Home > Legal > Mediation as a Solution for Child Custody and Visitation

Mediation as a Solution for Child Custody and Visitation

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 16 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Separated Dads Mediation Divorce

No one’s going to try to say that separating is easy. Even at its smoothest, it’s a dizzying, horrible experience. In court it can lead to a lot of acrimony, and where issues are contested, legal bills can easily soar into the thousands, something neither you nor you former partner need at this stage.

Before you head into a costly court battle, there is an alternative, and it’s one suggested surprisingly often by solicitors or courts. Mediation is a lot less divisive than court wrangling, and statistics have show that for both parents the results have proved to be more satisfying than drawn-out legal procedures. Additionally, it’s a great deal less expensive.

How It Works

Mediation is a series of sessions with a trained, neutral mediator to sort out the issues around splitting up – note that this isn’t an attempt to reconcile the two of you. These involve child residence and contact (always putting the welfare of the children first), but also cover legal and Financial Issues. If you’re married, it’s not a substitute for Divorce; you’ll still need to go through that, but with everything else taken care of in a written mediation agreement, it can prove to be a much faster, simpler, and cheaper procedure as you’ll have a consent order.

You attend a series of mediation sessions, each lasting between one and two hours; rarely are more than six sessions necessary. The initial meeting can be the with you and your ex or individually, discussing the issues and whether the two of you can meet face to face. At no time does the mediator attempt to make decisions for you or take either side in the discussion. They’re simply facilitators in the proceedings.

Both parties will need to give honest, signed information about their finances for mediation to work. Be aware, though, that mediation doesn’t work for everyone, although it’s successful in the vast majority of cases. Once you start, you’re still free to stop if you wish. Everything you say is confidential, with the exception of your financial information and anything that might come to light about the potential of harm to anyone, most particularly your children. Note, too, that you have to at least find out about mediation before you can qualify for legal aid for any court settlement.

What It Costs

It’s possible to get legal aid to cover the costs of mediation, but for most people, you’ll be paying the bill yourself. Depending on the number of sessions involved, this can run between £100 and £1000; a lot depends on the complexity of the cases and the number of issues involved.

The Sessions

Obviously, it’s simplest if the sessions involve you and your ex-partner together. If so, ground rules will be established regarding no interruptions, shouting and so on. You might need separate rooms with the mediator going between the two of you.

You’ll need to be prepared for give and take. When it comes to residence and Contact Orders, the two of you want the same thing, which is whatever’s best for the kids, and the mediator can help you work out the most viable, practical solutions. But that also includes financial issues, such as mortgages – the kids need somewhere to live, after all. It’s not easy, but the mediator works with the pair of you to establish a solution that’s satisfactory to you both (and to the children).

It culminates in an agreement, called a Memorandum of Understanding or Statement of Outcome. You’ll probably want to have your solicitor review the agreement before you sign it, and once signed the two of you can also have your solicitors sign it to make everything legally binding. It might also be that you only reach agreement on some issues. If so, the mediator will record these, and the others can be resolved in court.

If your children are older, many mediators will suggest involving them in the sessions. It makes sense, since, in essence, you’re discussing their welfare.

Finding a Mediator

The Family Mediation Helpline (www.familymediationhelpline.co.uk) or National Family Mediation (www.nfm.org.uk) can help connect you to a mediator, visit their website to find your nearest service and contact details. It’s not a solution that’s going to work in every single case, but it’s often proved a value solution for separating families. More about mediation can be found here.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Soph- Your Question:
My son is 2 and a half lives full time with me but has contact with his dad one day every weekend he has been with his new partner for 4 months and now wants more access and for him to sleep over I don't want this to happen because relationship hasn't been long enough am I well within my rights am only thinking about my son he gets upset when daddy leaves or just doesn't turn up my ex wants us to go to meadation but I won't change my mind on sleeping him over until he can say he wants to himself , he doesn't sleep very well at all even at home in his own bed.

