Every June families across the country celebrate Father’s Day. It’s seen as an opportunity to thank all of the fathers and father figures for all their hard work throughout the year.
But for dads who are separated 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.
According to the charity National Family Mediation (NFM) the number of enquiries it receives from men looking to mediate over matters relating to children always increases in the run up to important diary dates such as Easter and Christmas.
The charity, which helps families to sort arrangements for children, property, finance and other important matters, says there is also a spike in male-led enquiries in the month of June, fuelled in part by issues relating to Father’s Day, and ahead of the extended summer break.
Here Jane Robey, Chief Executive at NFM, offers some insight into what warring couples can do to help keep things amicable, and how mediation can be used to help find a resolution that works for all.
“If a father is separated from his partner, they may not necessarily be able to spend Father’s Day with their children if their parenting plan doesn’t allow for any flexibility and the day falls on his ex’s allocated weekend,” Jane explains.
“But the same can be said for Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter and any other date when, typically, a family would have come together to celebrate. It’s therefore usually in the best interests of both parties to agree some wiggle room that will ultimately benefit everyone – especially the children!”
“Try to be reasonable in your negotiations,” Jane suggests. “Rather than demanding the whole weekend, you may find your ex is more open to an hour or so to do something nice to celebrate.
“Equally, remember the fathers on the other side of the family and accommodate their needs too. For example, if the children are close to their maternal granddad, they may want to see him also so it’s worth factoring that into what you agree.”
Jane also cautions that if you are going to request a change to the pre-agreed parenting schedule, make sure it’s something you really do want.
“Often, we work with couples who say their ex has a habit of chopping and changing dates just to start an argument,” Jane explains. “Planning well in advance and being genuine about each request will help to keep things amicable.”
Be prepared to adapt:
“What works one year, might not necessarily work the next, so be prepared to adapt to current circumstances,” Jane urges.
“Even if it’s difficult to accept, your children may go on to form a strong bond with your ex’s new partner, and they may also want to celebrate the role that he plays in their lives on Father’s Day at some point too.
“Around 35% of the enquiries we receive are from families whose circumstances have changed since the parenting plan was put in place. Mediation is popular in these cases as people recognise that an independent third party can help them navigate the changes and reach a solution that meets everyone’s needs. “
Be prepared to talk:
“If you and your ex find it difficult to talk to each other, consider mediation – a process where a trained independent mediator helps you work out arrangements concerning children, finance or property,” Jane explains.
“The mediator is there to help you work through disagreements and find solutions that work for you both. 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.
“Currently couples wanting to discuss children matters can also access the Family Mediation Voucher Scheme, which is worth up to £500, so it really is a great solution for all.”
Put the children first:
“Ultimately, everything you agree with your ex should be in the very best interests of your children,” Jane adds.
“You might be angry or upset with your ex, but if your kids want to see their granddad this Father’s Day consider the impact it will have on them if you dig your heels in.”
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.