Sleep completely evades me tonight. I have honestly never felt so awake in the middle of the night. So here I am blogging at stupid o’clock (3:30am in case you are wondering).
Well this is hardly a topic that warms the cockles of your heart, I know. It is an event that seems to make many people really nervous though so I wanted to give you a bit of a run down on the off chance that someone out there is feeling nervous right now and needs it. Knowledge is power. Even though you can’t know the outcome of your mediation or what might be said on the day (unfortunately those pesky exes don’t run to script) you can at least have a pretty decent idea on the process and believe me, that alone is pretty powerful.
So I should mention first of all that my experience with mediation was in NSW, Australia so the process I describe here is specific to they way they do it. However, I have spoken to someone undergoing mediation in QLD and it sounds pretty similar. I think you will find that to be the case no matter where you go. After all, the intent is to achieve the same goal.
In some cases mediation will be court ordered but in our situation I elected to go. It makes no difference. Your process will be the same regardless. It was TOTALLY FREE as a govt provided service. Brilliant. Really really brilliant. I have to say I was pretty impressed with the whole process. For a govt funded service it was actually pretty damn good and very worthwhile. Anyway, I digress…
I decided I wanted to undergo mediation when my ex got his first new girlfriend post our break up and insisted he should be able to introduce our son to her whenever he wanted and same applies for all future girls. He didn’t not understand at all why you would want to hold back on that ever. I knew nothing I said would ever convince him so decided this was the best chance of him at least listening and maybe getting my point of view just a little. It gave us a chance to tidy up a few other bits and pieces in our parenting arrangements too. At the time our son was about 9 mths old.
This is how it went down:
- I called the Family Relationship Centre and they booked me an appt (just for me, no ex). They took my ex’s details at that point and arranged booking him for a solo appt. I didn’t need to deal with it at all.
- At my first appt it was just me and the mediator (trained psychologist). We ran over my situation, how the co-parenting thing was going in general and then what to expect next. She gave me a great bunch of leaflets that were very informative.
- At some point over the next month or so my ex had an appointment too that was identical to my first one.
- Then we both had to attend a 2-3 hour parenting course at the centre before proceeding to our mediation session. We attended different sessions of the parenting course. We were not expected to attend together. In fact, they preferred it if you didn’t. The parenting course was REALLY great. Focused entirely on what the experience is like for the kids in a separation situation and the effects big massive awful terrible fights can have on the little ones.
It’s great that both parties get to see this. You are also given some strategies for avoiding those situations in future. I have heard the courses aren’t so good in other states but without having seen what happens it is impossible for me to compare. Many of the people attending are court ordered and depending on your area can be pretty rough. It can give people a bit of a “what am I even doing here?” feeling but work through it. This is not about them, it ‘s about the experience you are having and finding a way to be the best co-parent you can be.
- So once the parenting course was done and dusted for both of us we had our actual mediation session. I think if there is a high level of detail to sort out you may have more than one solo session and you may even have more than one mediation session but they do the best to work it out as quickly as possible. Our mediator was excellent. You must pay attention when the other person is talking. You will each be given turns and you must not interrupt. I recommend you take a pen and paper to write down things you want to address as if your ex has a lot to say when it’s their turn you might forget some of your points before you have the chance to respond.
- The mediator won’t allow violence or yelling so you are safe in your session.
- The thing I liked the best about our mediator is that she was really good at identifying the main issues for both of us and explaining that getting stuck and refusing to budge on something could only have a negative result. Basically, if we didn’t resolve it then it would always remain a trigger and cause a fight. It encouraged us to negotiate and not refuse to budge as we may have been tempted to. When we were getting stuck on one of the big ones she had me leave the room so she could have some one on one time with my ex again and then we switched. Don’ t be concerned if this happens. There are things that they can’t say when both of you are in the room so it is actually better that the mediator takes this approach. It allows a more complete explanation if necessary.
- Once we’d completed our session we waited while she typed up the document, we signed it and then we left. Sometimes people have to go back to do the signing but our agreements were relatively simple like who should provide clothes and food etc on access visits and what sort of assistance we can expect from the other when ill (as neither or us have family up here). Plus of course the whole hooo haaaa of new romantic partners meeting our son.
An important thing to know about mediation agreements is that they are not legally binding even if you were ordered by the court to attend. It is just what it says it is: an agreement. So if you ex breaks his agreement you can’t call the judge and dob him in. It doesn’t work like that. It is, however, taken into account in court so if things do go pear shaped and court is where you end up then your participation in mediation and your adherence to the resulting agreement will be taken into account.
If you are having issues with custody or co-parenting with the ex I urge you to consider going down this path before heading to court. A court will only ever send you back to mediation if you haven’t already done it (this is what I was told anyway) so you might as well give it a try. Obviously if the situation is serious or you feel in any danger then maybe court is where you need to be. Do whatever you need to do for your own protection and take the appropriate legal advice (and that is not me, I’m no legal eagle. I did think about a career in law once but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count as ‘qualified’).
If this is where you are at in life then I wish you the very best of luck. It totally sucks sometimes but it’s important to remember that we simply need to do what is best for the little people. We want to raise them without fucking them up completely and this can only help you do that.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest hopefully I can get some more sleep in. I’m not hopeful. Something is telling me that today, I’m going to see the sunrise.