The amount of contact that the child or children have with each of their parents is of fundamental importance to the vast majority of separating couples, and the reassurance that they will be able to continue to have a relationship with both parents is of key importance to the children themselves. Unfortunately, in the difficult and emotionally demanding experience of getting divorced or of separating the effect on the children can sometimes be forgotten, and contact with them can become more a battleground than an agreement. There may be stong feelings of anger, blame and guilt involved, and these emotions can sometimes cloud individual’s judgement in what is a crucial time for ensuring the long term happiness and welfare of the children. At Hampshire Mediation we work with separating parents and also with those parents who have already divorced to work out or revise arrangements and to arrive at solutions which are sensible, sustainable and which meet the needs, not only of the parents, but most importantly of the children.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the question of contact with children after divorce or separation and each case will be different; the solution that best fits one separating couple’s circumstances might be entirely inappropriate for another couple. Factors which will influence any solution will inevitably include the parents’ new domestic arrangements, how much space they have in their new homes, the parents’ working patterns, the children’s schooling arrangements, their ages, and the distance apart that the parents now live. It will also, of course, be influenced by the children’s own wishes.
As a starting point, it is almost always the case that the children’s best interests are served by having a continuing relationship with both parents. Studies have also shown that these contact arrangements, when they become a source of contention and dispute between parents, have a serious effect on the mental and emotional welfare of the children who are already struggling to come to term with the divorce itself. At Hampshire Mediation we work with separating and divorcing parents to avoid conflicts and to reach realistic and workable consensual arrangements through discussion.