My break-up was acrimonious but my ex-partner and I maintained contact because of our five-year-old son, Toby. He lives with his mother and I see him once a week.
Toby has always been a well-behaved child but when he started school we received reports of him acting out. My ex-partner, Samantha, blamed it on the time he spent with me. I felt upset over the accusation and angry that she didn’t view my parenting role as important as hers. Our conflict escalated.
Things got so bad that our case was soon on its way to court. Both Samantha and I were gearing up for a massive confrontation while trying to ignore the enormous financial and emotional cost at hand.
We both wanted what was best for Toby but we had no idea how to work together to achieve that when so many emotions were at play. Then someone suggested getting in touch with Better Place Australia to undergo a Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) session.
Right from the get go, the FDR practitioner made Toby a top priority. She recommended we attend separate Child In Focus groups so we could learn to focus on his best interest. Better Place Australia’s Child Counsellor also guided the three of us through a Child Informed Mediation session to give us better awareness of Toby’s feelings and needs.
Both sessions made us realise that Toby’s behaviour was a direct response to the level of conflict between us. The bigger our fight, the more he would act out. This was one of the biggest breakthroughs. It also assured Samantha that Toby’s misbehaviour was normal and had nothing to do with our father-son time.
The mediation sessions also allowed us to discuss and respond to situations in a way that put Toby first. Focusing on him helped shift our negativity and assumptions about many things, and opened us to exploring a more collaborative way of making agreements on how to parent Toby.
The Child Counsellor worked with Toby to help him express his need and desire to build a strong and positive relationship with both of us. This was a huge relief to me as it validated my role as a parent.
As we implemented these plans, we gradually began seeing a change in our son. He was able to better adjust to school and his behavior slowly improved too. In the end, we succeeded in developing a parenting plan without further legal involvement.
I also began individual counselling at Better Place Australia to manage my emotions around the relationship break up. This additional support helped me move on emotionally and become a more present father to Toby.