Divorce can be hard on anyone. While you and your partner might know or at least see the underlying reasons for why you have come to this point in life, it is not always easy to convey such multi-layered reasons and answer all the questions your children might have. Bayside Mediation prides itself on being one of the few Child Inclusive Mediation practices in Victoria, we also know that having tools at home will help your children. For that, we have a list of books for children of all ages to help them.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN:

WAS IT THE CHOCOLATE PUDDING? (AGE 2-6)
BY SANDRA LEVINS AND BRYAN LANGDO

This story deals with the confusion that children can feel as the result of a divorce. Two brothers make a mess with some chocolate pudding and believe it to be the reason their parents have separated. The mother explains this is not the case.  She also covers age-appropriate explanations of other potentially bewildering issues such as joint custody and single parent homes.

MY SUPER SINGLE MUM (AGE 2-7)
BY BRONWEN FALLENS

A feel-good book at it’s very finest. This simple story is about a little girl, her single mother and all the incredible fun they have together. It gives a sense of a special relationship between the characters and a wonderful life – which can be even better than that of a two-parent family. With an emphasis on families not always being conventional, but still being happy and fun-loving.

MUM AND DAD GLUE (AGE 3-5)
BY KES GRAY AND LEE WILDISH

The creation of an award-winning author, the simplicity of this story is guaranteed to engage and comfort young children. A trustingly beautiful tale of a little boy who tries to find some glue to stick his mum and dad back together and to stick their smiles back on. The rhyming text imparts a powerful message reminding children that the parental love is still as strong as ever.

TWO HOMES (AGE 3-5)
BY CLAIRE MASUREL

With comforting optimism, this book focuses on a little boy called Alex and his difficulties getting accustomed to living between two homes. It explains how although his circumstances have changed, one thing always remains the same, which is that he is still loved. The matter-of-fact style of writing makes light of what can be a big issue. It concentrates on what is gained when parents separate, rather than what is lost.

WHEN MY PARENTS FORGOT HOW TO BE FRIENDS (AGE 4-7 YEARS)
BY JENNIFER MOORE-MALLINOS AND MARTA FABREGA

The bright pages of this book follows a young girl coming to terms with her parent’s separation. It teaches that although many things have changed in her life, her parents will always be there and still love her. This is accompanied by a parallel message of reassurance that the separation is not her fault and an understanding that by living in separate houses her parents may get along better.

TWO BIRTHDAY CAKES (AGE 4-8)
BY DANIELLE JAKU-GREENFIELD

Using a gentle, tell-it-like-it-is tone this book is targeted at children coming to terms with shared parenting. The story follows two siblings and examines a range of family situations in a realistic and straightforward way. It considers the practicalities of two houses and the not-always-good emotions associated with it. Eye-catching illustrations even allow children to colour in the pages.

 

BOOKS FOR OLDER CHILDREN:

IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD (AGE 8-13)
BY JUDY BLUME

This emotional story follows Karen, an 11 year old girl, as she navigates her parent’s separation. It depicts her journey from desperation for them to stay together, to an awareness that this won’t happen and eventually an acceptance of reality. It covers the frustrations and sadness of the situation, the value of good friends and how, in time, it’s possible to readjust and feel happy again.

THE CASE OF THE SCARY DIVORCE (AGE 9-12)
BY CARL PICKHARDT

An unusual yet refreshing way of dealing with divorce issues, this book is about a ten year old boy with a helping investigator called Professor Skye. Between them they have to solve eight cases which deal with topics encountered during his parent’s break-up and divorce. Covering topics in this style is particularly helpful for boys who may not otherwise consider their feelings as closely.

HORSE DREAMS (AGE 9-14)
BY MARY VIVIAN JOHNSON

A touching story about a young girl’s struggle to deal with her parent’s separation, divorce and second marriage. It covers worry and challenges that can effect preteens/teens in a similar position, as well as other school related issues. An emotional read with an over-riding vibe of hope and forgiveness. Great discussion questions throughout the book encourage the reader to consider their own circumstances.

CANDYFLOSS (AGE 9 TO 14)
BY JACQUELINE WILSON

An endearing story of 12 year old Floss, who has to cope not only with her parent’s divorce but with her mother and her new family moving to the other side of the world. This book presents the difficult choices that may have to be made and the emotions that accompany them. A riveting yet tender storyline demonstrates how even the hardest decisions can be made and overcome with parental love and support of good friends.

