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When a relationship ends it is very easy and understandable to adopt a position based on how you and your partner feel about the breakdown of the relationship. You are both likely to have a mix of emotions running through your mind; anger, sadness, shock, embarrassment, relief even, and that will influence your position in discussing the future.
Positioning can be reinforced by solicitors’ letters and well-intentioned advice from family and friends, preventing both of you from talking and perhaps reaching your own solutions to the family finances and any future arrangements over the children. But not all separations have to end in court.
It’s much more helpful, if possible, to avoid taking positions, and to instead focus on the priorities, interests, and hopes for both of you. Taking this approach offers you and your partner options for you both to resolve matters together.
Problem-solving, cooperation, and joint decision-making aren’t always the words you associate with separation but they are so important. They can be achieved by meeting up and having open and honest discussions with the help of a family mediator. It is in this way, that you can identify those areas where you agree, where you might reach a mutually acceptable decision, and where there is no room to budge. It very often means recognising what your partner needs and feels. By looking behind any potential barriers you can often find common interests with your partner, for example, A wants to be sure B doesn’t just leave the children with his sister when he has them, B meanwhile wants A to be less controlling when he has the children. In essence, there is no disagreement over B spending time with the children and each knows the children will benefit from spending time with both parents, there is just a difference as to how that time is spent. There is therefore a starting point for discussions.
You can work together through the options to reach an outcome that will work in reality and that both of you are comfortable living with. As well as facilitating these discussions a family mediator will reality check the outcome with each of you.
By focusing on your options you remain in control rather than giving the decision making to the court. This can make all the difference, by moving from living with a decision to working out for yourselves the outcome. The latter has of course more chance of lasting, and that’s got to be better financially and emotionally for all members of the family.
It means, of course, talking to your partner. Where there are young children involved, with the exception of particular cases, you are likely to be having to communicate with your former partner for many years to come. So, starting discussions in the room or on Zoom face-to-face is so much better than communicating through WhatsApp, text, email, or solicitor’s letter. It’s very easy for words in messaging or email to be misunderstood or meanings read into them.
Putting the problem on the table for both of you to see might help begin the process of moving forward.
Marcus Stanton is a Family Mediator at Kingston & Richmond Family Mediation Practice providing online mediation for separating couples living in SW London
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