Family mediation is a process where an impartial party called a mediator helps you work out arrangements concerning children, finances or other family law matter.
Issues concerning child arrangements can arise during a divorce or separation or as a standalone issue, perhaps some considerable time after the relationship broke down. Depending on the circumstances, it is possible that the children would like to have their voice heard so that they can influence the decisions that the two of you need to make on their behalf. This can be done effectively within a mediation process by what is known as Child Inclusive Mediation.
Child inclusive mediation
In Child Inclusive Mediation, a family mediator who has been specially trained converses with a child or children as part of the mediation process in which arrangements for children are being considered. It can sometimes be the same mediator that is working directly with the adult parties to mediation, but in many cases a separate mediator is used to speak with the children and then feedback into the main mediation process.
Involving children in mediation requires a great deal of preparation and ultimately it is up to the mediator to decide if child consultation is appropriate. This will depend on the age, maturity and level of understanding of the child. It is recommended by the government that children aged 10 or over should generally have access to a mediator to have their voice heard. However, the parents must be aligned and in agreement before the children can be invited to speak to a mediator.
Reasons why you may want you child in mediation
One of the main reasons people choose to have their child talk to a mediator, is so the child is given their own private space to raise any concerns and give them a chance to digest and form their own views. It is common for children to supress feelings or not to speak up, especially if the child is aware of conflict between the parents and is trying to keep the peace.
It is common for children to say one thing to one parent, and something different to the other, especially if the child cannot speak to both parents at the same time. Through mediation, a child can express their views freely without feeling pressure of upsetting one or both of the parents. This enables the child to express themselves, with numerous benefits to their emotional wellbeing, as well as providing the parents with valuable insight into how they can help the child in managing their changing world.
When children are involved in mediation, it can lead to more child focused agreements as the child feels genuinely involved and listened too. It should be noted that it is possible that the child does not want to engage in the mediation process and, if that is the case, they will not be forced to.
When child inclusive mediation is not for you
The main circumstances where child inclusive mediation may not be suitable would be where both parents cannot agree to engage the child in the mediation process or where the child is under the age of 10.
The mediator themselves may also decide that the child has a lack of cognitive understanding which would make the process difficult for them to understand or if it may prove distressing for them in some way.
There are also circumstances where a third party may not agree with child inclusive mediation: for example, where the child is receiving counselling and they do not believe inclusive mediation would help.
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.