THE SUITCASE KID (AGES 9-14)
JACQUELINE WILSON

A heart-warming, realistic read about a young girl who lives week on/week off between her two stepfamilies, feeling she doesn’t really fit into either. It follows an unusual yet compelling structure as the chapters work through the letters of the alphabet. Dealing with upsetting issues which some children will find comfort relating to, it retains a perfect balance of sadness and comedy with a feel-good happy ever after.

GOGGLE EYES (AGES 12-16)
BY ANNE FINE

This book cleverly combines comedy and charm in the story of schoolgirl, Kitty, who is dealing with the post-divorce trauma of her mother’s new boyfriend. She shares her feelings with her friend who is also from a broken family, but who has different circumstances and opinions. Her journey to learn how to accept change, however difficult, is sensitive yet amusing, making it a un-put-downable preteen read.

When having a friend with you, helps:

Often #mediations can be stressful times in your life, to help alleviate any anxiety and if both parties are in agreeance a support person can accompany you to your joint #mediation session. Both parties must agree however and if your former partner does not want support people at the #mediation then it cannot happen. Usually if one person has a support person then the other will too, however I have had mediations where only one client had a support person and it work very well.

For the most part people don’t mind and I have had relatives, new spouses and professionals such as accountants support clients in mediation.

It is important to understand the limitations of having a support person with you, they cannot speak for you or on your behalf and they definitely cannot chip in and offer their opinion, so choose your support person wisely. You still need to negotiate with your former partner, with the help of the #mediatior to try to resolve your differences. If you wish to consult with your support person during the mediation you must leave the room to do so. They are there to give moral support and not much else and often it is the simple act of being there that helps an anxious person to relax enough to be able to negotiate their position.

It is essential that you outline your agreed-upon living arrangements, as well as your commitments regarding access arrangements, holidays, and vacations.

Here’s a list of the must-haves you’ll want to include:

  1. A basic residential schedule
  2. A regular visitation schedule
  3. A projected schedule for parenting time over the holidays
  4. A projected schedule for parenting time on birthdays
  5. Visitation transportation arrangements, including backup plans
  6. Neutral drop-off or access exchange arrangements (if necessary)
  7. Anticipated changes to your family’s residential access schedule (as your children age)
  8. Alternatives schedules for school holidays
  9. How changes to the schedule should be proposed and negotiated in an effort to minimise last-minute schedule changes
  10. Regular and backup child care arrangements
  11. Whether the other parent must be considered first when a babysitter is needed (also known as the ‘right to first refusal’)
  12. How relocation requests will be handled, including how much notice must be given and how relocation disputes will be addressed
  13. Plans and/or schedules for maintaining ongoing relationships with extended family members
  14. Agreed  guidelines for introducing the children to either parent’s ‘friends’ or dating partners

 

A Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioner can help you formulate a parenting plan that focuses on the best interest of your children and create a workable blueprint for working together as separated parents. Bayside Mediation helps parents make workable and robust Parenting Plans.

Here are the six most common unintended mistakes made by well-intentioned parents:

Telling your kids you still love each other

If you’ve ever been told “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” you know how hard it can be to grasp the distinction. Degrees of love are abstract; they’re confusing to young kids and frustrating to older ones. If you tell your teenager “Mum and I still love each other, just not in that way,” they’ll likely retort “If you love each other at all, why can’t you suck it up and stay married?”

It’s tough to find the right words. Here are some examples:

For young children try:
“No, we don’t love each other anymore. But that only happens with adults. Parents never fall out of love with their kids. Though we’ll be living apart, we’ll still take care of you together.”
For school age children and teenagers try:
“We don’t love each other anymore. But we’ve been together a long time and care deeply about each other. The main thing is that we want to support each other in being the best parents we can be.”

Telling your kids you’re “trialling living apart for a while”

It’s a case of cruel to be kind.

Before your kids can adjust to the “new normal,” they’ll need to grieve. If you give them a reason to hope you’ll reconcile, they’ll hold on to it for dear life. Most trial separations end in divorce. So even if you’re nurturing hope, it’s best to be definitive. If you reconcile, your kids will be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t, they won’t feel you’ve strung them along.

