For the Sake of the Children - How to reach agreements about the future care of children after separation or divorce

For Family Mediation Week Scotland, Rosanne Cubitt, Head of Practice for Mediation , Relationships Scotland, reflects on what her service can offer families experiencing divorce and separation.

Family Mediation Week 2023 has been a prompt for Relationships Scotland, the main provider of family mediation services across Scotland, to raise awareness of the help and support that is available for families.

Making decisions as parents can be tricky at the best of times, but when parents are living separately it can be even more difficult.

Whether parents have split up recently, a long time ago or have never lived together, communication can sometimes break down and misunderstandings arise. Emotions might be running high and parents might have very different views about what has happened and the best way forward. Help is at hand however! Family Mediators are experienced in helping parents find ways to communicate more effectively and to agree arrangements that work for them and for their children.

When you contact a Relationships Scotland Member Service you are initially offered an individual, one to one meeting, where you can talk about your situation and find out what’s available to help in your circumstances. This discussion might take place in person, online or by phone. You can decide whether to try family mediation when you find out more about it. You can also hear about other support that might be helpful, such as Parenting Apart information sessions or Child Contact Centres.

Family mediators work with all kinds of families in all sorts of situations. They understand the complexities of modern life, different family structures, and multiple relationships for parents and children. They work with mixed sex and same sex parents. Parents may have different cultural or faith backgrounds and perhaps differing expectations about parenting, or they may have extended family living in other countries.

Children have different needs and capabilities and there are particular challenges for parents where there are mental or physical health issues. These put additional pressures on relationships. Misunderstandings often arise in stressful situations! Mediators can help families to improve communication and focus on everyone’s unique needs.

One mediator explained about working with a family where the fourteen-year-old was exploring their gender identity and considering transitioning. The parents, who were separated, discussed the situation and their concerns in mediation. The mediator also met with the young person to hear their perspective and shared this with the parents. Mediation helped these parents who were living apart to understand and agree how best to support the young person as they considered the future.

Family Mediators at Relationships Scotland undertake rigorous training which includes diversity and inclusion, safeguarding and trauma informed practice. They continue their learning through supervision and ongoing professional development.

Relationships Scotland’s family mediation service is now available across the country online as well as in person. This helps overcome geographical, travel and cost constraints to accessing support. It can be easier to fit appointments in around family and work commitments.

Relationships Scotland is keen to make their support accessible to all and to hear from you with any ideas for how they could do this better.

To find out more about how mediation works, hear from parents about how mediation has helped them, and locate the nearest Relationships Scotland Member Service.

This post has been adapted from an article first published in the Scotsman, 17 January 2023

Family Mediation Week takes place from 16 – 20 January 2023, organised by the Family Mediation Council (FMC), a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to promote the use of family mediation for the benefit of the public. The FMC does not offer mediation itself.

Relationships Scotland is a network of Member Services, 13 of which offer Family Mediation across Scotland. They employ mediators on the Relationships Scotland Register, which means they meet agreed professional standards. Relationships Scotland is approved as an organisation to accredit mediators by the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland. Member Services that provide mediation can be found here: