My colleague Lauren Guy recently wrote a blog about the Voice of the Child in Dispute Resolution processes, which highlighted that in most separations the children are the main worry and concern for parents. Parents going through the emotional trauma of a divorce or relationship breakdown want to protect their children as much as possible from the hurt caused by the separation.
Recognising this, a process has been developed within family mediation to allow the child/ren to have a voice. This is called “Child Inclusive Mediation”. To be clear, it is not about asking the children to make decisions; such as with whom they live and how they spend time with each parent. It is a process to allow children the opportunity to have their voices heard when decisions are being made by their parents which affect them.
What is Child Inclusive Mediation (“CIM”)
When a separating couple go to mediation to make decisions about the future arrangements for their children, the mediator should discuss the option of the children meeting with a mediator. All mediators should have this discussion with the parents where at least one of the children is 10 years or older, even if that mediator is not actually trained to undertake CIM themselves.
CIM mediators can meet with children under the age of 10, but this will need to be assessed based upon that particular child.
What does Child Inclusive Mediation look like in practice?
- The mediator will have had extensive training to enable them to meet with the children. Not all mediators have had this training. Even if the mediator you are seeing is not trained to see children they can link up with a mediator who is to carry out this part of the process.
- The parents will give their consent to the mediator meeting the children.
- The mediator will then email or write to the children to invite them to a meeting (the date and time of which will have been arranged with the parents) and explain more about the meeting.
- One of the parents will take the children to the meeting and wait outside the room while the mediator meets with the children. If there is more than one sibling, the mediator will usually spend time with them together at the beginning of the meeting and then spend some individual time with each of the children.
- The children will be given the opportunity to tell the mediator how they feel about the situation they find themselves in. They will be asked if they have views on how things could be easier or better for them.
- It will be made clear to the children that it is not their decision as to what happens and that it is for their parents to decide. The children will be able to tell the mediator what they would like fed back to their parents and any points they do not want to be fed back.
- At a later date the parents will then have a further joint mediation session where the CIM mediator will feed back to them the information the children have asked to be fed back and any observations the mediator had of the children.
Why use Child Inclusive Mediation?
I undertake a lot of co-mediations with a colleague who is trained as a CIM mediator. I am only present for the feedback meeting. I have found this meeting to be very powerful and usually extremely helpful in enabling parents to make decisions about the future arrangements for their children.
It can be upsetting for the parents to hear how their children are feeling but it can also help them to understand how they can make the situation just a little easier for their children. Children have a tendency to protect their parents. They understand that the separation is difficult for all and they don’t want to be a further burden. They are also often reluctant to tell their parents how they really feel for fear of upsetting one of their parents.
By having the opportunity to speak to a CIM who is independent and not emotionally involved the children can speak more freely.
CIM should become a usual option for separating parents and my experience of the process is such that it is a step I would encourage all parents to consider. As I highlighted at the start of this piece, the children and supporting them through the separation is most parents’ priority and CIM enables this support to be provided in a structured and child-focused way.
For further information about the family mediation process visit: https://www.familylawpartners.co.uk/how-we-work/family-mediation/
Find out more about our team of family mediators: https://www.familylawpartners.co.uk/meet-our-family-mediators/
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