“It has it’s benefits…”

Finally, to end Family Mediation Week 2018 on a high note and with a sense of optimism for the future, here is another of the wonderful Voices in the Middle young people sharing their story:

“It has its benefits, two bedrooms, two Christmases, two holidays and two places that you can call home!”

Written by Bryony, aged 16 (voices in the middle)

When I was in year 9, I started to notice changes, my mum and dad didn’t really talk to each other much any more. There were never any arguments or loud conversations, so when they told me and my twin on a February Thursday afternoon I panicked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My heart felt like it was starting to race, my hands started to shake and everything seemed to slow down, until I started to hyperventilate and cry at the same time. My dad had to calm me down, 3 times for it to stop. But it didn’t stop there, I had to play netball that evening, and I just couldn’t do it, I was angry at everyone else whose parents were still together, why did they deserve it over me? This anger was massive inside of me for a good 6 months, my panic attacks became more frequent and I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to. The only thing I had to keep my calm was my sport after a while, sprinting out the anger, kicking the football so hard when I scored that goal (my goals that season actually increased by 200%) and netball getting that flying interception! Of course the panic attacks were still there, but they got better as I taught myself how to control them.

Of course it was hard, seeing my Dad in a flat with one bed and we had to sleep on a floor air bed that was so noisy when you turned, I remember one night where I just didn’t sleep at all. And my mum had our newly extended 4 bedroom house with 3 bathrooms and a good sized garden… It was hard that Dad didn’t have that. What was also hard was Dad started dating 4 weeks after the separation… Did it really take him four weeks to get over my mum? (Now I realise no, he just needs to have someone there, he’s a softie like that, but his girlfriend then is still his girlfriend now over 2 years later – happy days) In July, we went on holiday to the Isle of Wight with my Dad and his girlfriend with her two kids, that’s when he officially bought the house because solicitors had to communicate with solicitors at home which was all confusing. But that time is important because I realised, all though the splitting was hard, it had actually brought me closer to my Dad. We had similar experiences and we didn’t spend a long time with him but it made me closer to him.

My Mum didn’t really get into a relationship until about a year after, even though I did keep pestering her. I remember it was about a year because I went to a party a couple of days before the 1st year anniversary of it all, and I was upset, so I drank so much of whatever was put in my hand that I threw up about 20 times, and a couple of weeks later I met my Mum’s new boyfriend. By that summer, I got on so well with everyone in my family, my Dad’s and my Mum’s, it has its benefits, two bedrooms, two Christmases, two holidays and two places that you can call home!

At this point in my life, 4 weeks before my GCSEs start, I can truly say I am finally happy and I am so close to both my Mum and my Dad. And the splitting up may have been terrible but it taught me lots of things, who you can trust friendshipwise, the value of money and that happiness can be found with more than one person!

Some sensible strategies from Vivienne Smith for wading through to the other side…

Wallowing in Misery, or Wading Through to the Other Side? By Vivienne Smith

There are so many ways to cope with the loss of a relationship, but some of them will just leave you feeling worse. 

In this interview with Transformation Coach and author of “The Single Mum’s Survival Guide“, Vivienne Smith shares a few examples or how we deal with relationship breakdown, and what better choices we can make.  All of these choices will lead to more success in mediation.


You assure everyone you are fine but you realise that you are drinking too much, eating too much or laughing just a little too loudly. You may even be dating again with a vengeance and using – often unsuitable – other people to make you feel better (this is not fair on the person you have picked for this job, and it’s not worthy of you).

Work out what went wrong last time, check for any recurring patterns in the partners you are attracting or attracted to. Are there some red flags here to warn you that this potential relationship could be a disaster? Whilst I understand that you may want to find someone to “kiss it better”, a failed relationship now – even a casual one- could leave you feeling raw and vulnerable and perhaps set you back into a bad place again. Or you may be pretending everything’s fine but inside you feel like a jelly that’s slowly dissolving into a puddle.

Quit pretending and ask for some help. You don’t have to share this with everyone, but it’s important that you tell someone the truth (even if the first person you admit this to is: yourself!) Once you’ve done this, get some help. You might pick a couple of close confidantes that you can talk to when things get really bad, or you can write it down and use a diary or journal to help get some of the angst out of your system. If you are unwilling to unburden yourself to a loved one, come and see a professional – we are paid to listen and we actively enjoy the process of assisting you in processing what you are going through.