Trying to spin this as a good thing

Especially if you and your future ex have been openly fighting, your kids may experience relief once you’re separated — and it’s fine to say that. But cheery comments like “It’ll be great, you’ll get to decorate a brand-new bedroom!” or “Mum’s going to get a puppy for her house!” don’t match the sadness of your message and will confuse kids or dampen the authenticity of their reactions. Later, once things have sunk in and the healing has begun, helping them to focus on the positives (including the fun of setting up a second home) will be important.

Insisting on telling the kids together when you can’t do it well

It’s true: experts agree it’s best for divorcing parents to be together when they break the news. A joint discussion conveys that Mum and Dad are on the same page, sets the tone for effective co-parenting, and ensures that you’re both available to answers questions and offer comfort in the moment. But if you ooze mutual contempt, can’t exchange two words without snarling and/or are unable agree on a shared message for the kids, don’t force it.

Better to have separate calm conversations than to risk a shared disaster.

Trying to be stoic

When parents say they’re worried they’ll cry when they tell their kids about the divorce, I say “You probably will, and that’s fine.”

It’s a sad conversation; it makes sense to be sad.

Putting on an artificially brave face will have same effect as putting on an artificially happy one — it will create confusion.

Finally….

Putting pressure on yourselves to get it exactly right

I’ve talked to hundreds of adult children of divorce about the moment they learned their parents were splitting up. While most of them have vivid recollections, I’m always struck that what they remember best isn’t the words, but the feelings.

Yes, you should prepare for talking to your kids. You and your spouse need to decide what to say, anticipate likely questions, and get into good enough emotional shape to be responsive. But even though you know your children well, you can’t predict their reactions. Your normally inquisitive 8 year-old may put her hands over her ears. Your even-keeled 14 year-old may throw his first temper tantrum. I’ve known kids of all stripes to simply shrug and ask if they can go outside. These are all normal reactions.

Don’t make yourself crazy trying to write the “perfect” script. Whether you and your spouse do this together or separately, aim to create an environment in which your child:

  • feels safe to express a full range of feelings (sadness, anger, fear, relief)
  • is reassured that he or she will be cared for and loved by both parents
  • knows that he or she is not to blame for what’s happening, and
  • is reassured they won’t have to choose sides

If it helps, remember: ‘This Talk’ is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation between you and your kids that will evolve over time.

You’ll have lots of chances to get it right.

by Ruth Whisker

Unlike what you see on television or read about in gossip magazines about celebrities separating in the United States of America, in Australia divorce, property settlement and arrangements for children involve completely different court applications. An application for divorce in Australia won’t resolve any questions about who gets to keep the matrimonial home or who the children will live with.

Applying for a divorce after 12 months of separation
An application for divorce is an application to formally end the marriage. You must be divorced before you can get remarried and some registries require you to provide a Divorce Certificate if you want to change your name back to a previous name.

You cannot apply to the Federal Circuit Court for a divorce until you have been separated from your husband or wife for a period of 12 months. If you have separated but have been living together separately in the same house for 12 months, you can still apply for a divorce, but you will need separate and independent evidence that you have been “separated under one roof”.

However, if you have not been married for more than two years before the date of the Application for Divorce, you need to attend mediation with your husband/wife before you can apply for a divorce.

If there are no children or if it is a joint application, you don’t even need to attend court. However, if there are children under 18 years and it is not a joint application, you will need to attend court for your divorce hearing.

Negotiated property settlement can be finalised by Consent Orders
An application for property orders can be made as soon as separation occurs.

Ideally you should try to negotiate with your estranged spouse or partner to come to an agreement on what is going to happen with any property belonging to both of you separately and jointly and formalise the agreement by Consent Orders.

With Consent Orders, your agreement will have the force and finality of orders of the Family Court, but you will not have to attend court and the costs and time before finalisation (usually between six to eight weeks after filing the application) will be substantially less than in contested court proceedings.

What happens if you can’t negotiate a property settlement?
However, if you can’t negotiate a resolution or if there are circumstances of urgency, for example, if the other party is planning on selling an asset not in joint names, you can apply to the Federal Circuit Court as soon as you can get the forms completed.

When you actually go to court for the first time will depend on whether the matter is urgent and given an urgent listing, in which case it could be within days of filing your application. If it is not considered urgent, it will usually be listed for a first court date around six to eight weeks after you file the application.

Children’s matters best determined by negotiation with your ex
As with property matters, you can apply to the Federal Circuit Court for children’s matters at any time after separation. However, usually you will be required to prove to the court that you have attempted family dispute resolution (mediation) before filing your application for your application to be accepted by the court.

