Conscious uncoupling – a la Gwyneth Paltrow – may not just be psychobabble fashionable with offbeat celebs, but actually sits well with mediation and other ways of separating without going to court.
Using the term used by Gwyneth to announce her separation from Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin last month, could be a step in the right direction for couples looking to take the sting out of a divorce, particularly when children are involved.
Conscious uncoupling – suggests an amicable split and a desire to continue co-parenting without the anger and bitterness usually associated with divorce.
Being a qualified mediator, I think that this idea is not that far removed from family mediation – which enables the parents to take control of their own arrangements and agree on a way forward.
Legal changes coming into effect on 22nd of April – actually strengthen the requirement for separating parents to attend a family mediation information and assessment meeting before starting divorce proceedings.
Mediation is actively encouraged, because it’s seen as a ‘nicer’ way of getting divorced, for all the parties involved. It also speeds up the process considerably and is less likely to result in drawn-out court cases. Not all divorces are suitable for family mediation, though, for example if there are concerns about the ability of a parent to look after his or her children or there are complicated financial issues which one party doesn’t fully understand.
How the family mediation process works in practice – A Case Study:
Mark and Louise are a couple in their early 20s. They have a son, Ryan who is 4 years old.
Mark and Louise never married but were together since they were both 17 years’ old. The relationship has broken down because Mark has met someone new and has moved out of the home he shared with Louise. Ryan continues to live with Louise and she is not allowing him to have any contact with his dad. Mark is sure that this is because Louise is upset that Mark has a new girlfriend.
Having discovered how long it will take to have the matter dealt with by the Court and how expensive it might be, Mark asks Louise to come to family mediation. Mark has not seen Ryan for 3 months.
At first Louise is adamant that she is not being difficult and that Ryan himself is saying he does not wish to see his father.
The mediator starts by writing Ryan’s name in big letters on the flipchart for both to see. This way, they can concentrate on the reason they are in mediation – to do what’s best for their son whom they both love dearly.
Although Louise wishes to confront Mark about how hurt she feels, the mediator brings the discussion back to Ryan and on what they both really want for him. Various options are explored and the mediator helps Mark and Louise to see that if they can both continue to be parents to Ryan in a co-operative way, their child is bound to benefit.
Louise is unhappy at the thought of Ryan meeting Mark’s new partner and Mark agrees that he will not introduce his new girlfriend to Ryan until Louise agrees.
It is also agreed that Mark should see Ryan at his mother’s home each weekend on either a Saturday or a Sunday for a period of two months. This way, Ryan will continue to see his paternal grandparents, which Louise agrees will be good for him as he misses them. It is also agreed that if after the two month ‘trial’ period, all is going well, Mark can have Ryan to stay overnight with a view to building up the time he spends with Ryan.
The mediator reinforces that Mark and Louise are Ryan’s parents and as such, they are the best people to make decisions concerning his welfare.
By the time they leave the first session, Mark and Louise have agreed a timetable for contact going forward and the mediator explains that this agreement will be reduced to writing in a “Memorandum of Understanding” but that if they encounter difficulties along the way, they can return to family mediation at any time.
Follow Ann on Twitter – @ClarityFamily