You are stalking your ex online, or pumping his friends or family for information about him, even if that information serves only to make you feel more miserable and depressed about your split. No contact is the best way to go here and if you have to communicate over the kids: do that but only that.

Don’t use your children as a way to initiate unnecessary contact or prolong a bitter or emotional dialogue about what went wrong and who did what to whom. That way madness lies! Work out a strategy to communicate with your ex so that you don’t feel bruised or battered after every exchange. Again, it’s something that a professional often help clients with, so that they can step aside from the drama.

The rule here is: if it feels hurtful or upsetting, don’t put yourself through it. It can be like having a sore tooth otherwise – your tongue keeps returning to the source of the pain! Satisfying though it could be, if you fondly imagine that having the final word on your broken relationship will bring him to his senses or make him realise the error of his ways, then you may be waiting a very long time for this to happen! There is certainly some merit to writing him a letter and telling him exactly how you feel – just remember that it’s not necessary to send it – just the process of getting your feelings on paper will be cathartic and healing.


You have become a recluse. You’ve stopped going out or seeing anyone and you have started to withdraw from even the most innocuous of interactions. You need to heal and some alone time is a must but beware of becoming too lonely when actually a visit with a friend or family member might be just the tonic you need.

If you are afraid of breaking down and weeping all over anyone you speak to, practise a phrase that you can use when your lower lip starts to tremble – something along the lines of “Anyway, let’s change the subject- tell me about you!” And then do just that. Don’t keep returning to the subject, give yourself a break. Once you have mastered the skill of going out and having a great time without having to relive the pain you can start to enjoy life again, look around and see what the world has to offer the new you.

Are you Wallowing or Wading?

So are you wallowing in it, or are you wading through it? It will take time, but make sure that you are taking a small step every day in the right direction. You may not be running yet, but you can find help to get you to the other side!

Extraordinary, emotional poems about children’s experience of divorce

Amongst todays contributions to Family Mediation Week are these two poems, written by young people who are involved with Kids in the Middle.  Although they don’t fit the theme of the day they are so powerful they absolutely need to be read and absorbed.  They are a stark reminder of the impact family breakdown can have on children and young people….

“It all fell apart, when I came along”

Written by Kay, aged 15

When I came along,
it was
almost as if I was a spectator to my own life
almost as if I was never the child
almost as if I was nothing more than a product of a poisoned contract.

Because that’s all it ever was. A piece of paper.
No love to warm their hearts in the ices of winter.
No trust to carry them through the stormy seas.

Or so I thought.

Turns out they were happy.
Turns out they smiled.
And held hands.
And kissed.

Then I came along.

The stars in her eyes had died away,
The smile lines etched on his face turned to frown marks engraved into his increasing pallor.
Their faces grew as grey as their hair.

“It’s not your fault” I must’ve heard a million times more than any kid should.
“They’d been drifting apart for so long now”

But how long, how? Perhaps 15 years?

Because from where I’m standing, from the second I was concieved to the last second that I breathe it will be my fault.

It was always shit for them,
Its more shit for me,
I’m not strong,
Not anymore,
Cant you see?

It all fell apart

When I came along.

“What’s it like?”

Written by Jeremy, aged 16

Whats a story,
Without a dilemma?
What’s a family,
Without a father?
What’s it like,
Getting a full nights rest?
What’s it like,
Living with both parents?
What’s it like,
Being happy?
What’s it like,
Telling a friend?
What’s it like,
Having a reason to wake?
What’s it like,
Being able to concentrate?
What’s it like,
Feeling ‘normal’?
What’s it like,
Without cuts on your wrists?
I would tell you,
What it’s like,
But I just don’t know


Family Mediation Week 2018: Day 5

Today’s theme is “Looking back with pride on what has been achieved.”  Content will be reflecting about what it is like to come out on the other side of divorce / separation, move forward and re-build.

It’s been a fantastic week so far with loads of really interesting, thoughtful, insightful and practical blogs and videos….

We are looking forward to today’s offerings!!

Mortgage and financial options: the need for early advice

Another useful article produced for Day 4 of Family Mediation Week:

Why you need a mortgage expert sooner than you think when you’re getting divorced

Written by Carl Mountain

“I’m going to my mother’s!” (and slamming the door) doesn’t let you off the hook if the marital home has a mortgage on it and you decide to get a divorce. If your name is on the mortgage, you are as liable as your spouse for the payments. So getting divorce financial advice early on is a good idea.

