Phil and Julia's story

We need help with holiday arrangements for the children

Julia's story: Since our separation on the whole we'd manage to muddle through arrangements for the children. Things weren't great between us and we couldn't seem to have a conversation without arguing, but it had been worse as we couldn't agree on how the holidays should work.

A friend had been to mediation and suggested it to me. I really didn't want to go to Court so thought it would be worth a try and because I was eligible for Legal Aid it meant I didn't need to pay for any of the sessions.

One of our main problems is that we can't communicate and we often ended up sending messages through the kids. The mediator helped us think about what it must be like for the children and whether we could put our feelings about each other aside.

Phil and I both agreed that there is a lot of misunderstanding because we are hearing things from the children rather than finding out what went on from each other. We spent most of the next session talking about holidays and special days. The mediator helped us listen to each other's view and focus on the children.

We agreed to keep to the regular alternate weekends where possible and add on extra days in the holidays so that they continue on from whose weekend it is, so that we pretty much share the holidays. The mediator helped us to consider that for our situation this would mean the least disruption for the children, and if we can agree to be flexible where possible then it could also work better for us as well.

Phil's story: I was happy to try mediation although because we always end up arguing I wasn't sure how it would go. I didn't agree with Julia's idea on how to split holidays and felt that she always dictated what happened with the arrangements.

I admitted in the session that this probably made me get defensive whenever we tried to talk about it. I was frustrated because Julia had a new phone number which she wouldn't give me, and whenever I tried her old phone it was off. This meant I couldn't let her know if I was going to be late dropping off the kids, or speak to the kids when they weren't with me.

The mediator gave us the opportunity to express our feelings without letting them get out of hand and we made a plan whereby Julia would keep her old phone on at specific times during the week so I could ring the kids. It sounds obvious, but we needed a third party to help us put aside our personal feelings.

We spent a lot of time going through the holiday plans and how to divide them up in a way we both would find acceptable. Our main issue was that Julia felt that if either of us got extra time because of special days or holidays then the other should be compensated and we should swap weekends again. I felt that his would complicate everything and that we should try to keep things as they are. We worked through other options and eventually did manage to reach an agreement.

I think that because we have been through this process we are now in a better position to be able to deal with things better ourselves in the future.

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