Archive for Separation

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


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

Grandparents, grandchildren and mediation  

When parents separate, it often happens that their children may lose contact with one or other sets of grandparents (or both), and sometimes with other members of their extended family. The tensions between parents that eventually lead to the breakdown in their relationship have often been going on for years. Inevitably, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members can become drawn in to the conflict (often inadvertently) and can be seen as having ‘taken sides’ with one or other of the parents.

In the heat of battle, emotions run high and the ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, sometimes drawing people into extreme bargaining positions. Once a firm standpoint has been taken on an issue, it can be very difficult for one side or the other to back down in case they are seen to be ‘losing face’. Add to this any past difficulties regarding ‘the in-laws’ that may have taken place whilst the parents’ relationship was intact, and you can see that the potential for family misunderstandings and emotional turbulence is huge.

In the last resort, where grandparents feel that they are being shut out of their grandchildren’s lives, and they are unable to make any headway by discussing it with their own children, they can make an application to the court for permission to apply for a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

However, before taking the drastic step of an application to court, with all the cost and stress that that will cause for everyone concerned, the mediation process can help! It can provide a confidential, calm, neutral environment in which an impartial third party, the mediator, will help the grandparents and their own children to discuss the situation and consider whether there is a sensible way forward to resolve their differences and work out a way for the grandchildren to resume contact with Nan and Grandad in a safe and enjoyable way. This can include making agreements about:

  • When the grandchildren will spend time with their grandparents
  • Where it will take place
  • Who will be responsible for transporting the children to and fro
  • What ground-rules will be in place to ensure that it is a positive experience for all concerned? For example, making sure that:
    • No ‘adult’ matters are discussed with the children
    • There is no ‘bad-mouthing’ of either parent by the grand-parents, and vice versa
    • The children are not brought into contact with people of whom the parents disapprove

The mediator can help you to draw up a written agreement, tailor-made for your situation, to ensure that everyone is clear about the future arrangements. You can always return to mediation later to alter the arrangements if they need to be updated.

Did you know that grandparents can also attend a 4-hour workshop, the Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)? If you come on the course, you will receive lots of helpful tips for:

  • Supporting your grandchildren through the difficulties of separation
  • Communicating with the parents of your grandchildren
  • Looking at the emotional impact of separation on you, your grand-children and their parents
  • Working out the next steps for moving forward with the arrangements for spending time with your grand-children

If you would like more information about any of the above, give us a ring on Cambridge 01223 576308. We’re here to help!

Unmarried cohabitees – the myth of the ‘common law marriage’

Did you assume that when unmarried couples have lived together for two years or more they are automatically entitled to financial and property rights as a ‘common law wife’ or a ‘common law husband’ if they separate? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you are not alone. Many people believe this, but it is not true in England and Wales (NB the rules are rather different in Scotland).

Unfortunately, this misunderstanding can lead to a good deal of conflict when cohabitees split up. For example, did you know that on separation:

  • Cohabitees have no right to ask for maintenance for themselves from their ex-partner
  • Cohabitees have no automatic right to make a legal claim against a property owned by their ex-partner, unless they can show that they have acquired an interest in it by making a financial or other contribution
  • Cohabitees have no automatic right to claim a share in the money, savings or investments owned by their ex-partner in their sole name
  • Cohabitees have no right to ask for a share of their ex-partner’s pension
  • Cohabitees may be left in a very difficult position if their ex-partner dies first without having made a will.

However, cohabitees can:

  • Ask for child maintenance to be paid by their ex-partner, and if this is not agreed an application can be made to the Child Maintenance Service and a formula will apply.

It is becoming much more usual for couples to live together without getting married, and so it is more important than ever that they think in advance about what would happen if they were to split up. One possibility is to think about making a ‘Living Together Agreement’ that spells out what you would both like to happen in the event of a separation. This might not cover all the eventualities, but it would be a starting point.

However, the reality is that many cohabitees who have lived together for many years, and may have had children with their partner, are completely taken by surprise when the worst happens and the relationship ends and they discover to their dismay that they may have very few ‘rights’, but a lot of ‘responsibilities’!

Here at CFMS, our mediators are very experienced in helping separating cohabitees to put in place their own sensible agreements about the arrangements for their children, and about what should happen to their homes, bank accounts, personal possessions and other assets.

We encourage each client to take independent legal advice about their separation agreements so that they have a proper understanding of their rights and responsibilities. In this way, it is to be hoped that expensive, time-consuming and stressful litigation can be avoided, as the law relating to cohabitees rights is notoriously complex.

If you are unmarried and separating from your ex-partner, contact us for further information about how mediation  could help you both to work out a practical way forward for the whole family.

In addition, we can give you lots of information about the FREE Separated Parents Information Programme, which can be extremely helpful for all parents who are separating, regardless of whether they are married or not.