What’s yours is his and what’s his, is yours – including debts and mortgages. And if the payments are not made, your credit history will be damaged.

So getting to a place of financial independence as soon as possible – even before the divorce is completed – is vital. It’s never too early to sit down with a financial planner to look at how to achieve that independence in the longer term – and also to deal with mortgage and property issues in the short term.

Your financial advisor will suggest that you contact your mortgage company and if the situation is complex (spouse refusing to pay the mortgage but has control of the purse-strings) then the mortgage company may offer a payment holiday – which can buy you valuable time. Getting divorce financial advice at an early stage is a very good idea.

 What are my mortgage and financial options?
If your name is not on the deeds, then you can register your matrimonial rights through the Land Registry to stop your partner selling against your wishes. Especially if the house was bought after you were married.

When it comes to divorce in the UK, the matrimonial home is considered a joint asset and you cannot be forced to leave by your partner. Don’t let them bully you into thinking they can. This is why getting some initial legal advice is a good idea.

Providing your house is easy to sell, just both moving out and selling up can seem the simplest option, and may allow a clean break divorce settlement to become a realistic solution. However, if your kids are settled in the local school, and you are not going to be able to buy a big enough house for the family with the proposed divorce settlement, then selling up may not be the best option.

Read full article here: https://alternativedivorcedirectory.co.uk/need-mortgage-expert-divorce-financial-advice-kingston-surrey-london/

The options about what to do and how to move forward can be talked through in a calm and constructive way in mediation.

Family Mediation Week 2018: Day 4

Day 4 of Family Mediation Week and there are many more excellent contributions.

The following from Anne Braithwaite, is particularly informative and helpful in explaining what mediators actually do that can help:

Amongst all the heartache and anger, there is fear!

Written by Anne Braithwaite, FMA

I have been a mediator for over 25 years. For all but the last 5 ½ of those years, I was also a divorce lawyer dealing with all the fall out when a marriage ends with a focus on money. I guess I’ve now spent going on for 35 years helping people from all walks of life sort out what to do when the world as they know it ends. I know that, amongst all the heartache and anger, there is fear about what the future will bring. Until finances are sorted out it’s impossible to live other than in limbo, a very insecure place to be.

So everybody who separates needs to resolve financial issues before they can rebuild their lives. Often having a safer place financially speaking helps focus on the emotional needs of children. It also means you can answer the questions which they have about where they will live and go to school.

Many people don’t have a clue where to start or, even if they do, feel the need of some professional help. A mediator gives that help. Mediators don’t just get couples in a room and then let them just try to sort things out. How would anyone know where to start? That’s the mediator’s job. Whilst being flexible to the needs of each couple, mediators are in charge of the actual process. Your mediator ensures that sessions have focus and that the whole process feels that it is going somewhere. Mediation has to feel safe and that it has a structure and purpose.

Separation is new to you. You need to understand what the rules are. Mediators help there by giving what we call “legal information”. That means explaining things such as what the relevant legal factors are in a neutral way. I know my clients find that knowing what a court would consider helps them talk about their own financial division and what feels like a fair outcome. Having that information enables people to start to talk with a sense of direction.

Mediators also help to explain what you might do about pensions for example, a subject of great importance where most people feel at least a little at sea. Mediators make suggestions about how to achieve agreed valuations and get mortgage advice. They help you pull all the threads together. This is all new to clients but many mediators have years of experience in the family law field. We are guides through the process who can pass on knowledge so that you realise that you actually can be in control of what happens. Crucially a mediator will help you work out the shape of your future.

This is all against the background of full financial disclosure. There has to be evidence about income and capital, not just taking each other’s words for things. Apart from the fact that nobody can start to talk about dividing everything up without establishing what is there in the first place, mediators realise that trust is usually in short supply. Clients only feel safe to negotiate when they are sure of the facts.

A mediator will also listen to what is important to you both and may help you take into consideration things that haven’t even occurred to you, or at least not to both of you, such as being able to live in areas which offer a chance of getting children into good schools and how to help your children through higher education and to afford the school trips that their friends will go on.

