Can My Child Be Involved In Family Mediation?
If your children are of an age where they have the emotional maturity to make decisions regarding their family situation, you may be considering involving them in the mediation process.
Child inclusive mediation can be incredibly effective and gives children the opportunity to express their fears, concerns, and deeply-held wishes. Child inclusive mediation is aligned with The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as The Children’s Act 1989.
In this article, we provide a detailed explanation on child inclusive mediation, including its advantages and situations where it is not an appropriate family dispute resolution method.
What is family mediation?
The family law process in England and Wales has centred on the premise that the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. In addition, going to court should be the last resort and it is always preferable if a couple can agree on matters concerning finances and children between themselves. To this end, family law mediation is encouraged provided it is suitable (for example there is no history of domestic abuse and both parties have made a full financial disclosure).
What is a family mediation service? Mediation is a voluntary process in which both parties to a child-related dispute meet with a trained and independent family mediator who will help them reach an agreement. The outcome of child custody mediation can be made legally binding if the parties’ solicitors draw up a Consent Order which is approved by the court. Mediation is a win/win solution and is cheaper and faster than formal litigation.
What is child inclusive mediation?
Child inclusive mediation allows any children affected by their parents’ divorce or separation to be involved in decisions regarding matters such as who they will predominantly live with, how often they will see the non-resident parent, where they will go to school, and any other issues that affect their lives. Child inclusive mediation takes place via a structured process where the child can express their thoughts and feelings to the family mediator who will then communicate this information to the parents in a separate setting.
A family mediator will have received special training on the correct protocols and procedures they must follow when including a child in the mediation process. They are also educated on how to manage safeguarding matters.
What are the advantages of child inclusive mediation?
Child inclusive mediation is normally a positive experience for everyone. For children dealing with the divorce or separation of their parents, they can express their views and concerns to a trained adult who has no personal agenda. The family mediator will then communicate what the child wants to convey to their parents and manage any issues, thereby protecting the child from the fear of upsetting/disappointing one or both parents and showing favouritism.
All children, even those who are relatively young want to feel they have a say in what happens to them. Child inclusive mediation can achieve this in a safe, neutral environment.
When is child inclusive mediation not appropriate?
- You would not normally choose family law mediation if:
- The child in question is under ten years old.
- Abuse is present in the relationship.
- Child services does not believe child inclusive mediation is appropriate.
- Where parental alienation is present.
- The child has emotional or learning difficulties which would result in the process being stressful for them.
- Both parents do not agree to child inclusive mediation.
Can child custody mediation be done online?
Absolutely. Not only does meeting online allow for mediation sessions to be scheduled around work times, but it also enables children to take part in the process from a safe and familiar environment (most commonly their own home).
What is the parent’s role in family law mediation?
Child inclusive mediation does not mean that parents can place all the decision-making on their child/children. Rather, it facilitates a way for parents to understand their child’s preferences and concerns and empowers them to communicate freely in a safe environment.
Before any mediation sessions are commenced, the family mediator will talk with the parents to ensure they understand the process and evaluate whether or not mediation is being undertaken with the best interests of the child being paramount in the minds of all parties.
Final words on family law mediation
Child inclusive mediation allows children to have a say in their future following their parents’ divorce or separation. This is crucially important for their overall well-being and mental health. If it is undertaken in a way where everyone involved is determined to put the child’s welfare first, it can be an extremely positive experience for the entire family.
Guillaumes LLP Solicitors is a full-service law firm based in Weybridge, Surrey. We have an experienced team of family law Solicitors who can assist you with any legal matter, from understanding separated parents’ holiday rights to support with divorce proceedings. Get in touch with us today or to make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111.