Archive for Parenting

We are recruiting

Cambridge Family Mediation Service is looking for a new Charity Business Manager, Part time, 20 hours (with flexibility), salary £21,500

About Us: 

Cambridge Family Mediation Service (CFMS) is a well-respected registered Charity offering specialist mediation services in Cambridge. For over 30 years, the Service has supported families and couples facing separation or divorce from its centrally-placed offices a short walk from Cambridge Station.  The Service holds contracts to deliver Legal Aid, Parenting Programmes and SEND Mediation. CFMS is seeking a new manager to lead the service in the next phase of its development.

The role:

The Manager will be responsible for leading a small team of employees and mediators, and managing the Service, including adherence to all appropriate service standards, legal requirements, and budgetary management.  An important part of the role will be to raise the profile of the charity and secure its future in terms of revenue diversification and fundraising. This is a permanent part-time position, envisioned to be four hours five days a week, with flexibility for the right candidate.

About you:

  • Educated to degree level (or significant relevant experience)
  • Ability to prepare, manage and monitor budgets
  • Ability to develop and achieve business plans
  • Ability to think strategically and identify new opportunities and initiatives
  • Managerial experience, with a demonstrable ability of successful team leadership
  • Charitable and/or business management experience highly desirable

Applications should be emailed to to arrive before 5pm on Thursday 04 July. Interviews will take place on Tuesday 09 July 2019.

We are committed to safer recruitment practices to protect our service users, therefore all applicants are expected to have an understanding of and commitment to safeguarding best-practice.

Separated Parenting Workshop – Special offer!

We have a special offer during March 2019 for our Separated Parent Information Programme (SPIP) – attend for only £50!

This one-day course is designed to help separated parents become clear about what their children need most from them and learn the fundamental principal of how to manage conflict and difficulties, including how to put this into practice.

The SPIP encourages parents to take steps for themselves. It is often better to reach an agreement away from the court and the programme can help make sure that any agreement made is based on the child’s needs. It aims to help both parents to improve communication skills as separated parent.

A SPIP might be appropriate for parents, and other caregivers with parental responsibility, when:

  • you have difficulty focusing on your children’s needs due to ongoing conflict
  • you find that your feelings and reactions to the separation are affecting your ability to communicate about your children
  • you would like communication to improve – perhaps you are thinking about mediation
  • there are no safeguarding concerns about children or parents

The programme covers:

  • Working as separated parents in the best interests of your children
  • What children need – you will watch a powerful DVD made by young people
  • Parent communication – you will be asked to think about prepared scenarios from other viewpoints and to see other practical methods that can help both parents react better to stress
  • Emotions – you will look at the emotional effect of separation or being separated parents and the options for moving forward

If this sounds like a course that can help you then please give us a call on 01223 576308, or email us on to take advantage of our March £50 special offer (usual cost is £75).

Coping with the summer holidays as a separated parent

For separated parents the summer holidays can be a logistical nightmare – how do you plan for that long summer break when the children are not at school?  In many separated families, both parents are working part-time or full-time and the cost of childcare and/or before-school and after-school clubs can be exorbitant – sometimes even cancelling out entirely the income a parent is earning.

There are so many positive things to be gained from a bit of advance thinking. For example, if you wish to take the children abroad for a holiday you are much more likely to be able to access cheaper fares if you can book well beforehand and take advantage of any ‘earlybird’ deals. Let’s face it, booking flights and trips in the school holidays is expensive enough without having to pay a premium for booking at the last minute! Also, the children will know what to expect and be able to look forward to the holidays without worrying that mum and dad will be tense and stressed because nothing has been agreed ahead of time.

The ideal way to share the holidays is for for each parent to take a turn in spending time with the children over the summer, and / or arranging for extended family to help out. But in reality, the separation often means that mum and dad simply can’t talk about the practicalities without it resulting in an unpleasant argument or endless misunderstandings. So much for that supposedly refreshing break for everyone over the summer!

However, there are some tips that we can suggest to make things easier.  As family mediators, we have been working with separated parents for over 30 years, assisting them to discuss and agree arrangements for their children. Here are some of the ideas that have helped them – we hope that they will help you too!

Talk – Communication is the key to a successful summer plan. If you and your ex are on speaking terms then it is really helpful if you can start to talk about the holidays as early as possible.

Meet – if a face-to-face meeting is possible, then you could arrange to get together at a local café with your diaries. Meeting in a neutral venue in a public place means that you are both more likely to behave in a civilised way. If each of you takes turns to suggest possible dates when you could have the children, you can negotiate a sensible timetable. The dates will often be dictated by your respective work commitments and / or the availability of extended family to help with childcare. If you do make some agreements, make sure you both write them down together at the same time to avoid any misunderstandings later. You could even follow it up with an email between you to confirm the arrangements.

