Archive for the ‘separation’ Tag

Anna’s story – What happens when your relationship breaks down?   Leave a comment

I was married for 11 years and had two daughters with my husband.  When we separated and I knew wouldn’t have been able to afford the mortgage repayments on my own, as well as the debt we had got into.  That was one of the reasons for not ending the marriage sooner because I couldn’t see a way out of it really.

About two years before we actually separated I said to my husband I want out, I‘ve had enough.  There were other factors, but part of the reason for staying was that I didn’t see how I would survive with two children, I didn’t know what I could do, I couldn’t see a way out of it.  We were in debt, we were half way through an extension that went wrong; there were so many different things, as well as money issues.         . 

You feel financially strangled, it fixes you to what you know.   As bad as it was, it somehow felt safer to stay in something that I knew was not right and was not good, than to think there may be a way out of this but it would mean losing my house, my children’s home – it was all those things as well.

Not only are you ending your marriage with their father, but they’ll lose their bedroom. The children’s bedrooms were important to them, my eldest more so than my youngest as she has a few issues with change anyway – so to uproot her, to uproot her from school, was difficult. 

I got the point when I just snapped one day, I thought enough is enough, it can’t go on like this.  I think something did snap inside me and I thought anything has got to be better than this.  Somehow I’ll work a  way, and if I have to sell, it’s got to be better than my children growing up in an unhappy house, that’s just unhealthy.

My husband moved out and rented a two bedroom flat nearby.  Because of his debt, he had no way to pay it back, unless we sold the house.  I couldn’t afford to buy him out.  We sold the house last Spring.  My husband cleared his debts.  And I had enough to put down a deposit on somewhere else.  I was very lucky. 

Everybody’s situation is different but the worst thing you can to is to stay. If the relationship has broken down, then staying for anything, for financial reasons or for the children, you just get deeper and deeper into a horrible situation. 

Seek advice, speak to someone, use free legal advice.  The worst thing you can do is to stay.   Once I’d made the decision to leave it was a relief. I spoke to a mediator which allowed me to look at all the options I was facing following the separation. We used mediation to sort out arrangements related to our separation. It was tough, but we did it.

The biggest fear for me was the unknown.  My parents and grandparents are still together.  Separation has never happened in my family. All those pressures compounded and made it worse.  But once I had decided enough was enough it was like a weight lifted, and I could then deal with everything else.  When I ended the relationship it then gave me the strength to deal with all the other things. 

If you’re worried about ending a relationship contact us for further information. We also help people work out agreements following separation. You can also get in touch with Shelter who provide advice on options for homeowners and for tenants

Parents in denial about impact of divorce on children   Leave a comment

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Netmums’s new report reveals separating parents are in denial about the impact their divorce can have on their children. They surveyed 1000 parents and 100 children separately and the key points from the research follow:

  • Only 14 per cent of children were able to be honest with their parents about how upset they felt.
  • Concerningly, two in five (39%) said they ‘hide their feelings from their parents as they don’t want to upset them’ while one in five felt ‘there was no point in telling my parents how I feel as they are too wrapped up in themselves’
  • One in 12 felt forced to look after the parent as the relationship broke down while more than a third (35%) claimed one of their warring parents tried to turn them against the other.
  • Almost a third of under 18s described themselves as ‘devastated’ by their parents divorce while one in 12 thought it meant their parents ‘didn’t love them’ and had ‘let them down’.  One in eight (13%) blamed themselves for the split.
  • The trauma of the spilt was so bad for some youngsters that 31 per cent witnessed their parents fighting while one in 20 (five per cent) drank, and three per cent took drugs to cope. Shockingly, one in nine self-harmed (11 per cent).
  • A further six per cent considered suicide and one in 50 tried it but was found in time.