Our Response:
It may be worth consenting to mediation so that you can both attempt to resolve the issue through agreement. As both of you are parents, you both (in theory) have an equal say on the upbringing of your child. If you do not agree to trying to come to a workable arrangement via mediation, your ex will have the opportunity to apply to court, which will take the matter out of your hands. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. If your ex chooses to take the matter to court for consideration and a court order is put in place, you will then have to abide by this order whether you agree to it or not.
SeparatedDads - 13-Nov-17 @ 2:00 PM
My son is 2 and a half lives full time with me but has contact with his dad one day every weekend he has been with his new partner for 4 months and now wants more access and for him to sleep over I don't want this to happen because relationship hasn't been long enough am I well within my rights am only thinking about my son he gets upset when daddy leaves or just doesn't turn up my ex wants us to go to meadation but I won't change my mind on sleeping him over until he can say he wants to himself , he doesn't sleep very well at all even at home in his own bed .
Soph - 11-Nov-17 @ 11:16 AM
Charlie - Your Question:
I have a 10 month old son who my ex controls all contact. I am a smoker and was when we met. I have been reducing my smoking by using patches. Since my son was born my ex has had her parents take him to their place through the day till late evening even if I’m off work. She says that I have to work upto having him all day and that I can’t have him over night because she is breast feeding. She also says she will be Breast feeding till he is 2. However she only breast feeds in the morning and at night on days that she works. On these days he gets formula and solids. So I said I could give him formula and solids on my days off and have my son. My ex refuses and only lets me see him a couple hours here and there at her discretion. This situation is tearing me apart. My ex refuses to let me have him all day despite me using patches and never smoking anywhere near him. Additionally after smoking I change my outer clothes wash and don’t pick him up for an hour (ex partners rules). Her parents go along with everything she says and encourage it. This situation has resulted in me being signed off work for the first time ever. What really hurts is knowing that not seeing my son regularly is having an effect on our bond and my ex doesn’t care at all. It appears that it’s about control, she has even started lying about everything to paint herself in a good light and accused me of having an affair. Any advice would be welcome as I feel like I’m banging my head off a wall constantly

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Mediation would be the first option, as would legal advice if you can afford it (sometimes a solicitor's letter to a resident parent can put things into context). Court is the next option if you cannot agree to a resolution. If you cannot afford legal representation in court, you can self-litigate, please see link here . Our Separated Dads forum may help you, as dads who have been through this before can give you some helpful advice. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 28-Sep-17 @ 2:09 PM
I have a 10 month old son who my ex controls all contact. I am a smoker and was when we met. I have been reducing my smoking by using patches. Since my son was born my ex has had her parents take him to their place through the day till late evening even if I’m off work. She says that I have to work upto having him all day and that I can’t have him over night because she is breast feeding. She also says she will be Breast feeding till he is 2. However she only breast feeds in the morning and at night on days that she works. On these days he gets formula and solids. So I said I could give him formula and solids on my days off and have my son. My ex refuses and only lets me see him a couple hours here and there at her discretion. This situation is tearing me apart. My ex refuses to let me have him all day despite me using patches and never smoking anywhere near him. Additionally after smoking I change my outer clothes wash and don’t pick him up for an hour (ex partners rules). Her parents go along with everything she says and encourage it. This situation has resulted in me being signed off work for the first time ever. What really hurts is knowing that not seeing my son regularly is having an effect on our bond and my ex doesn’t care at all. It appears that it’s about control, she has even started lying about everything to paint herself in a good light and accused me of having an affair. Any advice would be welcome as I feel like I’m banging my head off a wall constantly
Charlie - 26-Sep-17 @ 6:05 AM
Dave - Your Question:
Over the last 2 years my 5yo has had spells of coming to live with me due to the mother not being able to cope mentally.She recently had a spell of 4 months living with me full time and me juggling my job around the school run, while this was going on fsp meetings have been held with health care workers, a mental health team and school teachers where we agreed that we would slowly try introduce my child back to her mother who also has a new born and another girl while was spending time with her dad for the same situation.As agreed we weened them back in only to find the mother wasn't coping, house was a mess, volatile new relationship and one incident where my daughter wasn't collected from school.The health visitor then alerted the social services who attended the next meeting after visiting me and visiting my ex's house and seeing that she wasn't coping. In this meeting it was recommended that the mother should agree for my daughter to come and live with me which she did. The social worker said this would be on a temp to perm basis and I would be looking at 6-12 months before she could potentially be better.In this time I had to leave my job to make sure that I could make the school runs due to work not being able to provide flexible working hours as I drove for a living. I managed to juggle work while I worked my notice and getting my child to school.Now my daughter is currently going to a school near her mums which in a day is A 90 mile round trip which obviously isn't sustainable with me not in full time work.My worries are that if in 12 months time she decides she is better and the social agree that my girl will be placed back with her mother and that I will have no leg to stand on about it. I've made it clear that I plan on changing my daughters school and Doctors and the child benifit has been put in my name.Are they able to do this without my consent now that I'm her primary carer, and could she object to me changing my daughters schools? Or would it be better to seek legal advise to be doubly sure?I've tried to compress it down as much as possible but any advice would be well received.Thanks in advance

