Mediation charity urges warring exes to work together this Father’s Day
  • Child matters account for 4 in every 5 mediation matters
  • Lone mothers head up 84% of lone parent families in the UK, which ‘can sometimes make it harder for the father’
  • NFM reports a spike in male-led enquiries in June

A national mediation charity which helps thousands of families every year to sort arrangements for children, property, finance and other important matters following a separation or divorce, has urged couples in conflict to work together to find an amicable solution this Father’s Day.

While the annual celebration is often seen as an opportunity to thank fathers and father figures for their hard work throughout the year, for dads who have split from their partners it can also be a difficult and upsetting time – especially if it falls on a weekend when their ex is due to have the kids.

Every year in June, the charity NFM (National Family Mediation) prepares for a spike in male-led enquiries as a result of the issue, which is also fuelled in part by disagreements over childcare disputes and travel plans in the run up to the extended six-week summer school break.

Sarah Hawkins, Chief Executive at NFM, says it is not uncommon for conflict to resurface around national holidays, with child-related matters accounting for 4 in every 5 mediation sessions that the charity oversees.

She said: “It’s hardly surprising that couples in conflict find the national holidays particularly difficult to navigate. Emotions are already running high following a breakup, and when you throw into the mix a typically family orientated celebration such as Father’s Day things can often get heated.

“While the same issues do occur around Mother’s Day, the latest Office of National Statistics data shows that the vast majority of lone parent families in the UK in 2022 (2.9million) were headed by a lone mother (2.5 million, 84%). 

“This can sometimes make it harder for the father to gain access to their child on Father’s Day, especially when there is conflict between the two, and can sometimes be used as a way to hurt the other party. We would always say that this is detrimental to the child, and we always encourage parents to allow their child to be part of both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.

“A child arrangement order which can be agreed in mediation, and approved by the court, can help iron out these issues in the longer term. But that doesn’t necessarily help people who are still going through the divorce and separation process, or those who are looking for a change in routine due to a special event.”

Sarah adds that while many couples find it difficult to be reasonable following a relationship split, mediation provides both parties to work towards a solution.

“Of course, a lot of couples are angry and upset following a relationship breakdown, but typically they want to do what is right for the children, and to ultimately find a solution that is best for all involved, and that is what mediation is all about.  

“The mediator is there to help work through disagreements and find solutions that work for both parties, as well as impacted extended family such as Grandpa. Even if you already have a child agreement in place, you can still use mediation to agree some exceptions and flexibility on key dates such as Father’s Day.”

Sarah explains that to help couples who are experiencing conflict over child matters, the Government has launched the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme – a one-off financial contribution of up to £500 to put towards mediation.

NFM also offers access to free child-inclusive mediation, for couples who also want to take into consideration the wishes of the children.

Sarah adds: “The voucher scheme is great, and I would urge anyone who experiencing conflict to take advantage of it to discuss a child matter at any time of year. However, for anyone who has found themselves in this situation ahead of Sunday and has run out of time, my advice is to be as flexible and as reasonable as possible.

“You may just find that by talking and compromising – even just a little – you could find yourselves on a much smoother path for the future.”

NFM’s professional mediators are highly skilled third-party negotiators with experience in helping families create long-term solutions that work well for their particular circumstances.

In addition to the family mediation voucher scheme, Legal Aid also remains available for family mediation. If you would like to book an appointment with a mediator get in touch.