From a parent’s perpective

  • By contrast, only five per cent of parents realised their children blamed themselves for the split, and one in ten thought their kids were ‘relieved’ they left their partner
  • 10% of parents realised their child had seen them fighting – three times lower than the true figure.
  • 8% admitted they had tried to turn their child against the other parent, almost four times lower than reported by the children.
  • 77% of separated couples think their kids coped well – but only 18% of children are happy their parents are no longer together.
  • Over a third claim one of their warring parents tried to turn them against the other – but only eight% of mums and dads admit to it.
  • One in five youngsters drank and one in nine self-harmed to cope – but just one in 100 parents knew
  • Furthermore, only one in ten parents knew their children were hiding their true feelings – and fewer than 1% were savvy enough to realise their child was drinking, self harming or doing drugs to cope.

Coping and moving on

  • On a more positive note, children coped better than adults with how wider society views broken families, as more than double the number of youngsters thought divorce was ‘not seen as a big deal’ (64%) compared to parents (28%).
  • Over half (53%) of mums and dads were worried their families would be judged but just 27% of kids agreed. And double the number of parents thought divorce meant they had failed (18%) compared just nine per cent of children who felt the same.
  • The study also showed the most common way to tell children parents were splitting was for mum to tell them face to face (28%) followed by both parents telling them together (24%). But 13% overheard it during a row and 1% were told by text.
  • Once a decision was made by the parents to break up, two in five parents left that day with a further 18% fleeing the family home within a week.

FUTHER HELP AND SUPPORT

NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.

You can also visit the Netmums Drop-in Clinic to ask questions and be supported by a Netmums parent supporter.

Divorce rates increase as family resolve struggles to withstand   Leave a comment

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The number of divorces in England and Wales have slightly increased by 0.5% since 2011 – as shown by the latest figures out today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Jane Robey, Chief Executive Officer of National Family Mediation, the largest provider of family mediation in the U.K. responded by stating:

“In 2011 we saw the divorce rates hit an all-time low. The theory was that couples couldn’t afford to split as a result of the recession. Now we see divorce rates are rising. Is this as a result of the anecdotal green shoots of economic recovery or because breaking point has been reached?”

“Nobody plans for a divorce and it can be emotionally, financially and practically challenging but the sustained pressure of the economic recession with job losses redundancy, financial insecurity and huge hike in cost of living will have tested many families resolve to the limits. Sadly the ONS figures indicate that many families have reached tipping point and cannot withstand anymore”.

Families past the talking point need affordable expert advice and information to be able to move forward. National Family Mediation understands all too well the impact and expense of divorce and the effect conflict created by relationship breakdown can have on families.

Going through the process of divorce can cause great uncertainty to all members of the family, and at such a stressful time, many couples find it difficult to talk to each other about their concerns and the plans they need to make.

Family Mediation can help because it gives you a private and supportive setting to talk through all the issues surrounding your divorce or separation. Simon Hughes, Justice Minister, supports this view:

“”[The government is] committed to making sure that more people make use of it rather than go through the confrontational and stressful experience of going to court.”

“That is why we want them to use the excellent mediation services available to agree a way forward, rather than have one forced upon them.”

Professionally, trained mediators provide you with the tools to untangle all the strands around family breakdown, whether it is before, during or after the event, and offer you a structured process that enables you to focus on your practical plans for the future.

Robey adds: “National Family Mediation aims to help families adjust to the change that relationship breakdown brings with minimum distress and conflict, with the welfare of children in these families being paramount”.

 Editors Notes:

  1. According to the ONS release in 2012 – the latest year published – there were a total of 118,140 divorces, a slight increase on 2011, when there were 117,558 (ONS).
  2. Of the 2012 total, almost half of these divorces occurred in the first 10 years of marriage, with divorces most likely to occur between the fourth and eighth wedding anniversary. 71% of divorces were for first marriages (ONS).
  3. National Family Mediation has a network of accredited family mediation services delivering in over 500 locations across England, Wales and the Channel Islands. Our services are proven to reduce the conflict in separation, help families avoid lengthy and costly court battles and provide a more affordable and quicker route than traditional legal remedies.
  4. Couples that use National Family Mediation typically take just over three months to finalise their divorce or separation while cases that go to court take four times longer.
  5. National Family Mediation is also considerably more affordable, especially as we are able to offer legal aid to eligible clients in mediation.
  6. National Family Mediation’s professionally accredited family mediators can help families resolve all the practical, legal, emotional and financial issues that arise from separation. Most importantly, NFM can help families make long lasting arrangements that benefit their children.