Our Response:
You would be advised to seek legal advice with the objective of challenging the decision of Social Services through court. As you are now the primary carer of your child, in theory you should be allowed to make decisions based upon what you think is in the best interests of your child. However, in practice and as Social Services is involved you may be best served to apply to request permission from a judge.
SeparatedDads - 22-Sep-17 @ 2:22 PM
Over the last 2 years my 5yo has had spells of coming to live with me due to the mother not being able to cope mentally. She recently had a spell of 4 months living with me full time and me juggling my job around the school run, while this was going on fsp meetings have been held with health care workers, a mental health team and school teachers where we agreed that we would slowly try introduce my child back to her mother who also has a new born and another girl while was spending time with her dad for the same situation. As agreed we weened them back in only to find the mother wasn't coping, house was a mess, volatile new relationship and one incident where my daughter wasn't collected from school. The health visitor then alerted the social services who attended the next meeting after visiting me and visiting my ex's house and seeing that she wasn't coping. In this meeting it was recommended that the mother should agree for my daughter to come and live with me which she did. The social worker said this would be on a temp to perm basis and I would be looking at 6-12 months before she could potentially be better. In this time I had to leave my job to make sure that I could make the school runs due to work not being able to provide flexible working hours as I drove for a living. I managed to juggle work while I worked my notice and getting my child to school. Now my daughter is currently going to a school near her mums which in a day is A 90 mile round trip which obviously isn't sustainable with me not in full time work. My worries are that if in 12 months time she decides she is better and the social agree that my girl will be placed back with her mother and that I will have no leg to stand on about it. I've made it clear that I plan on changing my daughters school and Doctors and the child benifit has been put in my name. Are they able to do this without my consent now that I'm her primary carer, and could she object to me changing my daughters schools? Or would it be better to seek legal advise to be doubly sure? I've tried to compress it down as much as possible but any advice would be well received. Thanks in advance
Dave - 21-Sep-17 @ 10:58 PM
I am about to start family mediation and I was wondering if my child is allowed to see their Dad during this process?
H - 13-Sep-17 @ 12:18 PM
Enough is enough - Your Question:
If I am being told I cannot see my son at all until mediation is complete. What do I do with the money I give every month. She gets all the benifit an my money is extra. It was an agreement thru the csw always paid no problem. But I don't wish to if I am being blocked from seeing my child 100% of the child. Just wonder where I stand if I stop paying.

Our Response:
Child access and child maintenance have no bearing on each other. This means, regardless of whether you see your child or not, as your child's father you are still responsible by law for contributing towards his day-to-day financial needs. If you stop paying and are paying via CMS, you will be liable to pay arrears.
SeparatedDads - 21-Aug-17 @ 2:37 PM
Amyz - Your Question:
I'm just looking for some advise my son dad not seen him since he was 9 weeks old ( now 3) we been to mediation and I am trying to contact him and his family about some contact but they are not responding to any off my calls texts. I just wondered as he said he will go to court if contact is offered through mediation can he refuse this and apply for contact through court thanks

Our Response:
If you have both explored mediation previously and you either cannot come to an agreement, or the agreement has for some reason broken down, then your ex will be allowed to apply directly to court.
SeparatedDads - 21-Aug-17 @ 11:29 AM
If I am being told I cannot see my son at all until mediation is complete. What do I do with the money I give every month. She gets all the benifit an my money is extra. It was an agreement thru the csw always paid no problem. But I don't wish to if I am being blocked from seeing my child 100%of the child. Just wonder where I stand if I stop paying.
Enough is enough - 20-Aug-17 @ 9:52 PM
I'm just looking for some advise my son dad not seen him since he was 9 weeks old ( now 3) we been to mediation and I am trying to contact him and his family about some contact but they are not responding to any off my calls texts .. I just wondered as he said he will go to court if contact is offered through mediation can he refuse this and apply for contact through court thanks
Amyz - 19-Aug-17 @ 2:51 PM
@Kitty - if a court issued an order for you to see your son in a contact centre, then you are effectively banned from having unsupervised contact, so your ex can put these restrictions in place :(
Ste - 18-Jul-17 @ 10:14 AM
Can my ex stop me seeing my son while he is in hospital as she told staff in hospital so they aren't letting me in to see my son they is nothing in place from court banning me from having contact with my kids and also I get visits with my children once a week but have pay £20 pounds each time I see them in a centre it meant be someone frommediation so is this true and do mediation keep money .
Kitty - 16-Jul-17 @ 11:06 PM
B - Your Question:
HiMy ex partner thinks she can dictate who can see or have access to my son when he's with me. Ie. I have my son Friday till Tuesday but have to do some shifts Saturday and Sunday. So my current partner would look after him, he is happy with this arrangement. Can the ex stop me from doing this?

