Preparing for Parenting Plan Mediation
Mediation can help parents settle issues relating to parenting time and decision making responsibility. If you are considering participating in the Child Focused Parenting Plan Mediation Service, there are a few things that you should consider when preparing for mediation.
Be ready to focus on your children.
A good parenting plan is one that works to help make sure that you and your co-parent can transition your children between your homes easily and without conflict. The parenting plan is about focusing on the best interests of your children and helps you and your co-parent have a roadmap for what your parenting is going to look like. It addresses things like:
- When the child will spend time with each parent;
- How decisions about the child are made;
- How information is shared and communicated by the parents;
- How other parenting issues may be addressed; and
- How future disagreements about the children are to be resolved.
In order to come up with a good parenting plan, you have to be prepared to put aside any personal conflict that you have with your co-parent. When a relationship breaks down, there can be sadness and anger and grief. It can be difficult to separate your personal feelings of hurt and anger with your co-parent as a former spouse or partner and their role as a parent to your children. To mediate a parenting plan, you have to be able to focus on what your children need and what works from them.
You need to understand that getting to the best parenting plan for your children may involve you compromising on some of the things that you might want. There are a lot of resources that can help you understand ways to put the best interests of your children first. The Family Court Counsellors’ Office in and the Child Focused Parenting Plan Mediation Service recommends the Parenting Plan Template developed by the Association of Family Conciliation Courts of Ontario (AFCCO). AFCCO has some good information about things to consider when developing a parenting plan. Please consider reading their guidebook before your mediation: AFCCO Parenting Plan Guide
Come to mediation with ideas about what you think is best, but keep an open mind.
The Child Focused Mediation Service will provide you an intake form, a mediation agreement and a parenting plan checklist if you decide to proceed with parenting plan mediation. You should come to mediation prepared to discuss all of the elements of the parenting plan on the parenting plan checklist and have an idea of what you think might be a good proposal for a parenting plan – but keep an open mind. It’s a good idea to write your ideas in pencil, not pen and be prepared that some of those ideas may change or get modified.
It is important that you don’t become so focused on what you want that you lose sight of what may be best for your children. Remember, your co-parent may have a different idea of what may work and it’s easier to get to what works best for your children if you focus on what they need. Come into mediation knowing that how you and our co-parent parented before separation may be different after separation, and that is ok because parents may have different parenting styles.
Review the checklist carefully and think about what you would propose as a good parenting plan based on what your children need and be open to the idea that some of what you’re suggesting may not end up in the parenting plan at the end of the mediation.
Remember that your divorce and separation is not like a game that can be won and that Children often get caught in the middle when parents are in conflict.
Parenting Plan Mediation is about coming together to try and resolve issues and agreeing that you can make a parenting plan that helps both you and your co-parent put the children first. If you are not ready to treat mediation as an opportunity to be open and come to an agreement, you may want to look at other resources to assist you with dealing with your feelings like speaking with a counsellor, taking one of the parenting education courses offered by the Family Law Centre or seeking legal advice from a lawyer about the family court process.
Justice Canada also has some helpful resources for families who are dealing with separation and conflict. For more information about the effects of conflict and separation on adults and their children and suggestions for improving co-operation and communication between parents who are living apart you may visit: Making Plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce.