We were luckier than most other separated couples in that we were still able to communicate fairly well with each other after the split. This was particularly important considering we had two kids – a two-year-old and an eight-month-old.
When we separated, we envisioned a “week on/off” or “shared days” type of childcare arrangement. However we struggled to make this plan workable for the kids and us. So David approached Better Place Australia to ask about mediation of shared care arrangements.
Before we began our joint sessions, we each had to attend individual assessment appointments. Our practitioner made it very clear to us that it wasn’t her role to make a decision for us but assured us she would provide us with sufficient information to make informed choices.
We were referred to Better Place Australia’s Child Counsellor for advice who supplied us with resources and information about our kids’ development needs.
The Child Counsellor also participated in our first Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) session where she gave us feedback on our childcare arrangement ideas, and highlighted certain behaviours we should look out for in our children.
Our second and final mediation session ended with us agreeing on a parenting plan designed to meet the needs of each kid as they grew up. The FDR practitioner also helped us outline a staged approach for the time immediately after the separation right through to when they start school.
This plan included agreements on the signs we should look out for if our children were experiencing on-going distress. There was also a list of actions we could take to address the situation, including making arrangements with their grandparents. It was a solid, practical plan that both of us could easily agree on.
In fact, at the end of that final FDR session, David remarked that the plan was different to what we had in mind when we approached mediation but said it was a good plan. He was right. We walked away from that session feeling reassured that we had done the right thing for our kids and confident that we knew how to support them through this time.
I deeply appreciated the practitioner’s approach in providing us such wonderful support while maintaining a distance from the actual decision-making. It didn’t just make us feel empowered but also taught us how to make thoughtful decisions together.
Better Place Australia offered us an impartial and safe environment for discussion, which was crucial to the success of our mediation sessions. Having additional expertise at hand also meant they were able to quickly respond to our changing circumstances.
All in all, it was a great outcome that prioritised the best interest of our children and helped us understand how to keep them at the heart of our joint decisions as we move forward.