Should children be involved in the mediation process?
Going through divorce or separation is challenging, particularly if you have children.
If your children are old enough, they may also express worry, concern, or preferences about what they would like to happen. However, should your children become formally involved in the process? This article looks at child-inclusive mediation and whether it might be right for your family.
What is child inclusive family mediation?
Child-inclusive mediation allows children to be part of the mediation process in a structured and practical way. Typically, couples use mediation to resolve any issues or disputes that arise throughout the process of divorce or separation, and through child-inclusive mediation, your children can have their say too.
Children often wish to have their voice heard on divorce and separation matters, as it will have a huge impact on their everyday life. They may have opinions about who they would like to live with, how much time they will spend with each parent and even how much contact they would like with their wider family, such as grandparents. You can choose to listen to your child’s opinions using child-inclusive mediation.
When should you include your child in the mediation process?
Parents want to involve their child or children in the mediation process to provide them with a safe space to discuss their feelings and opinions. It can be very stressful for children to talk about living arrangements and other matters, as they don’t want to disappoint either of their parents. In many cases, children simply tell each parent what they want to hear, which can cause greater conflict.
A mediator will help your child process their views and form clear opinions about what they would like to happen in the future. Child-inclusive mediation can also lead to more child-focused outcomes and help parents understand how to deal with their child’s opinions and emotions.
Will mediation be stressful for your child?
In most cases, being involved in the mediation process can actually improve the wellbeing of your child at a very difficult time. Children often feel frustrated and left out during the divorce or separation process. Child-inclusive mediation can make them feel like their feelings and opinions are being properly considered. Of course, if your child does not want to be involved in the mediation process, you should not force them to do so.
When is child-inclusive mediation not appropriate?
Child-inclusive mediation will not be suitable in most cases where children are under 10 years of age. If your child is over 10, the mediator may also still recommend that your child does not take part because they may lack the ability to process their emotions or understand what is going on and how it will affect them. Where you, as parents or the mediator, feel participation in mediation would be distressing for your child, it would be best to keep them out of the mediation process.
Jessica Thrower a member of the family department said:
“I assist many parents with issues around their separation and in some circumstances it can be very helpful for them to hear clear and independent information about their children’s thoughts and wishes. Within Child Inclusive Mediation we can make arrangements suitable for the children involved, ensuring that they do not feel pressured. The children will speak with a specialist child-focused mediator who then passes on relevant information to the parents that they can utilise within their decision making. The process is well structured and proven to provide workable outcomes in many situations”.