How is Mediation used in Separation?

You may be devastated and quite possibly inconsolable over the break down of your relationship.  This was not what you planned. ‘Marriage vows aren’t ‘until divorce do we part’!

Despite this, separation does not mean your world is over. It also does not mean you are ruining or even having a negative impact on the future of your children. Going through separation means your world is changing but once those changes have been worked through, that world may in fact be a more peaceful one for you and your family. So apart from using a lifetime supply of Kleenex what can you do and what needs to be done to adjust to this new world you find yourself in?


How can mediation help?

Broadly speaking, most of what needs to be resolved in a separation will come under one of the following three areas:

  1. Living and care arrangements for the children;
  2. Child support (the financial aspects of supporting the children); and
  3. Financial settlement (splitting up the joint assets the couple have).

With the experience and difficulties associated with separation now being a well- trodden path, there are many people out there who can assist you to work through the process.  The Family Court of Australia provides many resources.

The challenge for many, at least in the initial stages of the separation, is trying to communicate with their former partner in a productive or future focused way. This may be the last thing you want to do but as much you might hope your former partner would all but disappear, the reality is, especially if you have children together, you will need to establish a way to communicate and co parent going forward.

For many, they will be referred either by their family lawyer, counsellor or GP to an accredited family dispute resolution practitioner (colloquially known as a family mediator). An experienced family mediator will be able to help parents navigate both the practical and emotional aspects of separation. They can help you to see the bigger picture, remain focused on your children and what you hope to achieve for the future without dwelling on the past.  As mediators are impartial and cannot impose any decisions, their main aim is to assist the parties to resolve their conflicts and improve communication going forward.

Tips for parents

Whatever resources you rely on to get you through this challenging time, experience has shown that if you follow a few general rules, you will find yourself getting through this tumultuous time without negatively impacting your children.


Focus on your children:

Try to see it from their perspective. For example, if your children are school age, a living arrangement that has them swapping houses every two nights might make them feel like they are living out of a suitcase. Consider what will work best for them.


Protect your children from adult issues:

As much as you may be frustrated with your former partner, try to protect your kids from this negativity. Children need to feel loved and protected by both parents.


Minimise blame on yourself and, if possible, on your former partner:

We all make mistakes and we make them often. It is what makes us human. Your current situation no doubt feels awful, possibly helpless at times, but it can and almost always does get better. Focusing on taking care of yourself and your children rather than dwelling on the past is a good place to start. The more you can move on from the past for the sake of your children (and your own sanity!) the better.


Reduce conflict between the parents:

The more committed parents are to putting aside their differences for the sake of the children, the better the outcomes for the children. Don’t lose hope if the initial separation is acrimonious. It may take time and space but it doesn’t mean that over time you won’t be able to create a positive post-separation parenting relationship.

Remember it is the conflict between separated parents and not the separation itself, which causes the most harm to children. If parents can reduce the conflict and negativity towards each other whilst keeping the children’s best interests as the focus, the better the outcomes for the family.

Judi Rotstein is an accredited Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and a Nationally Accredited Mediator at Mediation Victoria or see our directory.

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