A week dedicated to helping families sort out their separation outside of court   Leave a comment

National Family Mediation is a proud supporter of National Family Dispute Resolution Week. The initiative, launched today, aims to raise awareness of non-confrontational methods of resolving family breakdown, such as mediation, collaborative law and arbitration.

According to a polling carried out by ComRes in 2012, shows that the majority of Britons believe that putting the child’s interests first and avoiding conflict are the top factors to consider when going through a divorce.

Four out of five (78%) say that putting children’s interests first would be their first or second most important consideration in a divorce, and 53% would prioritise making the divorce as conflict-free as possible.

Despite this, over four-fifths of people (81%) believe that children end up being the main casualties of divorce, and 40% believe that divorces can never be without conflict – a figure that rises to nearly half (47%) of those who are currently divorced themselves. In addition, 45% of those surveyed think that most divorces involve a visit to court, despite the increasing availability of non-court alternatives.

Surprisingly, financial factors are not seen as particularly important. Only 1% said that being financially better off than their partner would be the most important consideration should they separate.

As part of Family Dispute Resolution Week, National Family Mediation is promoting a full range of solutions for separating families. This includes promotional activities across England, Wales and the Channe Islands which are designed to help separating couples understand and explore non-court based methods of resolving issues arising on the breakdown of a relationship. This includes free mediation information surgeries at local Citizen’s Advice Bureaux, delivery of information sessions to couples in court and launching new office premises.

Chief Executive Officer of National Family Mediation, Jane Robey states: “Divorce or separation is never easy and families struggle to find the services they need. We help families to identify organisations that can provide the right services in their time of need”

All too often we see families who have struggled to find a solution to their problem and this has often cost them dear, both financially and emotionally. We aim to help parents find services that can help them more quickly so we can save them both time and money – but more importantly – they will be able to move forward with their lives and their children will be secure in the knowledge that both of their parents are working together despite the separation”.

National Family Mediation also has a range of videos which aim to show how family mediation can be beneficial:

  • Regular, positive contact with both parents is the best way to bring up children when parents separate. Tanya Victor who went to mediation with the father of her daughter, Georgia, talks about how it has improved life for all of them. John Hickman talks to his children everyday using FaceTime.
  • Family mediation helped Martin and Steven come to an amicable arrangement over property and pensions when their civil partnership broke down.
  • Brenda and her husband divorced using mediation, and they still live in the same house.
  • Terry and Susan Selby are divorcing after 30 years of marriage. Mediation has saved them thousands of pounds by sorting out a problem with their pension that neither of their solicitors had spotted.
  • Tricia Mason went to family mediation 15 years ago. She talks about how her two children have regular contact with their father. Her daughter Kate grew up with her parents living apart, and she talks about how important it has been for her to have contact with both parents over the years.

Please remember that legal aid is still available for family mediation.

All NFM Mediators are professionals with a wealth of skills and experience in family mediation and conflict resolution. They deliver family mediation at the highest accredited standard. All are qualified to provide legally aided family mediation on behalf of the Legal Aid Agency.

Legal Aid for Family Mediation goes unclaimed as the Courts are clogged with cases   Leave a comment

 The reforms to legal aid implemented in April 2013 are already taking their toll on the courts and families across the country. Recent reports in the national media have highlighted the problems, as the courts face increased numbers of applications, whilst referrals to mediation plummet.

Since April 2013, legal aid provided by lawyers for divorce, separation and child contact issues has been withdrawn except in cases where there is evidence of severe domestic abuse.  However, the government has failed to inform the public that legal aid for Family Mediation remains in place and is accessible through National Family Mediation and its member mediation services. To find your nearest member service visit http://www.nfm.org.uk

“The government had intended that greater numbers of people would try mediation before making an application to court but the failure to publicise services has had the opposite effect and people are heading straight to court because they do not know what else to do,” says Jane Robey, Chief Executive Officer of National Family Mediation.

