So far in this area the mediation process is taking too much time leaving children without contact and therefore stability and security of knowing both parents are there for them.
In one case a mother was called to mediation as was the father. The father lost an appointment due to a accident. The mother refused to acknowledge the call to mediation, but the father went full of hope that he would see his son following the mediation.
In any event the mother continued her refusal for mediation and eventually the office contacted the father. The father asked if they would send another letter to the mother as he had received a telephone call from the mother where she stated the mediation office had not contacted her. Another letter and telephone call was made to her.
She then responded by saying she did not want to attend. She had moved on with her life, formed another relationship and wanted nothing to do with the father.
As this had now taken 9 months, the father then had to seek legal advice to see his child. The mediation process was set up again as the timescale had run out for signing the mediation process off to attend court for contact. Again the mother refused to attend. By now the child was over a year old. The father had not seen his child since he was 3 months old.
The mediation process was signed off to apply to the court. At this time there is still no court date.
There is no good reason for the mother's attitude and in the first 3 months of the child's life before she became more seriously involved with the other man, there was regular contact which was fluid and around the babies needs and obvious homelife and appointments to clinics etc. The father made no demands and considered the mother and her available time for contact with his child.
Therefore my comments about this process from experience in this area are as follows.
1/ I still believe that mediation is a good process for resolving contact issues. But the timescales and attempts to contact the other party must be kept more to a timescale. Loss of contact during the process to be avoided. While there are disagreements there should be supervised contact within the family centre so that bonds are not needlessly broken.
2/ This would take the pressure off the time needed to complete a mediation process and give time to assess and fact find.
3/ If the other party constantly refuses contact for no good reason, the route to a court ordered contact should be streamlined to prevent the damage to bonding with babies and young children and prevent emotional abuse to all children by denying a perfectly good parent the right to parent.
4/ The courts need to ensure that any court ordered contact does happen and there should be an order for the non responsive parent to attend the mediation process while giving the contact with the other parent in a family centre.
Most parents are not a risk to the child and it is important for both natural parents to not only be helpful to the process but have an understanding that parental alienation is very damaging for a child's stability.
Safeguarding the child by having contact in the first instance within a family centre setting not only prevents the few cases of bad parents having un-supervised access to the child it will also prevent and deal with false allegations by the 'controlling bad parent'.
With experienced staff on both sides this tighter and well organized approach is the only way forward for mediation to work and in the best interests of the child foremost and the parents.
I believe the children are worth this effort.
I am a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner in Australia, where most separated parents have to attempt FDR before litigating in parenting matters. Mediation can work very well, if there is a thorough, careful process of assessment and pre-mediation, and if parents are offered appropriate support services in complex matters. Mediation is not a magic wand, and if attempted too quickly in the separation process it may be counter-productive. Parents may benefit from personal counselling before they attempt to mediate, if there are unresolved personal issues which would interfere with mediation.
However, mediation offers parents the opportunity to make flexible agreements that suit themselves and their children's needs.
In practice I have found that parents of young children may benefit from a series of mediations, rather than a single session. it is useful to make short agreements, which may allow parents to build up confidence in each other's post-separation parenting skills, and which allow for children's development.