When families face difficult decisions and conflicts, Child Inclusive Mediation can be a valuable tool in ensuring that children’s voices are heard and their best interests are considered. In this blog post, we’ll explore what Child Inclusive Mediation is, the mediation process, its advantages, and when it is appropriate.
What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation is a specialised form of family mediation that aims to include children’s perspectives in the decision-making process. In traditional mediation, parents and mediators work together to resolve disputes, often without the direct input of the children involved. Child Inclusive Mediation, on the other hand, ensures that children have a say in the discussions that affect their lives.
This approach allows children to express their feelings, concerns, and preferences, providing valuable insights that can guide the mediation process. A specially trained Child Inclusive Mediator facilitates and carries out the process.
Child Inclusive Mediation Process
The Child Inclusive Mediation process typically involves several stages, including:
- Initial Assessment: The mediator assesses whether Child Inclusive Mediation is suitable for the case. This includes evaluating the age and maturity of the child, as well as the nature of the dispute.
- Child Preparation: If deemed appropriate and the parents and children agree to Child Inclusive Mediation, the mediator prepares the child for their meeting, explaining what to expect and how their voice will be heard.
- Separate Sessions: Children meet individually with the mediator to express their thoughts and feelings, knowing that these discussions are confidential unless there are concerns about their safety.
- Feedback: The mediator shares the child’s perspectives with the parents, allowing them to consider the children’s input when making decisions.
- Joint Sessions: The mediation process continues with joint sessions between the parents, where the child’s input is considered in reaching agreements.
When Are Children Involved in Mediation?
Children can be involved in mediation in various family-related conflicts, including:
- Divorce or Separation: When parents decide to separate or divorce, Child Inclusive Mediation can help address issues like child arrangements (custody/visitation), and parental responsibilities.
- Child Arrangement/Custody Disputes: In cases where parents disagree on child arrangements, involving children in the mediation process can lead to more child-centric decisions.
- Family Conflict Resolution: Child Inclusive Mediation can also be valuable in resolving disputes related to family dynamics, such as conflicts between stepparents and children.
When Does Child Inclusive Mediation Work?
Child Inclusive Mediation works best in situations where:
- Parents Are Willing: Both parents should be open to the idea of involving their children in the mediation process and genuinely consider their perspectives.
- Children Are Mature Enough: Child Inclusive Mediation is most effective when children are old enough and mature enough to express their thoughts and feelings. A rough guide is about 10 years old.
- Conflict Is Manageable: The level of conflict between parents should be manageable within a mediation setting.
Benefits of Child Inclusive Mediation
Child Inclusive Mediation offers several benefits, including:
- Children’s Voices Are Heard: It ensures that children are active participants in the decision-making process, making them feel more valued and understood.
- Child-Centred Solutions: Mediated agreements are often more child-focused, taking into account their needs and preferences.
- Reduced Trauma: Children often experience less emotional trauma when their parents engage in a non-adversarial process like mediation.
- Higher Compliance: Parents are more likely to adhere to agreements that they’ve had a hand in creating, leading to a more peaceful co-parenting environment.
In conclusion, Child Inclusive Mediation is a powerful tool for helping families navigate conflicts and make decisions that are truly in the best interests of the children involved. By including the voices of children in the process, it promotes more child-centric, harmonious outcomes in family disputes.
Case Study: Resolving a Custody Dispute through Child Inclusive Mediation
Names and specific details have been altered to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
Background: Jane and Mark, a divorced couple, were locked in a contentious child arrangements/custody battle over their two children, Emily (age 9) and Liam (age 6). The divorce had left a significant emotional strain on the children, as they often witnessed their parents’ heated arguments. Both Jane and Mark were determined to gain sole custody, each believing they could provide a better living environment for the children. The family court recognised the need for a less adversarial approach and referred the case to back to family mediation, including Child Inclusive Mediation.
Child Inclusive Mediation Process:
- Initial Assessment: Child inclusive mediator, Sarah, assessed the case’s suitability for child inclusive mediation. She found that both Jane and Mark were willing to participate and, more importantly, the children were of an age where their opinions could be considered. The conflict, while intense, appeared manageable within a mediated setting.
- Child Preparation: Sarah met with Emily and Liam separately, explaining the mediation process to them in a child-friendly manner. She assured them that their feelings and thoughts would be kept confidential unless there were concerns about their safety. This preparation was crucial in making the children comfortable with the mediation process.
- Separate Sessions: During their individual sessions with Sarah, Emily expressed her desire to spend more time with her mother, citing her stronger emotional bond with Jane. Liam, on the other hand, felt more connected to his father, Mark. Both children acknowledged their fear of upsetting the other parent.
- Feedback: Sarah shared the children’s perspectives with Jane and Mark, emphasising the importance of the parent-child relationships and the emotional well-being of Emily and Liam. This discussion had a profound impact on both parents, making them realize the significance of their children’s voices in the decision-making process.
- Joint Sessions: Over several joint mediation sessions, Jane and Mark worked towards a more child-centred resolution. They recognised that a shared parenting plan that respected the children’s preferences would be in their best interests. The mediation process allowed them to constructively discuss and agree on a custody arrangement that balanced the children’s needs and their own.
In this case, Child Inclusive Mediation not only resolved the custody dispute but also improved the overall well-being of the children. By considering their voices and needs, the parents were able to make decisions that were truly in their children’s best interests, leading to a more stable and harmonious family environment.
Meet one of our Child Inclusive Mediators – Jan Coulton
Jan Coulton is one of our specially trained and experienced Child Inclusive Mediators with over 30 years of experience in working with families. Her profound commitment to this field arises from a deep passion for ensuring the emotional well-being and voices of children are at the forefront in family disputes.
Background and Dedication:
Jan is not just a seasoned mediator; she is a tireless advocate for the well-being of children amidst family conflicts. Accredited by the Family Mediation Council (FMC), Jan has demonstrated her expertise and commitment to her craft.
Throughout her remarkable career, she has held influential positions, including the role of Director of the Family Mediators Association and a membership in the Ministry of Justice Family Mediation Steering Group. These roles allowed her to shape policies and practices in family mediation.
Jan’s legal qualifications further enrich her mediation work, providing clients with insights into the legal aspects of their disputes. Her dedication to maintaining the highest standards of mediation is evident in her former role as the Chair of The College of Mediators, and her national recognition as Family Mediator of the Year in both 2018 and 2020 at the National Mediation Awards.
As both a mother and a grandmother, Jan’s personal connection to family dynamics fuels her passion for preserving familial bonds and protecting children’s well-being in the midst of disputes. Her role as the firm’s Legal Aid external supervisor underlines her commitment to providing accessible mediation services to those in need.
Jan’s passion for Child Inclusive Mediation drives her to ensure that every child’s voice is heard and valued in the mediation process.
Mediation can be an enormous and inexpensive process. Talk to one of our friendly and experienced team to find out how we can help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Child Inclusive Mediation Appropriate for All Cases?
Child Inclusive Mediation is not suitable for every case. It depends on the willingness of parents, the maturity of the child, and the level of conflict involved. A trained mediator can help determine its appropriateness.
What Happens If Parents Cannot Agree in Mediation?
If parents cannot reach an agreement through mediation, the next step may involve court proceedings. However, mediation often serves as a helpful first step in resolving family disputes.
Is Child Inclusive Mediation Confidential?
Yes, Child Inclusive Mediation is confidential. Children can express their feelings to the mediator, and this information is only shared with the parents if there are no concerns about the child's safety and also if the children want to share information.
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