Use phone, email or text – if a face-to-face meeting is not possible, then the next best options may be to communicate indirectly:

  • Phone call – if you are able to speak to your ex without the conversation getting out of hand
  • Email – if speaking on the phone is not possible or productive
  • Text – if it is easier than phone calls or email, but bear in mind that because texts are usually very short, there is scope for them to be misinterpreted by the recipient

Online calendar – it can be really helpful to set up an online calendar to which only you and your ex have access. This can be a useful way to show what arrangements have been made, and to mark important occasions such as birthdays, Christmas arrangements, family parties, school events, parent-teacher consultations etc. You could even agree that each of you uses a different colour when you add in a date so that you can see who has put in each event.

Over-sharing information through social media can become toxic – when does communication become ‘too much of a good thing’?

In this day and age, electronic communication is instant and almost universal. We’re told that communication is the key to successful relationships, but when can it be ‘too much of good thing’? The earliest use of that phrase in print comes from Shakespeare’s play ‘As you like it’ in about 1600. It means that sometimes excess may do you harm…and all too often these days in mediation cases we find that a common issue to be discussed between separating couples is the use and abuse of electronic forms of communication by one or both of them.

It is so important when picking one’s way through the emotional minefield of separation and divorce to be aware that once words have been ‘posted’ on a website, shared on Twitter, been exchanged on Facebook, or sent in an email, they are ‘out there’ in the internet ether and it can be well-nigh impossible to take them back. My grandmother always said ‘never write down anything that you wouldn’t want to see published in the Sunday newspaper’.  She was a wise woman!

Words written in anger can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings that may also draw in friends and members of the extended family, culminating in a free-for-all of vitriolic exchanges. So how can family mediation help?

In mediation sessions, we can help clients to talk about the ground-rules for acceptable and effective communication between them. Some common agreements that might emerge could include:

  • Not using social media to refer to anything relating to the separation or divorce
  • Not using social media to share any information about the children in the family
  • Using emails or texts to communicate, and remembering to:
    • Stick to the point
    • Keep it factual
    • Be polite
  • Not using any form of electronic communication to ‘bad mouth’ the other party
  • Not involving friends and family in the issues
  • Considering having a meeting in a neutral public venue, for an agreed amount of time, to discuss issues relating to the children and/ or finances face to face (where this is safe and appropriate)

If you and your ex-partner need help with issues like these, why not get in touch with us at Cambridge Family Mediation Service on 01223 576308.


Come along for a mediation information meeting with one of our highly experienced mediators to find out how we can assist you.

Mediation is a process in which you and your ex meet with an impartial third party who will guide you through the decisions that you need to make. The mediator will:

  • Not take sides, or make judgements about you and your situation
  • Provide you with lots of information to help you decide what arrangements are best for your family situation
  • Help you to discuss the arrangements for your children
  • Help you to exchange details of your financial information
  • Help you to consider the options for how to separate your property and finances
  • Encourage each of you to seek independent legal advice about the arrangements that you make, so that you only reach agreements that are in your best interests

Separated Parents Information Programme

The mediator will also give you information about the FREE (for a limited time only) Separated Parents Information Programme, a 4-hour workshop that you can attend (without your ex) to receive lots of helpful tips for:

  • supporting your children through the difficulties of separation
  • communicating with a difficult ex
  • looking at the emotional impact of separation on you and your children
  • working out the next steps for moving forward with your life


Waggott v Waggott: in support of the clean break

The case of Waggott v Waggott is being hailed by some as the end to the ‘meal ticket’, but the decision in respect of periodical payments is perhaps not surprising, there are few cases these days where a ‘joint lives’ order is the eventual outcome.

Click here for the rest of the article by barrister Marisa Allman.

Shared care arrangements in relocation cases

The linked article by barrister Richard Jones analyses a difficult area of family law – where there is shared care and one parent wants permission to permanently relocate with the child to a different country:

Shared care arrangements in relocation cases.

When is a loan not a loan?

No, this is not just a riddle – it can be a really serious problem for couples who are breaking up. This week, I was asked to give some advice on our local radio station about the difficulties that can arise when a friend asks to borrow money from you and then never repays it, and the damage that can do to your friendship Whilst preparing for the programme I started thinking about all the parallel situations that crop up in the family mediation cases that we work with every day.