When you decide on what you want to do, the mediator sets that out in a memorandum of understanding. This isn’t legally binding yet as it is the last step in negotiations. It’s also a good idea to have legal advice before making your proposals legally binding. I always strongly suggest to my clients that they take that advice in between our mediation sessions and not wait until the mediation is concluded. The terms in the memorandum are made legally binding by having either a separation agreement or a consent order made in divorce proceedings.

Mediation is a professionally led means of negotiation, a negotiation where you are assisted by a neutral third party who will be able to give you legal information and practical pointers whilst ensuring an equality of bargaining power between the two of you. It is a process where the two of you determine the shape of your futures for yourselves. After all only the two of you know what will best suit you and your family. What mediation is not, is remotely fluffy.

Anne Braithwaite

Treasurer on the board of The Family Mediators Association

Sophie, 16, explains why it’s so important that children are able to talk about how they are feeling when their parents divorce

More from yesterday’s Family Mediation Week contributions:

“Talk to your parents individually and explain how you’re feeling.”

Written by Sophie aged 16

 My parents divorced when I was 3 years old. Some would say that being a young child unaware of what is going on around you can help with the emotional side of a divorce, however I believe that it can be just as hard no matter what age you are when the divorce occurs.

As a child I often felt anger that I was the child amongst my friends who didn’t spend time with both of their parents, as I lived with my mum and spent little time with my dad and his new wife and children. His new relationship caused a lot of problems between my mum and him, which meant that it put me in a difficult position as a young child – I felt like I was torn in the middle as I didn’t want to take ones side over another.

Parents may often unknowingly make you feel pressurised to take their side when trouble occurs but a way of coping with this is to try and explain that you love them both and want to be kept out of their issues. As adults, they shouldn’t bring you into arguments as this isn’t good for you mentally, it can cause distress and anxiety.

Don’t bottle it up if you feel like you are in this situation. Talk to your parents individually and explain how you’re feeling. I now have no involvement in any discussion between my divorced parents and I feel a lot more relaxed and comfortable to contact and see either of them without feeling like I’m betraying one.


Family Mediation Week 2018: Day 3

I’m a bit late with posting…. yesterday was a busy day!!

The theme for Family Mediation Week Day 3 was: “Listen, be listened to and stay in control!”

Again, there have been some very interesting articles, all of which can be found on the Family Mediation Week Blog.

This, from Bill Hewlett, is an insightful look at the benefits of including children in the mediation process:

So why should children be included in mediation?

Written by Bill Hewlett

I have been thinking about the many reasons that separating parents in mediation should be encouraged to give their children an opportunity to talk about how they’re feeling. Giving children a voice in mediation allows the parents to make decisions from an informed position. If they know how their children are feeling, they can, with the help of the mediator, work to make things better for all the family, creating a better parenting relationship that will leave the children free to grow and develop without concerns about how their parents are getting on with each other.

Parents usually try to shield their children from conflict, but invariably the children know that something big is happening when their parents separate and they can often feel left out. Including children in the process and letting them feel that their views and feelings are important is a very positive thing and can help alleviate their anxiety and confusion.

Bear in mind that these parents are probably struggling to understand and appreciate each other’s perspectives and they may also be finding it hard to focus on how their children are coping. The challenge is that, even though these parents are currently unable to talk to each other constructively and reassuringly about their children, they still have responsibility for making decisions that influence where the children live, what they eat, what school they go to, how they feel about themselves, how well they sleep, the list goes on. It appears that nothing matters more to children than what their parents think of each other.

When parents are fighting with each other they seem to lose their ability to be fully aware of how their children are feeling. The children may not want to say anything because they don’t want to add to an already stressful situation.

I often feel when we hear parents speaking harshly about each other, that we are hearing a description of a world that must be very difficult and dangerously stressful for their child and I feel that we should be reacting with immediate and urgent concern. This is what we should be thinking about when we hear the lack of respect that the parents have for each other, when we hear them question each other’s morality, when they tell us that they hate each other. The dangerously toxic environment that these children are living in could cause them lifelong harm, seriously compromising their wellbeing and their capacity to thrive now and in the future. We know that these parents are often so stressed and full of anxiety, thinking catastrophic thoughts, terrified about their future and afraid of what the other parent might do, that they are often only barely coping. And, while they are going through all this, they have absolute and ultimate responsibility for the mental, emotional, physical wellbeing of their children. In mediation, we take these concerns really seriously and want to do all we can to help the parents make a safer world for their children.