Our Response:
Much depends on whether you and your ex agree to this and/or whether your ex decides not to allow your son to come on the specific days your partner is due to care for him. While she can try to stop the arrangement, your own recourse would be to suggest mediation and if she refused, take the matter to court. Court is always seen as the last option and your ex would have to give good reason for not allowing your current partner to take care if your son when you were not around. If she cannot, then a court order would be put in place allowing this arrangement to continue. However, court is stressful and can be emotionally fraught with no guarantee it would go in your favour. Therefore, mutual agreement and negotiation around an issue is always preferred.
SeparatedDads - 19-Jun-17 @ 2:25 PM
Hi My ex partner thinks she can dictate who can see or have access to my son when he's with me. Ie. I have my son Friday till Tuesday but have to do some shifts Saturday and Sunday. So my current partner would look after him, he is happy with this arrangement. Can the ex stop me from doing this?
B - 18-Jun-17 @ 9:55 AM
Just me - Your Question:
HelloWe were just done with very stressful 2 months of mediation.The agent presented the report last week.I do find it not too objective and fair regarding different facts.Can I file to be refised or ask for another mediator? My lawer pretty much tell me that there is nothing much we can do and my ex will get his 50.50 custody, which I feel is not fair.Thank you!

Our Response:
Mediation takes place in front of a neutral third party. The mediator has no pre-conceptions and will not force you to make an agreement. They will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and helping you reach a decision that you are ready to agree with. Mediators do not pass judgment or offer guidance; they are there, in effect, to facilitate conversation between the two sides. If you disagree with the report you do not have to accept it. However, if the mediation process breaks down, then your ex will have the opportunity to take the matter to court and the court will decide what it thinks is in the best interests of your child/children. Obviously, our advice is only rudimentary we have no idea of the circumstances of your background situation other than the few sentences of information you have imparted to us. If your solicitor thinks your ex has a good chance of gaining shared-care if the matter goes to court, then this may be why he/she advised you to accept the agreement. Therefore, you may wish to speak to your mediator/ solicitor again directly regarding this matter to see what your options are.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-17 @ 10:21 AM
Hello We were just done with very stressful 2 months of mediation. The agent presented the report last week. I do find it not too objective and fair regarding different facts. Can I file to be refised or ask for another mediator? My lawer pretty much tell me that there is nothing much we can do and my ex will get his 50.50 custody, which I feel is not fair. Thank you!
Just me - 25-Apr-17 @ 2:55 AM
Six months ago I went to mediation with my ex to make a new visitation agreement.We both came to an agreement & signed with our lawyers present. 6 months later he is still not signing the final copy to be filed with the court.His lawyer says they are reviewing it still?What are my options?
Deb - 9-Mar-17 @ 3:31 AM
Dombcfc - Your Question:
My separated wife wants mediation to sort out access to our children. She walked on all of us. The children 10 and 14 only want to see her two nights every week but my separated wife wants them to be with her 3 overnights a week. She is not listening to what the children want. How will mediation sort this out

Our Response:
If you cannot sort it out via mediation, then your ex will have to apply through court if she will not agree. However, if she applies to court, as your children are now older their opinion will be taken into consideration by the judge. The courts will always decide upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your children.
SeparatedDads - 14-Feb-17 @ 2:38 PM
K - Your Question:
Hi. Me and my ex had a 10 month court battle with it resulting in. The children are to live with me and are not allowed oit of my region. With him having the children every 2 weeks for 2 nights. Ect.A couple weekends ago his misses messaged me and dropped my ex init that on Saturday and Sunday morning he will be at collage doing his course. So with that I said well would he like to leave having the kids till weekend after. He said no and went crazy. I asked what time he would be finished as he could pick them up on way back from course take them for a good few hours and bring them back for bed time. He could do that Saturday and sunday if he wanted but he got his knickers in a twist and said no not atall.Next thing I know I have mediation calling me. Help

