Parents often attend either mediation or court expressing their wish for a 50:50 shared care arrangement.
Spending 50% of their time with each parent may work for some children but often what is being sought by the adults in reality is an equality of status, involvement in decision making and the maintenance of a close bond with the child. None of these objectives require a 50:50 split of time.
The most consistent message heard from children during Child Inclusive Mediation [“CIM”] is a wish for their parents to get on, not argue and not be unkind to or about each other. This is more important to children than the precise amount of time spent with each parent.
The Nuffield Foundation Final Report on “Taking a longer view of contact” published as long ago as November 2012 highlighted the following important themes:
What is important is to ensure that the arrangements that parents decide upon are tailored to the needs and circumstances of each individual child.
Children should, wherever possible, be consulted before arrangements about where they will live and what time they spend with the other parent are finalised. Arrangements which do not reflect the child’s views are more likely to break down. If in the Court process then parents may have access to a CAFCASS officer who can provide information about the views of the child. If parents are attempting to reach a resolution about arrangements in mediation then they may want to consider having a mediator qualified in Child Inclusive Mediation speak to their child/children.
More information about how children view their involvement within the decision-making process can be accessed through the National Charter for Child Inclusive Family Justice that has been drawn up by the Family Justice Young People’s Board.
And the “Top Tips for parents who are separated” can be accessed through the CAFCASS website or, as here, through the Family Mediation Council.