The Bottom line is, that regardless of how the children are choosing to talk about how their parents are managing their separation, if things aren’t good between their parents, then they won’t be good for the children. The reality is that ‘there’s no such thing as a still child around chaotic parents’ (Winnecott).

We need some way to draw the attention of the parents to what is happening to their children. When the parents are aware as to how their relationship is impacting on their children they will naturally be concerned and want to create an environment where their children can thrive

Children don’t want to be the decision makers on what arrangements are made for their care and welfare, but generally, (if they don’t think it’s going to make things worse), they would like to talk about it. If they could talk to someone who is committed to taking their perspectives into discussion with the parents, someone who they can feel confident will not make it worse, someone who can tell their parents things that maybe they haven’t been able to, then they often feel like a heavy burden has been lifted.

When children are helped to talk about their feelings, they begin to understand more and more about what’s going on for them. Children have a need to talk through things so that they can get a sense of how they should think and feel. They are designed to link up their young brains with a grown up adult brain to help make sense of things, to get a bigger picture perspective. When someone helps them to put a word to something they have been feeling but not perhaps not fully understanding, they feel better. We call it ‘naming it (the emotion) and taming it (the fear)’ (Seigel).

If you are thinking of using mediation to help you work out your parenting arrangements for your children now that you have separated, why don’t you ask your mediator to arrange for a child consultant to meet with your children? This will help you both to make plans that will allow your children to thrive, safe in the knowledge that they will appreciate being asked.

Bill Hewlett

Family Mediation Week 2018: Day 2

Todays theme is “Take a breath, evaluate and then take a step forward.”

Amongst today’s contributions there’s this evocative and visceral poem by 16 year old Abigail to explain how she felt about the way her parents handled their divorce:

“Although it may have been painful, I think we should have been involved a little more with the divorce.”

Written by Abigail, aged 16

That Silence

Was it a blessing or a curse?
That Silence.
Did it mask the cracks or make them worse?
That Silence.

Were the soundless arguments
Protective? Secretive? Catastrophic?
Were the avoided conversations
Out of love? Out of sympathy? Out of cowardice?
That Silence.

Would snide remarks have softened the surprise?
Would shouting matches have stopped the tears?
Would shattered plates have been the warning signs?

My unanswered questions.
Because of
That Silence.


I wrote this poem in reflecting how my parent’s divorce played out from my point of view. I was 11 when we were told. My brother (then 13) and I were called downstairs to the living room – our 4 year old sister was asleep. We sat on different sofas, I sat with mum and my brother slumped next to my dad (the irony of those sides now makes me smile). After we were told, we all had a group hug. It was the last time I hugged my mum and dad at the same time. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on my brother’s face, sodden with tears, trying to reassure me we were going to be ok but I knew it was going to be tough. This came as a real shock for me and my brother, fortunately my sister was too young to truly understand what was going on. One of my closest friend’s parents had gone through a very rough divorce with endless arguments and court dates. I guess my parents had learnt from this ugliness and wanted to protect us. So there were no arguments in front of us, no shouting matches across the stairs, no tears, no slamming doors. I know they did this to protect us. If there was any way to redeem the marriage, our family, I know they’d have wanted to. The downside of That Silence though was that it was a complete shock to us. There were no pre-warning sides to prepare us. Since the divorce we’ve had to piece things together ourselves. My grandmother had told me that they’d been going to counselling for quite a while – but how long? My dad moved out. A stranger moved in. At first the stranger was just coming round for tea or giving us lifts until the second Christmas, when me and my siblings were with our dad, my mum and the stranger went on holiday. They came back engaged. This news crushed me. I felt betrayed by my own mother. I really disliked the stranger – she knew. We’d had many conversations with tears and pleadings for one of us to change their mind. It wasn’t that this new stranger was trying to replace my dad – he never could- but some people you just don’t get on with. Also we had never been properly introduced and the engagement was a huge surprise to me. I still don’t get on with this stranger. Never have, never will. I don’t want my parents back together, dad has moved on and couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t be happier for him. I always wonder if I would have liked this new stranger if we had been properly introduced.

The poem is mostly for parents to see how, although it has good intentions, not arguing in front of kids can sometimes make the whole process worse. My brother and I are very mature and we were at that time too so we understood what was happening and wanted to ask questions but couldn’t. Although it may have been painful, I think we should have been involved a little more with the divorce as we still don’t fully know why there was a breakdown in their marriage.