A guide to child-inclusive mediation
Divorce can be a difficult and stressful experience for children, and their well-being should be a top priority for parents and professionals involved in the process. This is where child-inclusive mediation (CIM) comes in, which seeks to involve children in the process and prioritise their needs and perspectives.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about child-inclusive mediation to help you understand more about the process, its benefits and what to expect.
What is child inclusive mediation?
Child inclusive mediation is a process that involves children in the mediation process when their parents are going through separation or divorce. The goal of child inclusive mediation is to provide children with a safe and supportive environment to express their views and concerns, and to help parents make decisions that are in the best interests of their children.
This type of mediation recognises the importance of involving children in the decision-making process, as it helps them feel heard, valued, and involved in decisions that affect their lives.
The philosophy behind child-inclusive mediation is that the best interests of the child are paramount, and that children have the right to be heard in decisions that affect them. By involving children in the mediation process, parents can gain a better understanding of their children's needs, feelings, and concerns, which can help them make more informed decisions that are in the best interests of their children.
Child inclusive mediation is usually raised as an option to family mediation clients, and it is recommended that children over the age of 10 should be offered the opportunity to take part in child-inclusive mediation. For instance, we offer child-inclusive options as part of our child mediation services.
The role of children in child-inclusive mediation
If you are a parent going through a divorce and considering child-inclusive mediation, you may be wondering what role your child will play in the process. The role of children in child-inclusive mediation is an important one, as it allows children to have a voice and be actively involved in decisions that affect their lives.
It’s important to note that child-inclusive mediation is voluntary and requires consent from everybody involved, including the children. It’s also important to clarify that child-inclusive mediation is not about children making difficult decisions, but about giving them a voice in the decisions that concern them. Decision-making still rests with the parents.
Like all forms of mediation, CIM is not to be considered as an alternative to counselling or therapy. It is a process that enables children to be heard in family disputes. It is the child who decides what information the mediator shares with the parents, and this is done verbally within the mediation session.
How does child inclusive mediation work?
The mediator will work with the parents to ensure that their child feels comfortable and safe throughout the process. This also helps ensure that the parents’ decisions take into account the children's needs and preferences, and to help them communicate effectively with their children about the decisions made.
By working with the parents, the mediator can help provide a safe and supportive environment for the parents and child to express their views and concerns, and ensures that their opinions are heard and taken into account. The process involves meeting with the children separately to obtain their views, and feedback , and helping them to understand the mediation process.
Child inclusive mediation typically involves the following steps:
- Initial meeting with parents:the mediator meets with the parents to explain the mediation process and discuss the possibility of involving their children in the process.
- Separate meetings with the children:a specially trained CIM mediator (which may be a different mediator) meets with the children separately to obtain their views and understand what is important to them. This helps the CIM mediator understand the children's needs and concerns, and provides an opportunity for the children to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment. The CIM mediator checks what, if any, messages the children would like the mediator to share with their parents.
- Follow-up meeting with parents: The CIM mediator meets up with the parents to pass on any messages that their children would like shared. Parents continue to work with a mediator within mediation to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children.
What are my children’s legal rights?
When it comes to separation and divorce proceedings, children have legal rights that should be taken into consideration. These rights are outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Children’s Act 1989. Child inclusive mediation seeks to ensure that these rights are upheld and that children are consulted in decisions that affect them.
One of the key rights of children is the right to be consulted and to have their views taken into account in matters that affect them. This right is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognises that children have the right to express their views freely and to have those views given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.
The Children’s Act 1989 also places a duty on courts and professionals to consider the views of children in any legal proceedings that affect them. This includes decisions relating to arrangements for the children.
In child inclusive mediation, children therefore have the right to be consulted and to have their views taken into account in the decision-making process.
What will the mediator ask my children?
The mediator will be sensitive to the child's age, maturity, and ability to communicate effectively, and will tailor their questions accordingly. It is likely that the mediator will spend some time talking with your child to understand their daily routine, hobbies, and interests, as well as their relationship with each parent.
The mediator will help your child to explain what is important to them and agree what, if any, messages they would like the mediator to share with their parents.
It's important to note that the mediator's role is not to pressure or persuade the child to take a particular position or side. The mediator is there to help the child feel comfortable expressing their views and to ensure that their needs are taken into account in the decision-making process.
Respecting parental authority and consent
When a mediator is working with children in child-inclusive mediation, it's important to balance the child's right to be heard with the parents' right to make decisions on behalf of their child. The mediator must respect parental authority and consent when speaking with the child and involving them in the mediation process.
Here are some ways that the mediator can respect parental authority and consent when working with children:
- Obtaining consent
- Discussing boundaries
- Focusing on the child's best interests
- Providing feedback
- Upholding confidentiality
The benefits of child-inclusive mediation
Child-inclusive mediation puts children’s needs and interests at the forefront of the dispute resolution process. Alongside this, there are numerous other benefits for all parties involved in a separation, divorce or other family dispute.
Some of the main benefits of child-inclusive mediation include:
Child-inclusive mediation can reduce conflict between parents by providing a safe and supportive environment for all parties to discuss their concerns and work towards a mutually acceptable agreement. In mediation, all parties are given the chance to express their views and explore their options in coming to a potential agreement. In most cases, parents will have a shared interest in doing what’s best for the child. By involving the child in the process, parents may be more motivated to work together and find solutions that are in the best interests of the child.
Improved communication and relationships
By including children in the mediation process, parents can improve communication and work towards repairing damaged relationships. Parents may be more likely to communicate openly and honestly with each other, and to focus on the needs and concerns of the child. This can help to build trust and cooperation between parents, which can be important for co-parenting in the future.
Increased control over the outcome
Child-inclusive mediation can give parents more control over the outcome of their separation or divorce. In contrast, a court-setting might not give all parties the chance to communicate as openly and freely as mediation allows. Parents may be more invested in finding a solution that works for everyone, and may be more likely to adhere to the terms of the agreement.
Better outcomes for children
Child-inclusive mediation can have positive outcomes for children by ensuring that their needs and concerns are taken into account in decision-making. This is not only important for the mediation process itself, but can also be beneficial long term. Children who are involved in the process may feel more empowered and less anxious about the future, and may have a better understanding of the reasons behind their parents' separation or divorce.
Mediation can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional litigation or court proceedings. Average mediation costs are often lower than solicitor fees, for example, and can be quicker and less expensive than going to court. This can help to avoid the financial and emotional costs associated with a protracted legal battle.
In conclusion, child inclusive mediation is a valuable tool for parents who are navigating the difficult process of separation or divorce. By involving their children in the mediation process, parents can gain a better understanding of their children's needs and concerns, and work together to develop a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children.
Child inclusive mediation can help parents to communicate more effectively, reduce conflict and stress, and ultimately create a more positive and stable environment for their children. It's important to choose a mediator who is trained in child inclusive mediation and has experience working with families in similar situations. With the right support, parents can successfully navigate the challenges of separation and create a brighter future for themselves and their children.
Speak to a mediator
Find out more or get started with child-inclusive mediation by getting in touch with our team. We are here to help you understand more about how mediation can help you, and help you learn more about how it works.