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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.

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.

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!

Separation represents a pivotal and often traumatic shift in a child’s world — and from his perspective, a loss of family. When told of the news, many children feel sad, angry, and anxious, and have a hard time grasping how their lives will change. The age at which a child’s parents divorce also has an impact on how he responds and what he understands about the new family structure. Here is a brief summary of what children comprehend at different ages and how you can help ease their transition.

Birth to 18 Months

During infancy, babies are able to feel tension in the home (and between their parents) but can’t understand the reasoning behind the conflict. If the tension continues, babies may become irritable and clingy, especially around new people, and have frequent emotional outbursts. They may also tend to regress or show signs of developmental delay.

How to ease the transition: Children this age require consistency and routine and are comforted by familiarity. Therefore, it’s helpful to maintain normal daily routines, particularly regarding sleep and meals, during and after the breakdown of the relationship. Provide your child with his favourite toys or security items, and spend extra time holding him and offering physical comfort. Rely on the help of friends and family, and be sure to get plenty of rest so you’ll be alert when your baby is awake.

18 Months to 3 Years

During the toddler years, a child’s main bond is with her parents, so any major disruption in her home life can be difficult for her to accept and comprehend. What’s more, kids this age are self-centered and may think they’ve caused their parents’ breakup. They may cry and want more attention than usual, regress and return to thumb sucking, resist toilet training, have a fear of being abandoned, or have trouble going to sleep or sleeping alone at night.

How to ease the transition: If possible, parents should work together to develop normal, predictable routines that their child can easily follow. It’s also important to spend quality time with your child and offer extra attention, and ask trusted friends and relatives to do the same. Discuss your child’s feelings (if she’s old enough to talk), read books together, and assure her that she’s not responsible for the breakup.

 

3 to 6 Years

Preschoolers don’t understand the whole notion of divorce and don’t want their parents to separate — no matter how tense the home environment. In fact, divorce is a particularly hard concept for these little “control freaks” to comprehend, because they feel as if they have no power to control the outcome.

Like toddlers, preschoolers believe they are ultimately responsible for their parents’ separation. They may experience uncertain feelings about the future, keep their anger trapped inside, have unpleasant thoughts or ideas, or be plagued by nightmares.

How to ease the transition: Parents should try to handle the divorce in an open, positive manner if possible, as a child this age will reflect his parents’ moods and attitudes. Preschoolers will need someone to talk to and a way to express their feelings. They may respond well to age-appropriate books about the topic. Kids this age also need to feel safe and secure and to know they will continue seeing their noncustodial parent (the one with whom they don’t live on a regular basis). Set up a regular visitation schedule, and make sure it’s adhered to consistently.

 

6 to 11 Years

If school-age kids have grown up in a nurturing environment, it will be only natural for them to have a fear of being abandoned during a divorce. Younger children — 5- to 8-year-olds, for instance — will not understand the concept of divorce and may feel as if their parents are divorcing them. They may worry about losing their father (if they’re living with their mom) and fantasize that their parents will get back together. In fact, they often believe they can “rescue” their parents’ marriage.

Kids from 8 to 11 may blame one parent for the separation and align themselves with the “good” parent against the “bad.” They may accuse their parents of being mean or selfish and express their anger in various ways: Boys may fight with classmates or lash out against the world, while girls may become anxious, withdrawn, or depressed. Children of either gender may experience upset stomachs or headaches due to stress, or may make up symptoms in order to stay home from school.

How to ease the transition: Primary-school children can feel extreme loss and rejection during a divorce, but parents can rebuild their child’s sense of security and self-esteem. Start by having each parent spend quality time with the child, urging her to open up about her feelings. Reassure her that neither parent will abandon her, and reiterate that the divorce is not her fault. (Likewise, parents should not blame one another for the split, but explain that it was a mutual decision.) It’s also important to maintain a regular access schedule as kids thrive on predictability — particularly during times of turmoil.

Finally, since school, friendships, and extracurricular activities are of increasing importance to kids this age, encourage your child to get involved in events and pastimes she thoroughly enjoys. Help her rekindle her self-esteem, and encourage her to reach out to others and not withdraw from the world.

By Laura Broadwell via parents.com

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.

Why would a solicitor recommend a client use a not-for-profit Family Law Mediation service instead of a private mediation service?

It is a question that causes me to wonder at the motives of some members in our legal profession.

  • Your solicitor knows it will take several weeks for both parties to progress through the not-for-profits intake process, often entrenching the dispute and adding to the animosity of both parties. Whereas private mediation can take as little as one or two weeks for clients to proceed through the same intake process.
  • Your solicitor knows that private mediation services have significantly higher agreement rates than the not-for-profit providers. Private providers don’t shy away from working with difficult cases.
  • Your solicitor knows that a private mediation services will work much harder to get both parties to the negotiating table. Private providers will work harder to get a result.
  • Your solicitor knows that many private mediation services offer longer mediation sessions which brings a matter to conclusion much more quickly, and ultimately at less expense to the parties involved; with both Children’s and Financial disputes.
  • And then there is the question of cost. The bond a client is asked to pay a solicitor to commence proceedings, will often be far more than is needed to fund an entire mediation process through a private provider; Child Access and Finances!
    So, who stands to benefit from you using a not-for-profit provider to mediate your family law matter when you can afford a private family law mediation service?  Your solicitor.

You are significantly more likely to end up in solicitor lead negotiations and ultimately in court, if you start your mediation experience using a not-for-profit mediation service, and that is money in the pocket of your solicitor!

Private Family Law Mediation or Family Dispute Resolution facilitated by a qualified and experienced FDRP, is the quickest and most cost-effective way to resolve your family law disputes.

If you are thinking of separating and wondering which path to take, here are a few things you might want to take into consideration.

When you separate, if you can work things out yourselves you may not need a solicitor at all. Financial settlements should be formalised with the court or have solicitors draft binding agreements, but if there is very little in the

pool and you both agree, you may be able to lodge your own documents with the court.

If you can’t work things out yourselves then there is a Family Law requirement to try mediation, and a qualified Family Dispute Resolutions Practitioner is who you need, like those at Bayside Mediation. They are trained in all aspects of family law and can support you both to make the best possible decisions for your children and your finances.

What makes Mediation so effective is that your mediator is required by law to be impartial. This means they won’t ‘act’ for either party, they’re neutral and there to help you have a constructive conversation about the issues you can’t agree on. Solicitors ‘act’ for their client and are obliged to work for the best outcome possible for their client at the detriment of anyone else involved.

Mediators are also required to advocate for the best interests of your children, solicitors are not. That being said, there are some very good solicitors working in family law and they are concerned for children’s well-being, but in the end the child is not their client. If you end up in court your children may be appointed an Independent Children’s Lawyer.

As part of the process mediators hear both sides of the story and are often the only family law professionals that do. This enables them to hear not only where there are problems, but also where there is common ground to build on.

Mediation is much quicker than litigation. A mediator can get an agreement within weeks, where using solicitors will take months if not years to reach agreement.

Mediation is private and confidential. Going to court is not.

Good family law mediators offer “Child Inclusive Mediation”. Child Inclusive is considered to be the ‘best practice’ when dealing with children and their parents separation.

And then there is the cost. Family law mediators charge much less than solicitors.

Finally, you can always go down the litigation path if all else fails.

Ask yourself, do you want to fracture what is left of your relationship with your former partner? Then use a solicitor. If you want to focus on what’s best for your children and forge a new structured relationship as separated parents, then use mediation.