“What the government didn’t see was that lawyers acted as gatekeepers for both mediation and the courts. Now the public is left with fewer options. Many are applying to court, and now more frequently as litigants in person”.

Marion Stevenson, NFM Family Mediation Trainer, Mediator and Professional Practice Consultant states that furthermore, “the drastic changes to the new legal aid eligibility rules for mediation have redefined and therefore reduced significantly who will get through the hoop, fundamentally reducing the take up of legal aid.  This means that fewer people are eligible for legal aid. This will seriously affect those who are unable to pay and are left vulnerable”.

Next year when the Children and Families Bill is enacted it is anticipated that it will be compulsory for anyone wishing to apply to court to have had a meeting with a qualified mediator – but implementing the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) legislation one year before the Children and Families Bill has shown a glaring lack of joined up thinking and has put many providers at risk. By next April it is unlikely that there will be a healthy network of National Family Mediation member services available to support the Children and Families Bill implementation and it is more likely that families will experience the postcode lottery of services with gaps and hot spots appearing across the country.

Relationship breakdown is stressful enough, but by not providing the right information to the public at the right time, this only adds to problem. For any person requiring support and assistance with their divorce, separation or child contact issue, we would encourage them to ring National Family Mediation to get the right information and save themselves a lot of confusion and turmoil in the process.

National Family Mediation has an 85% success rate for all those entering mediation. Our service can provide support to all members of the family, including children who feel stuck in the middle. Mediation provides longer lasting agreements than those made in the courts and is excellent value for money (National Audit Office report, March 2007).

For more information call Jane Robey on 0300 4000 636 or email: general@nfm.org.uk

Notes:

1.    The change in Legal Aid which came into being when the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of  Offenders Bill was enacted on 1st April 2013 was intended to divert couples going through separation, divorce or dissolution of civil partnerships away from legal proceedings and into alternative dispute resolution options, mainly mediation. A great deal of publicity was given to the removal of Legal Aid from family lawyers but little to the available mediation route.

2.    The unintended consequence of this is twofold:

a.    The inundation of the family courts with couples who have chosen to go straight to court to get a decision instead of using Mediation or some other form of dispute resolution. The number of cases applying to the courts in the period April to June 2013 increased by 27% across the country (Child and Family Court Advisory and Support Service – Cafcass, July 2013). The proportion of these cases involving Litigants in Person i.e. those who have no legal representation is significantly higher than previously adding to the time each case takes in Court.

b.    The drop in the level of referrals received by mediation services across the country; two sources have been used to clarify the position and both lead to a similar conclusion, the period of review was April to June 2012 against April to June 2013.

3.    National Family Mediation (NFM – umbrella body for 47 independent not for profit family mediation services) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures obtained by a Freedom of Information (FoI) request produced the similar results. National Family Mediation has seen the number couples attending Mediation Information and Assessment Meetings (MIAMS) had dropped from 6.2K to 4.5K a 40% decline and those moving onto mediation had declined by a further 22%. The FoI information indicates the numbers attending MIAMS nationwide dropped from 7.3K to 3.8K – a drop of 47% in the same period with the number of mediation starts declining by 26%. The NFM figures show a slightly more positive picture but still indicate a huge drop in the numbers accessing mediation. Legal Aid lawyers can still offer a minimal amount of support to those who have accessed legal aid through mediation, but its value is limited to £150 for a legal advice session and £200 for the drafting of a consent order.

Links to the articles noted above:

A Journey Unexpected: Except that this is not fantasy like the Hobbit   Leave a comment

Neither I nor my partner planned to have a blended family. We would both have preferred to bring up children as a proper “Mum” and “Dad” but two divorces put paid to that so, thirteen years later, here we are.

The first problem we had is what the children should call us. We decided from the start that my partner’s daughter would call me Anna, andmy children would call him James. The reason for that is a story from the time I was still married. A friend of mine came to my
house one day, very distressed, because her ex-husband’s new wife was insisting his children call her “Mum”.

