each other’s points of view. Give plenty of notice for the meeting so that you can each prepare and consider what you wish to discuss. Setting an agenda is a helpful way to keep you focused on what needs to be addressed. Setting a time limit can also be helpful to make sure you stay on track with the agenda and don’t drift off into other more emotional topics.
- Make a written record of any agreement.
You may find it helpful to make a written record of any agreement you reach with you co-parent. This can be a simple written document setting out your arrangements, or you could opt for something slightly more detailed. Some parents find it helpful to create a Parenting Plan. A useful template is provided by Cafcass https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/divorce-and-separation/parenting-plan/. This can cover a variety of issues and set out how you agree to approach them. This will help set out expectations and can be used as a useful reference.
You may also find Apps from the internet helpful tools from which you are able to document any agreement you reach or make everyday arrangements with your co-parent. Examples can be found on our website
- Consider a co-parent workshop or co-parent coaching course
If you are finding it difficult to discuss issues alone with your co-parent, then you could consider attending a co-parenting workshop or co-parent coaching course. These types of workshops and courses can provide a tools and techniques that help you communicate with your co-parent and assist you in creating a healthy and functional co-parenting relationship. They will also help in putting together a parenting plan and doing this at an early stage following your separation is beneficial to your co-parenting relationship moving forward.
- Seek help from a family consultant
Family consultants can work with you on a one to one basis, together as co-parents or as a family in order to try and resolve parenting issues. They can also help with your solicitor meetings.
If you are on relatively friendly terms with your co-parent, then mediation may be an option for you to consider. It may not be appropriate where there has been high conflict or domestic abuse.
Mediators are trained professionals (in most cases they are qualified lawyers) who will act as an independent guide to you and your ex-partner in having discussions surrounding the resolution of your issues. You and your co-parent will jointly appoint a mediator and attend sessions together. There is no set length to the mediation process, and this will depend upon how long it takes to reach a conclusion to your matter. Should you wish to, you can also seek advice from an independent lawyer in the background to compliment your mediation sessions. The mediator will remain neutral throughout the process.
- Child inclusive mediation
This involves a family mediator who is trained as a child consultant talking with your child/children as part of the mediation process. This is often a good way of understanding the views, needs and wishes of your child throughout the process of making arrangements for their care following separation.
- Collaborative Law
In this process you and your co-parent each instruct your own collaboratively trained lawyer. You will then attend face to face round table discussions/negotiations all together with your lawyers present. You will therefore have the assurance of receiving legal advice throughout the process as your lawyer will be by your side. If you have been working with a family consultant, they can attend these meetings with you.
This process can be used as a direct alternative to court. Should you have an issue to be determined which you are struggling to resolve between you, then you and your co-parent can appoint an arbitrator to make a decision. Usually, lawyers will have been instructed who will prepare the case for arbitration on your behalf.
A decision will be made by the arbitrator at a series of ‘hearings’ and will follow a timetable, which can be flexible as it is decided by you and your co-parent. It therefore affords more flexibility than the court process and can often be a quicker alternative, which is also less formal. Any decision reached by the arbitrator is legally binding.
- Going to court
If you are not able to reach agreement with your co-parent about arrangements for your child and you have tried negotiations with your lawyer’s help, mediation or other methods then as a last resort you may decide to make an application to court. Court should be seen as a last resort however, in some cases may be needed if there are urgent issues, which cannot be resolved. In order to issue an application you will need to have first attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).