Our Response:
Attend mediation. Neither of you have breached the order, therefore it is a matter of you trying to resolve any issues you have. However, if your ex has parental responsibility, he is allowed the responsibility to find someone to care for his children on the times when he has them (unless the order specifies otherwise).
SeparatedDads - 14-Feb-17 @ 1:02 PM
My separated wife wants mediation to sort out access to our children. She walked on all of us.The children 10 and 14 only want to see her two nights every week but my separated wife wants them to be with her 3 overnights a week.She is not listening to what the children want.How will mediation sort this out
Dombcfc - 13-Feb-17 @ 9:46 PM
Hi. Me and my ex had a 10 month court battle with it resulting in. The children are to live with me and are not allowed oit of my region. With him having the children every 2 weeks for 2 nights. Ect. A couple weekends ago his misses messaged me and dropped my ex init that on Saturday and Sunday morning he will be at collage doing his course. So with that I said well would he like to leave having the kids till weekend after. He said no and went crazy. I asked what time he would be finished as he could pick them up on way back from course take them for a good few hours and bring them back for bed time. He could do that Saturday and sunday if he wanted but he got his knickers in a twist and said no not atall... Next thing I know I have mediation calling me... Help
K - 13-Feb-17 @ 5:47 PM
My daughter and her ex attended mediation in September to make a new visitation agreement.The mediation went well and they were able to agree on a visitation agreement with lawyers present and signed.Five months after the mediation he has yet to sign the final copy that will go to the judge to be filed.Every time something in the agreement is not to his liking he calls his lawyer to make changes to the September agreement.How long can this go on and what are her choices for getting the mediated agreement signed?
DEE DEE - 10-Feb-17 @ 6:17 PM
My husband and his aunt is charged with 498a. Thus i filed a maintanance petition for maintanance for me and my 2.5 year old daughter. In the court mediation session took place.. in that we happened to reach in an agreement. I agreed him to visit daughter for 4 hours at an open ground.. grounds name is mentioned and meeting time is also mentioned.. but he and his family came and took my 2.5 year old daughter to some other place.. i dont know the place.. this is against our agreement..they came back and gave back child at the mentioned ground on time.. What should i do now.. should go for case again...? Is there any rule that he can take child to anywhere he want at his visitorial time?
Chinky - 22-Jan-17 @ 3:44 PM
Hi I have divorce over a year now from my ex husband my son is 11 yrs old .he was living with me .last June he went down for fathers day my ex husband refuse to send him back to me contact the police they said he done nothing wrong because we both can keep the boy because there is no court order in place he refused for my son to talk to me or for me to see.him .please advice me what to do he still living in our house I move out he refused to paid the mortgage I have to still paying for the house .in September this year he went and get married and what to bring this woman over to live in the house I'm paying for .
Rose - 27-Dec-16 @ 12:39 AM
Hopeful - Your Question:
My partner has been refused access to his child, despite making regular maintenance payments and continually asking for contact. He's been to the first MIAM meeting. The child's mother has been invited, but has contacted him to say she can't make an appointment until next year - what options do we have from here? Do we have to wait until it's convenient for her? (I am worried that this is another attempt to drag things out, as she has broken promises over previous commitments) What's our best option?

Our Response:
Your partner may wish to seek legal advice regarding whether he would now be able to apply to court on the basis that his ex is stalling the procedure.
SeparatedDads - 11-Nov-16 @ 2:01 PM
My partner has been refused access to his child, despite making regular maintenance payments and continually asking for contact. He's been to the first MIAM meeting. The child's mother has been invited, but has contacted him to say she can't make an appointment until next year - what options do we have from here? Do we have to wait until it's convenient for her? (I am worried that this is another attempt to drag things out, as she has broken promises over previous commitments) What's our best option?
Hopeful - 10-Nov-16 @ 7:59 PM
Maud76 - Your Question:
So.why can't I find info and advice???? I'm taking my childs FATHER to mediation ,divorce pending,as he won't see her but makes all the promises. The only advice I can find is for fathers fighting to see there children. Feels very lonely right now!!!

Our Response:
I'm afraid it is a different matter if the non-resident parent refuses to see their child, as a court cannot or will not enforce this, meaning if your ex refuses to see your child, there is very little you can do.
SeparatedDads - 26-Sep-16 @ 12:51 PM
So...why can't I find info and advice???? I'm taking my childs FATHER to mediation ,divorce pending,as he won't see her but makes all the promises. The only advice I can find is for fathers fighting to see there children. Feels very lonely right now!!!
Maud76 - 25-Sep-16 @ 9:16 PM
Wife - Your Question:
Hi, my husband is currently going through mediation with his ex partner over their child, I'm just wondering if I allowed to attend the mediation sessions? As a support to my husband and also as this is effecting my life also as she's using me as a part of the reason she has stopped us having my stepchild. I don't want to make the situation worse, but my husband and I would like me to be able to be involved in the process if I can, thanks.

Our Response:
It depends whether your husband's ex allows this. Mediation is a voluntary process and his ex can make the decision whether she wants to attend or not. Therefore, it would be her decision if she wanted to allow you into the discussion.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-16 @ 11:51 AM
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