Family mediation is a conversation. It takes place between two people who have been in some form of relationship which is ending.
Family mediation helps them make decisions for the future.
Therefore family mediation focuses on issues affecting them both, for example parenting, property and money.
Family mediation typically involves the couple attending a series of face to face meetings. And the discussions are facilitated by a professional, trained mediator.
Our family mediators know communicating after a separation is tough. So they are skilled at helping people work through issues they have to consider. These include practical, legal, financial and technical things.
And our mediators are skilled at helping when feelings are running high. And at time when co-operation is the last thing somebody expects from their ex.
Family mediation is much quicker, less stressful, and usually cheaper than heading to court.
It helps you make long-term settlements on parenting, money and property.
It enables you to keep control of your destiny, instead of handing it over to a court.
It’s an active process, so the decisions are made by the participants, not by a judge.
The Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) is designed to help you learn more about the challenges of post-separation parenting. The SPIP provides advice and guidance about how best to help yourself and help your children in your situation.
You can read more about the SPIP using this link
You can find your nearest SPIP provider on the Cafcass website
It is possible to acquire parental responsibility in two ways:
a) You can enter into a written agreement with the parent or parents who already have parental responsibility for the child.
b) The court may grant a parental responsibility order.
Children can be involved in family mediation. They can help shape the way their lives pan out after their parents have separated.
As the founders of child-inclusive mediation, we are ideally placed to help you decide if this is suitable.
We will help you assess and decide whether child-inclusive mediation is appropriate for your case.
If both parents agree the children should be involved, then our mediators help ensure this happens.
Our mediators are qualified and experienced in including children in family mediation.
Once you have decided to go ahead with family mediation, contact us.
Then we will quickly begin arranging an appointment for you with one of our expert family mediators.
If either person decides against mediation, or if mediation breaks down, you or your ex may want make an application to court. Unless there is a valid exemption to mediation, it is a legal requirement that an accredited family mediator signs the appropriate court form/s as evidence that you have considered mediation.
Parental responsibility is not an easy concept to understand. It is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a
child has in relation to the child and his property”.
A person who has parental responsibility has the right to be involved in major decisions concerning arrangements for a child e.g. education, medical treatment, change in residence. However, acquisition of parental responsibility does not give a person the right to interfere in day to day arrangements for a child.
A mother has automatic parental responsibility – so does a married father. An unmarried father will only have parental responsibility if the registration of the birth took place after 1.12.2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate.
You can do this in two ways:
a) By entering into a written agreement with the mother on a prescribed form. This form has to be witnessed by a court official and is then sent to the Principal Registry of the
Family Division in London and sealed copies are returned to each parent.
b) By applying for a court order. The courts rarely refuse a father an order for parental responsibility particularly if he can demonstrate commitment towards the child by
contact and financial support.
The short answer is yes, you do need their written permission.
If you are going abroad, say, for a two-week holiday, then you need to get permission from everyone with Parental Responsibility for the child before taking them abroad. A letter from your ex is usually enough to show you have got that permission.
You can only take your child abroad without getting permission (for up to 28 days) if you have a child arrangement order that says your child must live with you.
If your ex is not willing to give permission, you must apply for a court order to obtain permission to go abroad.
Bear in mind that the family court now places much more emphasis on parents reaching their own agreements and, in most cases, there is a requirement that parents have, at the very least, had a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting before an application to court can be made.
If your intention is to leave the country for longer or more permanently, and you are unable to agree this with your ex, then you will need to make an application to court for a Specific Issue order.
A residence order sets out the arrangements as to the person with whom a child will live. A residence order gives parental responsibility (if not already held) to the person in whose favour the order is made.
A contact order requires the person with whom a child lives to allow the child to visit or stay with the person named in the order or to have contact in some other form.
Contact can be direct (visiting/staying) or indirect (letter/cards/presents).
Contact with his/her natural parents is regarded as a fundamental right of the child and there have to be strong reasons for a court to refuse contact.
‘Custody’ and ‘access’ are now outdated legal terms. ‘Parental responsibility’ and ‘residence’ have replaced custody and ‘contact’ has replaced access.
Where proceedings have been issued under The Children Act and there is continuing dispute about arrangements for children the court has power to direct a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer to prepare an independent report, which involves collecting information from relevant adults, other professionals, e.g. schoolteachers, and meeting the children themselves. This report should be based on the welfare checklist. The report is filed with the court and a copy made available to the legal representatives for the parties in dispute. If the dispute proceeds to a full contested hearing the court has power to direct the CAFCASS officer to attend the hearing.
A prohibited steps order is designed to prevent a parent doing a specific thing relevant to their child without the consent of the court. Such an order can be made in conjunction with a contact
or residence order. Frequently, it is used where a parent is threatening to take the child out of the jurisdiction of the court.
A specific issue order allows the court to determine an issue usually relating to some aspect of parental responsibility e.g. where there are differences as to schooling, medical treatment, changing a child’s surname and other specific aspects of a child’s upbringing. As with prohibited steps, the order can be made in conjunction with residence or contact orders.
Under The Children Act 1989 the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration of the court when looking at the child’s upbringing or the administration of a child’s property or income. In reaching many decisions the court has to consider the welfare checklist set out below:
a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding).
b) his physical, emotional and educational needs
c) the likely effect on him of any change of circumstances
d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant
e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering
f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs
g) the range of powers available to the court under the Act in the proceedings in question.
One of the underlying principles of the Children Act is that “the court shall not make the order or any of the orders unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all”. A second very important principle is that delay is presumed to be harmful for a child.
Under The Children Act 1989 a local authority has a duty to investigate whenever it receives information which may suggest that a child within its area is suffering or is likely to suffer
significant harm. The Act gives the following definitions:
- Harm – means ill treatment or the impairment of health or development. This definition has been widened to include any impairment of a child’s health or development as a result of witnessing the ill treatment of another person, such as domestic violence
- Development – means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development
- Health – means physical or mental health
- Ill treatment – includes sexual abuse and forms of ill treatment which are not physical
The local authority must make enquiries to enable it to decide what action should be taken to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.