There are some limited exceptions to the requirement to provide evidence of mediation. If you find yourself needing to commence court proceedings for children’s matters, you should check with your lawyer to see if your circumstances qualify you for an exemption.

Again, depending on whether your matter is considered urgent or not, the time between filing your application and the court date could be a couple of days or up to eight weeks.

However, for children’s matters, as with property matters, it is always best to try to resolve the matter with the other parent and come to an arrangement you can both live with, even if neither of you is 100% happy with it, as the alternative is incurring costs of a protracted and expensive court case and putting yourself into a situation where an independent judge has the decision-making power and the matter is out of your control. Bear in mind that you may be even more unhappy with the judge’s decision than the arrangement you could have agreed on.

A special thank you to Contributing Author
Ruth Whisker
Divorce and Separation
Stacks Law Firm

There was a time when you couldn’t get enough of each other. You were lovers and best friends forever. You moved in together and had a couple of kids. Soon there was another bundle on the way. You got a dog and some goldfish.

The renovations started and then somehow it all went wrong. Suspicion and mistrust settled into your beautiful home. Sneaking a look at your partner’s text messages was something you never thought you were capable of doing. It really hurt when you found your suspicions realised. The vibe in the house changed from joy to a storm centre where hostile winds oscillated between passive and surly to fast and furious. Neither of you wanted to fight in front of the kids but it happened. Sometimes even when you saw their startled little faces you could not cease the fire.

Then one of you left the house, into the arms of another and that’s when the battle really took off. Both of you love the kids but your contempt for one another made you do things that hurt and confused them. You’d be late bringing the kids back, or you wouldn’t allow the other party to see them, or take them on holidays. Sometimes you just couldn’t help but say negative things about the other parent and the kids thought they were bad because of it. When the war escalated to dizzy heights you got interventions orders out on each other. Everyone felt bad: nobody was happy. With the intervention orders you both got scared and imagined yourselves in court, spending thousands of dollars and fighting with lawyers as mouth-pieces.

Then you heard about Family Dispute Resolution. You were able to proceed to the resolution process (mediation) even though you had intervention orders as both orders had mediation exemption clauses. Both of you could meet with the Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner alone to discuss how the situation was affecting you and to work out how best you were going to negotiate for yourselves in mediation. When the time came for the joint session the privacy was way better than at court or a non-profit organisation with heaps of people wandering around. The mediator was impartial and supported both of you to focus on the kids. Neither of you felt demonised as the Practitioner’s understanding of conflict was sound and she made it clear that conflict is essentially about perception, and that no one person was at fault. This allowed you to recognise that hurt and blame have their place in the chamber of broken hearts, but not when it comes to your children’s best interests.

You leave with a parenting plan that you created peacefully together and are nowhere near as out of pocket had you pursued your matter in The Family Court.

As your plan is not court ordered you may return to mediation at any time in the event of further disagreement.

Myth #1: “We were married so we should split everything 50/50”?

This is probably the most common family law myth we hear. There is no rule or requirement that any
separation, any married or de-facto, has to result in a 50/50 division. In determining any split, the
Family Court will consider:

  • the financial contributions each party made to the acquisition of property;
  • the contributions each party made as parent and homemaker;
  • any non-financial contributions made by either party; and
  • the future needs of both parties.

Myth #2: “They cheated on me so I should be entitled to more”

Australia is a “no-fault divorce” jurisdiction. This means that moral issues such as infidelity will not
impact the overall property settlement or determine who children of the relationship are to live with.

Myth #3: “They need me to agree to get a divorce”.

Both parties do not need to consent to get a divorce. You can object to a divorce application by filing
a Response to Divorce Application however the objection will only be upheld if:

  • you and your spouse have not been separated for a period of 12 months;
  • there was not a valid marriage; or
  • the court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the application.

If the procedural and legislative requirements have been met, it is virtually impossible to object to a
divorce application. Whilst you and your spouse can file a joint application for divorce one party can
file the application solely as well.

Myth #4: “We haven’t divorced so I don’t have to sort out finances yet”.

Property settlement orders can be made at any time after separation. It is important to remember
that there is a 12 month time limit for you to commence proceedings in the Family Court which
starts from the day your divorce order comes into effect.

We usually recommend that your property settlement matters are finalised either before or at the
same time as your divorce to ensure that you remain within this time limit.

Myth #5: “Kids should live equally with each parent”.

