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Inside a family mediator’s mind – Session 1

Mary and Alex are nervous. They don’t know what to expect from mediation. Right away, Alex takes the floor and explains that he has only accepted to be present in the hope of seeing his daughter again as soon as possible.

Mediator: Mediation provides a space-time for the couple to discuss, directly with each other.

Alex ask Mary directly when he can expect to see his daughter Julia again. She replies “not now”.
Following a few questions, I understand that the couple are parents of a little girl, Julia, who is 3 years old. I also understand that Mary still lives in the apartment, that Alex has left two weeks ago and temporarily lives with his parents and that Julia is enrolled in a kindergarten near the couple’s apartment.

Mediator: Prior to the separation, how did you organise your schedules for Julia ?

Both Alex and Mary explain that they used to share equally their parental responsibilities. For example, they would alternative Julia’s transportation to kindergarten. Mary however points out that she is more available than Alex as she works closely to the daycare while Alex works 40 minutes away by car.

Mediator: Here is a monthly calendar. Let’s start with a first scenario. What days would you suggest that Julia spends with each parent ?

Mary refuses to consider my proposition. She explains that Julia is “too young to be separated from me” and that “there is no way that she will be sleeping anywhere else than in her own bedroom, in the apartment”.

Mediator: I understand that you want us to consider Julia’s young age and want to find a solution that will offer her some stability. Alex, what do you think ?
Alex replies that he cannot disagree with this statement, but adds that “Mary is not the only parent that can do so”.

Mediator: Julia is 3 years old. Her sense of time differs from ours. At her age, several days without seeing either of her parents can seem very long. Do you have an idea of a schedule that would offer her some stability while still maximising her time with each of you ? Let’s start with the next seven (7) days. Who wants to propose a schedule ?

Mary hesitates. She however suggests : “he can see her this weekend – but no sleepover.” Alex replies that he does not understand why she could not be sleeping at his place, but says that he “admits that it is not ideal at my parents’, especially since we are trying a new cleanliness routine”.

Mary jumps in and says “by the way, it’s working well – even the educator says she has seen a lot of progress”. Alex then exclaims : “thank you for finally informing me .. I accept for the weekend. From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.?”

Mary replies : « if it’ 8:00 p.m., make sure that Julia has eaten supper because I will not have much time for the bath routine” – to which Alex adds that “you know we always eat around 5:00 p.m. and that by 7:30 p.m., the bath is taken and Julia is in her pajamas”. Mary finally says “No. 7:00 p.m. and I will be the one to do the routine. It will allow her to calm down before bedtime at 8:00 p.m.”.

Alex accepts.

Mediator: Congratulations for this first agreement. I will keep this month’s calendar for our next session.

What we need to understand:
To try mediation, it is not necessary to agree. The only prerequisite is the willingness to take the time (one hour) to try and find solutions. The mediator’s role is to facilitate communication between the parents and suggest possible solutions.

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