Every family has its own traditions. Whether they involve afternoon tea with Mum on Mother’s Day, watching football with Dad on Father’s Day, egg rolling at Easter, or something more unique, what is certain is that these traditions are central to family life.
During a separation, disputes might arise over where the children should spend these holidays. So what are your options if you find yourself in the middle of a dispute like this? Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate through the process:
1. The impact on your child
It goes without saying that you should consider first and foremost the impact on your child. This doesn’t just apply to the agreement you ultimately reach, but think about the way in which the decision is reached.
It is understandable that these discussions are sensitive and emotional. It is often helpful to continuously bring the focus of the conversation back to the best interests of your child. You both share this common interest and it will help to focus the conversation.
If your child is of a young age, remember that they may not understand what is happening. It is often helpful to consider the wider impact your decisions will have, for example, your child’s relationships with extended family members. You should always consider the benefits your child would get from taking part in traditional holidays with their other parent.
2. The opinion of the child
Depending on your child’s age, you should look to seek their opinion and ensure you ask them how they feel about any arrangements. By allowing older children a degree of flexibility in these arrangements allows them to feel included in the decisions that are being made about their life.
However, it is important to make sure your child does not feel as if they are being forced to choose between their parents, and you should encourage your child to want to spend time with their other parent too. To that end, you should avoid speaking negatively of the other parent when they are around.
3. Practical considerations
It is helpful to prepare for these conversations in advance and to think about the practical arrangements which might become a sticking point. For example, have you thought about whether your more general contact pattern will require to adjust to take account of special occasions, and have you factored in the arrangements for handovers during school holidays?
Mediation and Collaboration
In short, mediation involves a trained neutral mediator who will try to help you find a solution to your dispute. Collaborative practice involves both parents round the table discussing their problem but with the addition of each of their legal representatives.
One of the main benefits of choosing either mediation or collaboration. is that you maintain control over both the process and the outcome. Determining what is best for your family is unique to the individuals: what may be important to you, may have little relevance to someone else. By using one of these processes, you and your partner will be able to take matters that are important to you into consideration and strive to reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial.
Another advantage of using mediation and collaboration is that relationships between ex-partners tend to benefit from the less adversarial process and helps you to remain more amicable. This is always an important consideration when you need to maintain a co-parenting relationship.