The paramount consideration in all parenting matters is to determine what is in the best interests of
the child. Whilst the court may consider whether an equal shared arrangement is in the best
interests of the child or children, this may not always necessarily be the case.

These myths often arise from relying on the internet, friends or family members for information
relating to your family law matters. It is always best to be informed and get your facts from an
experienced family lawyer.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist
advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Contact Bayside Mediation for more information and a 30 minute free phone consultation!

1/  We have our own consulting rooms, purpose-built for mediation. This means we don’t charge extra to hire rooms that don’t always accommodate mediation needs.  We also have the additional convenience of a coffee shop downstairs.

2/  Between us, George Filipowicz and myself, we have over 30 years of experience working as Mediators; We have also undertaken extensive extra training in areas such as ‘Dealing with Difficult Personalities’ and ‘Child Focused’ practice principles to better assist our clients.

3/ Bayside Mediation offers ‘Child Inclusive Mediation’, we are one of only a handful of private practitioners that can offer this service.  Child Inclusive Mediation is considered to be the ‘Best Practice’ when working with parents whose children are old enough to have a voice in their parents’ separation.

4/ Bayside Mediation offers after hours appointments to assist busy working couples to resolve their disputes quickly.

5/ We guarantee to see a client within 7-14 days of their initial inquiry.

6/  We offer joint mediation sessions of up to 4 hours in duration. Many of our clients are time poor and want their disputed resolved quickly and efficiently. We find offering extended mediation sessions where appropriate, enables that outcome.

7/ We offer continuity of service; Our mediators work exclusively with clients from their personal intake interviews to the resolution of their issues through the joint mediation sessions.

8/ Bayside Mediation specialise in all Family Law Disputes, Financial, Property, Children, Access, Wills, and Estates. We also offer Lawyer Assisted Mediation to firms across Melbourne.

9/ We will assess and where appropriate, we will work with clients with IVO’s in place.

10/ We pride ourselves in offering clients a safe and impartial space in which to have the conversations they need to have. But if clients need separate rooms to feel safe, we can provide  shuttle mediation. We also accommodate interstate and overseas clients with mediation services via telephone, Skype or Facetime.

It is a question that is often asked and there is no definitive answer, as this article by Mondaq points out.

Children’s rights and well-being are the paramount concern of the Family Court, if your matter goes that far. However, the vast majority of access arrangements are organised outside the jurisdiction of the court. It falls to the experience and expertise of Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioners (Family Law Mediators) to help parents negotiate their parenting plans and to ensure that children have a voice in that process.

Within Family Law Mediation the process of giving children a voice is called Child Inclusive Mediation and it is considered the bench mark for all parenting agreements that involve children over 4 years old.

It is worth noting that only registered Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioner (Family Law Mediators) are required by the Family Law Act to advocate for the best interest of children in a dispute that has not gone before the Court.  It is only once a matter has gone to Court that children will be provided an Independent Children’s Lawyer.

Giving children a voice in their parent’s separation is by far the best opportunity for parents to hear what children are experiencing during this difficult time. Parents can then make better decision around access and contact arrangements. However, not every Family Law Mediation service offers Child Inclusive Mediation. Parent need to ask the question of the service they are engaging with and if they don’t offer Child Inclusive Mediation they should look elsewhere for the sake of their children.

Bayside Mediation is one of only a handful of private mediation services that offers Child Inclusive Mediation. As a Child Focused practice, we work closely with parents to help them make the best decisions possible for their children during this difficult time. Every family’s circumstances are uniquely their own and we work with you and your children for better outcomes.

Family Dispute Resolution is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (mediation), which is used in all levels of society to resolve conflict. Only using specialist input from solicitors if needed and without using the court system were possible. Family Dispute Resolution is conducted by Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioners (FDRP) who are Accredited Mediators specialising in Family Law disputes. They are registered with the Attorney General’s office and they have undertaken specialised, post graduate training and are ideally, accredited via the National Mediator Accreditation System NMAS.

FDR Mediators focus on the wellbeing and future needs of any children of the relationship and are required to advocate for their best interests. FDR mediators are specialists in helping clients resolve their differences in the most respectful manner possible. FDR Mediators work with clients not for clients, your thought and needs are considered, and you will have a voice in how your matter is settled if you use a Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioner for your family law dispute.

Speak to our staff about what Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioners can do for you and your unique place in life, speak to Bayside Mediation today!