I am pleased to announce that I'm now able to offer child inclusive mediation. This is an important expansion of the service offered by our Family Mediation team and here I will explain why we have chosen to offer child inclusive mediation to those coming to mediation.
Child Inclusive Mediation
Throughout my time in practice as a Mediator, I have sought to ensure that my practice fits around the varied needs of the many people that come to participate in mediation. By and large my clients have tried, have usually tried very hard, to resolve matters between themselves without the input of a third party. They have sought to use their skills at conflict resolution, they have sought to use their skills in investigating the various options open to them but, for one reason or another, they have not been able to sort things out.
On many occasions parents coming to mediation say “if only you could listen to my child, it would be so much easier to sort everything out”. To see whether there is any value in this idea, let’s look at how the mediation process works out.
Mediation: Opening the door to a new place of discussion
It is unlikely that a simple change of location to a mediator’s room will have a magical effect to making all the difficulties go away. As anon has said on many an occasion, “if you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got”.
To open the door to a new place of discussion, exploration and understanding a change is needed. The mediation process provides the necessary nudge to help the parties across the threshold to a new place of potential understanding and then supplies a map to help the parties explore this new area of opportunity.
Once across the threshold, participants need to feel sufficiently comfortable in their new surroundings to be able to apply themselves to their discussions with their ex-partner. It is at this point where the mediation process adjusts and adapts itself to meet the needs of the people who are engaged in the mediation process.
So, in this area of discussion the idea of child consultation is being considered – would it be helpful to know our child’s views?
When would child consultation take place?
This issue can appear in a number of ways. Sometimes it can be that each parent has concluded that they need some more information before they are able to commit to any particular way forward. The information they need is the views of their child or children about the arrangements that are being discussed. This may be because they believe the child supports their particular perspective on matters, and wish for the other parent to hear from the child as to the child’s view. Or indeed, it may be the other way round, they believe the child’s wishes do not support the view being put forward by the other parent and they wish for the other parent to become aware of this.
It is important to be clear as to the reasons for obtaining the views of the child. The purpose of obtaining the views of the child is to provide more information in the mediation process, so that the information informs the discussions and decisions made by the parents. Occasionally, parents will seek the views of the child, indicating that the views of the child would determine which way any decision is made. Where this is the case, then I would be very reluctant to obtain the views of the child in case the child gets the impression that they are able to take the decisions which ought properly to be made by the child’s parents. However, if the parents are clear in their own mind that they have the responsibility of making the decisions in relation to their child or children, and they are looking for further information to enable them to make the best possible choice in their particular circumstances, then I am happy to meet with their child or children and for the children’s voices to be fully heard and included in the process of mediation.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances