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I'm often asked "do I really need a parenting plan?" Well I could toss around comments like "failing to plan is planning to fail" blah blah blah. The stark reality however is that yes you definately do.

A parenting plan is a documented agreement between the mother and father (usually divorced or unmarried) that outlines how parenting will take place. Now while this may seem too obvious to have to document, well it's far from it.

A good parenting plan addresses key issues, what type of schooling the child will enjoy, religious upbringing, medical concerns, time spent with extended family (grandparents etc.) as well as with each parent. The plan acknowledges the impotrance of both mother and father in the childs development and sets the groundwork so that everyone knows exactly where they stand and what is expected of them.

Does a parenting plan include money-talk? Not really, it's not a maintenance agreement, that's a separate document. A parenting plan is around the custodial rights and of course obligations and establishes ground rules for conduct around the child, dealing with developmental milestones and yes, the "exchange" between houses.

A properly outlined parenting plan is as much about the exercise of building it as it is about the document. During the process your mediator probes around issues and challenges to get them in the open and dealt with before they become points of argument. Simply by clarrifying everyones expectations up front a lot of arguments never even take place.

A parenting plan is drafted, agreed to and submitted to the Family Advocate for approval to ensure that the childs best interests are properly represented.

Anyone who has been through a divorce will undoubtedly attest to the high emotional cost attached. While it's natural to focus on what the monetary cost is, the emotional side is often overlooked.

Emminent Psyschologist Maslow crafted his "heirachy of human needs" in the 1940's His pyramid explained the fundamental human needs that we require to function as individuals within a society.

At the top of the pyramid, self actualisation, then esteem, love/belonging/safety and finally physiological (food shelter). It's commonly accepted that at any point in time, the average person can manage with being out of touch with one of the five areas.

When multiple areas are of the heirachy are affected, the degree of stress and emotional turmoil increases exponentially.

During a divorce, it is not uncommon to see 4 if not all five areas directly affected. Ones sense of self worth can be affected during the break up of a long term marriage. Logically self esteem is affected by the loss of a long term partnership. Equally of course it follows that interpersonal relationships with family and communal friends would be affected by a hostile divorce.

The parties sense of safety is sure to take a knock in terms of what the future holds, future financial position etc. Equally where the split in household assets and home is at play, physiological stress would be incremental "where will I live..."

It's not hard to see how the average divorce action can affect all five areas of Maslows Heirachy of human needs. Similarly, it's understandable that the longer the action takes and the more it's drawn out - the greater the impact will be and the longer the recovery period.

During the littigation process, attorneys are there to represent their clients best interests and position before the law. While all attorneys will be empathetic and understanding of the situation, they're not counsellors and attention to the emotional needs is not within their scope.

This is again where mediation comes to the fore. A good mediator is acutely aware of the phsyiological and psychological stressors as these will inhibit the parties coming to an amicable solution. During the process, your mediator will try to understand the human dynamics and acknowledge those in furtherance of achieving an amicable settlement and closure.

At the end of a divorce mediation, your mediator will always stop to reflect and summarise where the parties have come from in the process, where they are at and the way forward - again due acknowledgement is given to the emotional stressors. This is key in achieving closure.

Mediation is as always a combination of skills. Listening, empathy, understanding, transaction analysis, mediation as a skill and of course negotiation.

In order to achieve the above skillset, your mediator will have spent time studying the emotional cost of a divorce so that he can understand the dynamics at play during the process.
This is also yet another reason why a mediated divorce is always preferable over a contested divorce in terms of time and resolution. A typical mediated divorce is handled within 3-4 weeks once the paperwork is drafted and sent to court a delay of around 3 months would be standard before the matter is called and finalised by the court. (Cape Town, other areas may vary in court time).

Logically, the emotional turmoil during a 3 week mediation period would trumph a one and a half year contested divorce. It goes without saying that the chances of creating a functional environment for the two parties to continue their journey as co-parents are way higher when they have only been party to a few weeks of emotional stress during the mediation as opposed to a year and a half of lawyer to lawyer battle.

Further reading: Maslows Heirachy of Human Needs




Cape Mediators (Cape Town) Featured in the October Edition of Premier InFlight Magazine. 

Today we address this rather frequent topic of discussion. In South Africa, there are two types of divorces that we tend to deal with. Contested and uncontested. In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to resolve the split of assets, maintenance etc. This means that the parties will each choose their own attorney and head to court where a court ruling will decide what is fair and reasonable based on the arguments presented by their respective attorneys.

An uncontested divorce is a situation where the parties have reached agreement on the division of assets, maintenance, custody etc. and are guided through the court process. One party will typically appear in court on the given date and ask for the divorce to be made binding by an order of court - on the basis of the settlement agreement that they have reached.

In mediation, we seek to take the parties to the point of an uncontested divorce. Naturally there are huge differences in terms of time, cost and emotional stress between the two. While an uncontested divorce through mediation can cost as little as R15 000 (split evenly between the two parties), a contested divorce action can run into hundreds of thousands and stretch on for up to two years or more. Typially mediated divorces are resolved to the point of drafting within a month and finalised through the court process three to four months thereafter (depending on magesterial district).

During the mediation, the focus will always be on bringing the parties to an agreement that suits their unique circumstances, addresses their concerns and acknowledges the best interests of any minor children. Make no mistake, mediation requires a dedicated effort from the parties and of course a time commitment to attend mediation sessions.

The outcome speaks for itself. Lower costs, faster resolution and better foundations for co-parenting.

If you're considering a divorce action, mediation should always be your first port of call before embarking on a course of legal action. If legal action is already underway, this is easily paused through your mediator who will communicate on your behalf with the clerk of the court. When a mediated agreement is reached, this is communicated to the clerk of the court who will place the matter on the role as an uncontested divorce.

For advice and a free consultation with our Cape Town based practice, please drop an email to our specialist Mediator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.