Cape Town based divorce mediation, facilitation and parenting plans. If you are a parent who is preparing to get divorced – step carefully when compiling a Parenting Plan!
Recently I was asked to mediate by an ex-couple who had been divorced for a few months and who have a two year old child. In line with the Children’s Act, before getting divorced, with the help of a mediator they had hammered out an extremely complex parenting plan, detailing the care and contact arrangements in respect of their child. The parenting plan stipulated that the child live primarily with her mother, and that her father have a great deal of contact with his daughter, both during the week and at weekends.
At face value the parenting plan appeared excellent. However, when I had both parents in the room I realised the following:
1. The parenting plan made the child’s life incredibly hectic – she was passed backwards and forwards between the parents almost daily, I wondered how this affected her well-being?
2. The mother felt that the child was suffering from separation anxiety when she was forced to leave the parent which whom she was currrently happily bonding. (This is a difficult problem to solve when children are very young, as they need to see both parents quite regularly as their memories are limited).
3. Both parents felt that they were being short-changed on the time they were permitted to spend with their child. It was extremely difficult for them to come to terms with the fact that, as they were no longer together, this had the effect of halving the time they could each spend with their child.
4. The father admitted that he had been unhappy with the parenting plan when it had been written, even though he had agreed to it at the time. He stated that his lawyer had advised him that he would not have got such a “good deal” if he had gone to court.
5. The ex-spouses were now forced to see each other almost every day for the forseeable future, even though they now totally disliked one another. And of course, the almost daily conflict around picking up and dropping off the child was worsening their relationship by the day!
So the moral of this story is:
1. Be very careful when you work out a parenting plan – it may look good on paper but think about how it will translate in reality. Is it in the best interests of your child and is it practical in the longer term?
2. Don’t settle for a plan too quickly if in your heart of hearts you feel that it is not going to work for you or for your child. The best time to do this is during the mediation process before your divorce because you still have the power to steer the process. After the divorce, when there might be a facilitator in place, you will probably have less leverage to make changes to the parenting plan.
3. Allow yourself to grieve for the losses associated with the divorce and having to settle for less of your children’s time. If you find you cannot easily overcome feelings of bitterness, hurt and possibly depression,
it is important that you seek some help, either from a trusted friend or from a professional
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