In these times of economic austerity it is increasingly common for parents – ‘the Bank of Mum and Dad’ – to ‘lend’ or ‘give’ their children money as a deposit for the purchase of a home. Whilst those children are unmarried, the arrangement may be quite straightforward.  But if that child has got married, entered into a civil partnership, or bought a house jointly with their long-term partner and that relationship breaks down, the situation can be much more complicated.

A scenario we frequently come across in mediation is this:

Sophie (29) is married to Pete (30). Five years ago, her parents ‘lent’ her and Pete £50,000 to put down as a deposit on the purchase of their first home. Around the same time, Pete’s parents ‘lent’ them £25,000 to do up the kitchen and bathroom. Sadly, the relationship broke down after the birth of their baby, Tom (2), and Sophie and Pete came to mediation with Cambridge Family Mediation Service to try to reach an agreement about the arrangements for sharing time with Tom, and to achieve a financial settlement so that they could proceed with a divorce.

During the mediation it became clear to both of them that the house would have to be sold, at which point Sophie said that her parents expected them to repay the ‘loan’ of £50,000 from the sale proceeds. Pete said that he was shocked to hear this because he had always been under the impression that this money was a ‘gift’ from Sophie’s parents, and that in reality they never expected it to be repaid. Sophie argued that her parents only intended them to keep the money on the basis that they were married – and now that the marriage has ended they definitely want it back.

The mediator asked whether anything had been put into writing at the time of the ‘loan’? Sophie said ‘No’, but her parents’ intention had always been very clear. At this point Pete disagreed loudly, and pulled out a piece of paper, which he waved at Sophie; he said it was a written agreement signed by him and his parents, saying that the £25,000 that they ‘lent’ for the kitchen and bathroom was a formal loan, with the expectation that Sophie and Pete would repay it whenever the house was sold. It was apparently dated around 5 years ago. Sophie took one look at the document, and said she’d never seen it before and that it was quite clear to her that Pete and his parents had only just written it to protect him in the divorce, and accused them of forging the date.

At this point, as you can imagine, the session became very stressful for both of them. The mediator intervened to calm things down and recommended that they each take legal advice about the status of the ‘loans’ so that they could share the advice at the next mediation session. The question for their lawyers was: ‘what would a court decide if it had to adjudicate on this issue? ‘

Of course, the answer in such cases is rarely black and white, and usually depends on all the circumstances of the case, together with any available evidence about what was intended by everyone involved.

The moral of the story is:  that if you want to avoid becoming entangled in complicated legal arguments about whether or not a ‘loan’ was really a loan, or in reality was intended as a ‘gift’, it is always best to:

  • Put down everything clearly in writing at the time, signed, dated and perhaps witnessed by someone independent, for example, your solicitor.
  • For significant sums of money, it is always wise to take legal advice before entering into any sort of substantial loan or gift of money.

A little bit of time and thought at the outset can save you a huge amount of stress and expense later!

What is a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM)?

What is a MIAM?

This is a meeting between you and a mediator to look at the various ways you may be able to find solutions to the issues facing you and your ex-partner. The meeting can last up to an hour.


Having heard from you about your particular circumstances, the mediator will help you look at the range of options available for resolving family disputes, including:


  1. Mediation – where both of you meet with a mediator to discuss and resolve issues
  2. Collaborative law – where you and both your solicitors all meet to resolve issues
  3. Negotiation through solicitors
  4. Litigation through court
  5. Arbitration


The mediator will help you look at the pros and cons of each of these options. It may be that one option is more suitable to resolve issues about the children and another to come to a financial settlement.


The mediator can also give you information about other services that provide help and support to families going through separation or divorce.


Do I have to attend a MIAM?

You do not have to come to this meeting, unless you are thinking of starting court proceedings because you cannot agree arrangements for your children (other than child protection issues) or your finances following your separation. In either of these situations, you will, usually, need to show the court that you have been to a MIAM and the mediator will give you the appropriate form, confirming this. The other person will also, usually, need to show that they have also been to a MIAM.


There are some exceptions to people having to attend a MIAM.


How much does a MIAM cost?

You will be charged £109 (inclusive of VAT) for a MIAM, unless you are eligible for Legal Aid.  The mediator can assess your eligibility for Legal Aid if you wish.

New Year…New Start …New You? Now that the hurly-burly of Christmas is over, have you reached the point at which you are considering separation or divorce?

As the New Year begins, unfortunately it can be a time when the stresses and strains within families have reached breaking point, leading to separation and / or divorce. If this is happening to you, Cambridge Family Mediation Service is here to help.

