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Co-Parenting Mediation: A Better Way to Resolve Conflict

Mary is an ER doctor with four children from her first marriage. Her current husband, Bill, has one child—Sydney. Together their house is run like a military base.

Each child has a night to prepare a healthy dinner while another does clean up. Daily household chores are posted and completed each day, including laundry. TV and other electronics are mostly forbidden.

When Sydney spends time at her dad’s house, her home life is full of obligations and structure. Every other week, however, Sydney spends time at her biological mom’s house where there is little structure. Kelly, Sydney’s biological mom, is a full-time nurse. She prefers to eat out, and she does all the cleaning. Kelly supports the use of social media and doesn’t restrict TV, computer, or phone.

For almost a year, the dichotomy between Sydney’s two homes has caused concern. Recently, Sydney began to verbalize her resentment toward her step-mom and dad for their constraints.

Help from a Mediator for Co-Parenting Issues

Overwhelmed, the parents seek the help of a mediator.

When co-parenting, a mediator can offer all parties a calm, structured approach to managing conflict and creating co-parenting agreements. Here’s how the process works:

1. Meeting with the mediator and the parents

The mediator meets together with the parents. All parties get equal time to explain the problem and, more importantly, their proposed resolutions. Mary, Bill, and Kelly decide to meet without Sydney, though including teenagers is also an option.

2. Identify common themes and issues

The mediator actively listens and captures the common themes and disagreements. Parties work to draft a written agreement detailing steps to resolve the problem.

3. Agree on resolutions

Through mediation the parents acknowledge that they trust each other’s intentions in raising Sydney to be a responsible adult. They acknowledge there is a healthy level of care at each home.

In the end, they decide to identify jobs for Sydney to do at Kelly’s house so there is less disparity between the two homes. Sydney will do laundry and prepare and clean up breakfast four mornings a week at Kelly’s house.

Bill and Mary agree to lighten Sydney’s load at home. Instead of making dinner—which Sydney does not like to make—she will make dessert (one night a week). She can make it whenever she wants as long as she cleans up. She’ll continue to do her laundry and chores but restrictions on TV and electronics will be lessened. All agree (which they weren’t aware of until the mediation) that Sydney should charge her phone and computer in the kitchen by 11:00pm at each home.

The agreement is written up and signed by each parent. Both will share their copy with Sydney and have her sign it. They feel satisfied that this new plan will improve their parenting.

Elizabeth Esrey is a private non-attorney mediator who travels all over helping families in conflict. For more information, visit or email

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