Using mediation to help agree childcare arrangements
We are often asked for a checklist of matters to discuss in mediation, when thinking about childcare arrangements. Whilst every family is different, there are a number of key areas which are useful to talk about and are outlined below.
It is often useful to divide the year according to the school calendar, even if your children are not yet in school. The vast majority of their childhood will be spent in a school environment, and even some nurseries also employ a term time regime.
For most parents, the first thing they think about is the term time, week-to-week arrangements for their children.
An important matter to consider is how to minimise the to and fro between parents during the week, as well as the associated disruption this can cause, in addition to whether the arrangements are easy for the children to follow and predict.
There are a number of school holidays and these might need to be treated differently.
Remember to consider:
- is it appropriate to continue the term time arrangements during half term, as this is a shorter break, or do you want to do something different?;
- there are three half terms each year and you might want to consider whether to share each of these, or alternate them (bearing in mind that this will mean that one parent has more time with the children during the year when they have the two half terms);
- will the term time arrangements be suspended and restart at the end of the holiday or will you restart the term time regime at a different point?;
- do you intend to share the Easter bank holiday weekend or alternate it?;
- how do you propose to share the festival days and bank holidays at Christmas?
- do you need to agree a default position for the summer, to ensure predictability, or is it better to have a flexible regime that changes year to year?; and
- are you content for the children to spend two weeks away from you / with you during the summer, or is it appropriate to agree shorter periods of time?
In addition to the usual weekday and holidays plans, there will also be special or unusual days during the year for which you might want to consider agreeing specific principles for. These include but are not limited to:
- your birthday;
- the birthday of the other parent;
- the children’s birthdays;
- Mother’s Day;
- Father’s Day;
- bank holidays that fall outside of school holidays; and
- inset days.
Putting the childcare arrangements into practice
Once you have agreed the basic division of time, you need to consider the mechanics of how these childcare arrangements can be achieved. Typical areas that can require some discussion are:
- handovers: when and where?;
- what if one parent cannot accommodate the arrangements? Does the other parent want first refusal, or should the parent with care organise childcare? (Caution: your answer might be different if this is a few hours, one overnight or multiple days / overnights);
- what information should be provided before travelling abroad, and how far in advance should it be provided?;
- who will hold the children’s passports?; and
- who will manage official applications like passport renewals, school applications and medical forms etc?
There are a number of principles that you might want to agree once you have resolved the logistics of the arrangements. This could include talking positively about the other parent and agreeing when the appropriate time is to introduce the children to a new partner, and perhaps even the process for this.
All of these agreements and principles can be incorporated into a Parenting Plan, or if you have considered mediation after issuing court proceedings, these can be incorporated into a court order which can be submitted to the court for approval by consent.
If you require any advice about what might be appropriate regarding the detail of the arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our specialist family team. We can also assist with the preparation of a Parenting Plan or Court Order.