As from Monday 8 January 2018 there are new court forms that must be used if you wish to make an application to the court in relation to issues concerning:

  • Arrangements for children on separation / divorce
  • Finance and property matters on separation / divorce

The new forms can be found and downloaded through the HMCTS form finder service at as from Monday 8 January 2018.


It is important to note that the law has changed, and you are now legally required to consider mediation before applying to the family court to resolve a dispute about your children or finances. This means that before submitting your application, you must attend a Mediation and Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to find out about mediation and see if mediators can help you sort out arrangements for the future.

In special circumstances – such as where domestic violence is involved – you may not need to attend a MIAM. However, you will be asked to provide the judge with evidence (such as a police report to prove domestic violence has taken place) and should bring it to the first hearing.

Who are mediators and what do they do?

Mediators are trained professionals who can help you and the other person involved work out an agreement without having to go to court about issues such as arrangements for children, financial arrangements and dividing up property. Here at Cambridge Family Mediation Service, all of our mediators are highly experienced in children and financial matters and are fully accredited by the Family Mediation Council.

How can mediation help?

Mediation gives you more control over what happens, and is usually less stressful and cheaper than going to court. It can also be quicker and less upsetting for you and your children. In the MIAM, you will be told about other options to resolve your dispute and about services that can provide you with help and support.


Where can I find a mediator or more information?

At Cambridge Family Mediation Service, we are able to provide mediation at our offices at Essex House, 71 Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1AB. Please telephone us on 01223 576308, or fill in our contact form to arrange an appointment for a MIAM.

You can also search for a mediator and find more information about mediation (and other sources of help) using this website:


Do I have to pay for the MIAM?

The MIAM is free of charge if you or the other person involved (the other party) qualifies for legal aid. To find out if you qualify visit:

If you do not qualify for legal aid, Cambridge Family Mediation Service charges £109 (inclusive of VAT) for the MIAM, which will last up to one hour. We can also offer you a discounted rate for attendance at a Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP), see below.


Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)

If you attend a MIAM at Cambridge Family Mediation Service, we can also offer you a discount on attendance at our highly-acclaimed Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) – a one-off 4-hour workshop that you attend, along with 6 to 10 other parents in a similar situation. NB You ex would attend a separate course. The full price for this is £75 per person, but for those clients who attend a MIAM with us, we can offer the course at a discounted price of £50 per person (so the total price to pay would be £109 for the MIAM plus £50 for the SPIP = £159 per person).

The course gives you lots of useful information about how best to support your children as you go through separation and divorce. The presenters help you to look at ways to improve communication between you and the other parent, and help you to understand aspects of the emotional roller-coaster that you and your children may be experiencing at this difficult time.

We look forward to hearing from you if you feel that you would benefit from any of our services:-

Telephone:        01223 576308


Address: Cambridge Family Mediation Service, Essex House, 71 Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1AB

Valentine’s Day… Love it or Hate it?

For couples who are separating, Valentine’s Day can be just another unwelcome reminder that things aren’t working any more. It can bring to the surface feelings of loss and disappointment – loss of a once-loving relationship, and disappointment that those romantic hopes with which you started life together have not ended ‘happily ever after’.  The shops are full of Valentine’s cards almost as soon as Christmas is over, you’re bombarded by reminders wherever you look on the high street, and even the TV offers no escape from the constant barrage of advertisements concerning the dreaded V-Day celebrations.

If you’re wondering how to get through it – could you organise to do something you enjoy with a friend who is single, indulge yourself with a treat you wouldn’t normally consider, or think about doing something nice for someone else who may be lonely – for example, an elderly neighbour?

At Cambridge Family Mediation Service, we understand that important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day can trigger unhappy thoughts and feelings for families who are in the midst of separation and / or divorce. You may find it helpful to attend one of our FREE 4-hour workshops, the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP).

The course provides:

  • Tips to help you to understand the different stages of the Loss Cycle that adults and children experience as a result of family breakdown
  • Suggestions to help you and your children to move forward
  • Ways to focus on what parents can do to help children manage family change
  • Strategies to help you to improve communication with your ex.

The courses take place both in Cambridge and in Peterborough, and run from 10 am – 2.30 pm.

We also offer a Mediation Service for people who have decided to separate, and who wish to make agreements about their children and / or their finance and property issues. If you would like to know more about this, you can book an appointment for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with one of our highly experienced mediators. There is a fee for the MIAM meeting, but if you are on a low income we can assess you for legal aid – if you are eligible then the mediation process would be free for you (although your ex may have to pay if they do not qualify for legal aid in their own right).


Call us on 01223 576308 to:

  • Book a place on the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) course
  • Arrange a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).