Risa Ennis Family Mediation

The Benefits of Co-Parents Attending Mediation


There are many advantages to having both parents in the same room while mediating parenting plans.

Firstly, much of mediation work in developing parenting plans involves education.  I think it important to start with the academic literature to understand age-appropriate residential schedules and the grieving process that children and adults experience.  

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Secondly, besides determining specific times each parent spends with the children, developing a parenting plan involves the complicated task of developing a new way for ex-spouses to communicate about the continuing needs of their children, along with what should stay consistent between homes.  Where trust has been eroded and stresses increased, communication is usually a very difficult task for newly separated parents.  It is through meeting together that the parents can begin to restructure communication that will work for them long-term, with the dual goals of eliminating outside professional intervention (and the costs incurred) and upholding the number one goal for helping children cope through divorce: eliminating high conflict between parents.    If the clients are in shuttle mediation (not present together) there is no opportunity to help them develop and practice communication so they can best continue to use the “co” in co-parenting.  It is an important part of healing where the parents can show mature modeling of how divorced parents can act for their children, instead of maintaining dysfunctional marital dynamics which is discouraging and depressing to both children and parents post-marriage.

Thirdly, with emotional safety being secured in mediation, the clients are much more willing and able over time, to give the much needed acknowledgements to each other that will lead to forgiveness and healing.  All this then is transferred to helping both parents and children grieve thoroughly instead of staying stuck in the past. With successful grieving being very actively practiced together in mediation, I know this gives both parents and children the abilities to move forward well.

Fourthly, very frequently, the parents want some advice and feedback regarding parenting concerns that were present perhaps before the separation or have developed because of the separation.  So having the parents hear the same feedback together and implement strategies that are consistent in both homes is in the children’s best interests.  It also allays fears that parents typically have that they may not supported by the other parent in resolving these issues.  This sets the foundation for joint decision-making if that is the agreed upon mechanism.  There is much discussion among clients and professionals as to when joint decision-making is effective.  It has become obvious that ex-spouses who cannot be civil to each other after separation, have little chance of successful joint decision-making.  It is in mediation that we can work towards seeing if this possibility has a chance by both clients being present to hear how this may work quite effectively.  But they would have to be together and work through how to listen effectively and respectfully to each other.  These are skills that take much practice, motivation and support.

Developing a parenting plan looks at the whole family dynamic, and each family is unique and complex in its’ own way.  Learning how to separate and heal from the pre-separation dynamics are very complicated tasks that can only be best achieved with both parents motivated to attend together if they are going to be both actively involved in their children’s lives.
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If both parents are hearing the same conversation at the same time, exchanging opinions to each other and looking for feedback together, this makes sense. This makes the education process for the parents enriching instead of a solitary experience that may lead to misinterpretations and more conflict.

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Risa Ennis Family Mediation and Counselling Services
Telephone: (416) 636-2946

Email:  risasmediation@rogers.com

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