Article written by Mandeep Clair, Solicitor, Family
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(ren) in the mediation process to provide them with a safe space to express their feelings and opinions. It can be very stressful for children to talk about living arrangements and other matters, as they do not 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 ten years of age. If your child is over ten, 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.