My friend found this out from her eldest daughter, then aged seven, who said “It’s not right is it Mummy, because she can’t be my “Mum” can she? After all, you aren’t dead are you?” I didn’t want my children to think of me as being dead either, nor would I wish that on anyone else, so Anna and James it still is.

The other early dilemma was where we should live. Initially, James and his daughter, Polly, moved into our three bedroomed house with us. But, who should sleep where? Should my girls share, so Polly has her own room? Should Polly share with one of them? Things were not going well. So we gritted our teeth and took the financial hit, and moved to a four bedroomed house. I don’t want to give the impression blended families are one big problem. There are upsides.

When the children visit their other parents we have time together which most couples with children would die for. Whole weekends to ourselves to go to the cinema, or the pub, or just stay in! It doesn’t always work nowadays when there are very few weekends when one of them isn’t at home. But, hey ho, it was great for the first few years.

The other upside is that the children can benefit from a different type of family. I think Polly feels that most acutely. She doesn’t feel she’s an only child. She has that option, at her mother’s house, and she tells me she quite likes that. But if she wants a “sister”, albeit not a blood relative, then she has one. Or two, in her case.

I now work for National Family Mediation, which is an organisation working with families going through separation and divorce. Mediators help people come to their own arrangements for dividing their property, finances and looking after their children when they divorce, without going to court.

It’s quicker and cheaper than the adversarial legal system and has also given me an insight into how other people work as a blended family. One of my colleagues told me about a mediation she did with two people and both their new partners. The new partners calmed down the mediation couple when things got heated and everything was agreed far faster as a result.

Mediators also have stories from the other end of the spectrum where children haven’t seen one of their parents for a number of weeks, months or even years. Mediation can result in reconnection in even themost extreme cases, which is so important for children who need to know where they fit.

And for me there’s a memorable case of a blended family who all go on holiday together. Husband, wife, ex wife and new husband, and their children. I’m not sure I’d be happy with that, but the thing about mediation is you make your own arrangements!

My eldest daughter, Sasha, has now left home to go to university and the family dynamic has changed, as a result. Now, James and I have one child each. Or, at least, that is how it might have seemed thirteen years ago. The thing with blended families is that, over time, they tend to, well, blend.

I spend as much time with Polly, who shares many of my interests, as I spend my other daughter, Claire. James is a scientist, like Sasha. I am more into books and writing like Claire and Polly. I think the thing with blended families is that if you love the children and you love each other you will find a way to make it work. It will never be a traditional family unit so don’t try to make it one. But it can be a supportive environment for children to grow up in, and that is all we can really ask for.

Read the full article in 21st Century Families

*names have been changed

“Divorce Day” to become “Mediation Day” as more people than ever end their relationships after Christmas   Leave a comment

More people throw in the towel on their relationship in the first week of January than at any other time, as the stress of having to “enjoy” a family Christmas proves too much. National Family Mediation (NFM) welcomes the government’s recognition that mediation should be the first port of call for anyone looking to separate or divorce.

National Family Mediation is the largest provider of family mediation in the country. We carry out 16, 000 mediations a year and have 83% success rate. We deliver from 300 locations throughout England and Wales. All our mediators are trained in conflict resolution and family law.

Jane Robey, CEO of National Family Mediation, says “We welcome the government’s initiatives in making mediation the first port of call for couples separating or divorcing. In particular we welcome any additional funding for mediation which gives people the chance to make their own informed decisions about property, finance and children”

Mediation is four times quicker and cheaper than going to court and allows parents to agree long term arrangements for their children. Research shows that both parents are more likely to have good relationships with their children over the long term if they go to mediation rather than court when they separate or divorce.

Legal aid will still be available for mediation after legal aid is cut for family solicitors in April 2013.

Find your local NFM mediation provider

For further information and case studies please contact Judy Aslett

Notes:

National Audit Office figures on legally-aided mediation show that the average time for a mediated case to be completed is 110 days, compared to 435 days for court cases on similar issues. Mediation is also cheaper than going to court – data from Legal Aid cases show the average cost per client of mediation is £535 compared to £2,823 for cases going to court.