This summer I had a mediation session with two parents who were going through a separation, and whose 12-year-old daughter was living with her dad in the former family home. In their specific case, their daughter was allowed to determine when and where she would visit her mother, which, was happening sporadically at best. 

The reason for this parenting arrangement, despite a 50/50 expectation, was because the parents had given the child the freedom to see the other parent at her convenience and on her terms. The arrangement was made with the best of intentions. The rationale was that this would minimize the disruption for the child as her parents separated. The parents wanted to lessen the impact on their daughter, and they believed that since the daughter was 12-years-old she had the right and ability to decide where she wanted to be. 

While this well-meaning arrangement allowed the daughter to experience autonomy and freedom, this type of situation may not always be in the best interest of the child. Where there are no safety concerns, best practice suggests that children going through separation do best when seeing parents on a regular, predictable schedule. Children also benefit from knowing the parents collectively set the boundaries and implement them, as these collective parenting arrangements help to validate the child as an important part of both parents’ lives.

A family mediator is useful in this situation as we can play an important role in helping the parents compose an arrangement that benefits both parents and provides predictability and safety for their children when living in two separate homes. 

For more on the importance of setting healthy boundaries with your children during separation, visit this blog post by MindBodyGreen.

Every situation is different. This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice. Contact us for further help on your unique parental dispute.

Artwork by Megan Hewson. View her work at