• May 3, 2022

Using mediation to plan your Rainbow family

While more commonly used to assist people in a relationship move through their conflict or move on in life, mediation also provides an excellent process for prospective LGBTQ+ parents, donors and caregivers to identify and explore issues they may need to consider and discuss in planning their Rainbow family.

By adopting a facilitative process that promotes open communication and understanding, mediation can help each adult involved in the proposed family structure identify, discuss, and agree on a range of subjects relating to their parenting journey. There may be some topics that will be common to most prospective Rainbow parents, such as parenting roles and living arrangements, while other identified topics will be specific to the unique family scenario.

The aim of a mediation process is to uncover, discuss and address anything of importance to those involved. In addition, a mediation framework can also provide prospective Rainbow parents with tools for considering, dealing with, and negotiating possible future changes in life circumstances – because if there is one certainty on any family journey, it is the inevitably of change.

A carefully considered plan at the beginning of the parenting journey brings transparency and clarity for Rainbow families

In our LGBTQ+ FDR mediation practice, we work with many Rainbow families considering next steps following a breakdown of the family relationship. This difficult and complex process is emotionally draining on all parties, and especially difficult for the children of Rainbow families who have grown up within a unique and diverse family structure. Often a common thread in these disputes is the absence of clearly defined roles and responsibilities when it comes to parenting and decisions that may impact the child. Bringing the principles of facilitative mediation to Rainbow family planning can help LGBTQ+ people carefully consider, discuss, and agree on important issues concerning the structure of their unique Rainbow family. This usually takes the form of a plan aimed at guiding families into the future, including in the unlikely scenario of conflict.

A Rainbow family plan can include the following:

Roles and Responsibilities of all parents outside of hetero models

Birth Certificate


Decision-making: day to day, significant and future focussed / long term

Names / titles of parents and significant others including non-biological grandparents

Extended family members and friends: communication, roles, involvement

Living / visitation arrangements including geography, holidays, special occasions

Financial matters

Third party support: medical, counselling, legal

What do we tell the child? / What is the child’s story? Messaging to third parties.

Dealing with issues / conflicts between parents and significant caregivers


Values and parenting styles

Counselling – family members, couples, and donors

Managing relationships when communication breaks down

Establishing boundaries

Health – medical

Role of biological parents


Child support

Using the mediation process, involved parties work through a range of considerations

The mediator will remain neutral and impartial, helping parties work through a range of considerations specific to their unique situation by:

Assisting parties identify and isolate topics they need to consider and discuss

Helping parties openly explore identified issues and communicate with one another through a structured facilitated process

Enabling parties explore mutual interests, needs and concerns

Guiding parties through the process to find a workable solution and agreement for moving forward on their Rainbow family journey

Drafting a preliminary written agreement outlining the key points agreed between the parties.

At the conclusion of the mediation parties will have a written record of key points agreed between the parties that can be formalised through lawyers.

The Rainbow family planning approach ensures that everyone is heard

An important feature of using a mediation process for Rainbow family planning is that it allows all prospective Rainbow parents, donors and significant caregivers the opportunity to gain deeper insight into each other’s perspectives, so that the plan to move forward has been created with mutual input and understanding.

It’s impossible to plan for everything that may impact Rainbow families as they evolve over time. However, open and honest communication facilitated by a skilled professional in a safe and neutral environment at the beginning of your family journey will ensure your Rainbow family a good start.

To help you prepare for mediation, we have created a library of helpful information including checklists, tips and added detail around the process of mediation. For useful and relevant information you can download for free, we encourage you to visit our resources page.

Author: Kris Darmody

Lawyer, Mediator, Conciliator, Conflict Coach + Family Dispute Practitioner, Fresh Start Mediation

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