“Child Inclusive mediation provides opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard directly during the process of mediation, to help them feel respected and listened to and, at their request, to assist parents or carers to receive, understand and take account of the child’s messages and/or suggestions regarding decisions and arrangements for the child.”
This quote is taken as a definition of Child Inclusive Mediation from a paper produced by a working group looking at this.
“Usually the focus is on the parents and too often the children and young people are overlooked. It’s time we were more conscious of children and young people’s perspective in this”. Tom Baillie Children’s Commissioner in Scotland.
The government has put a greater focus on hearing children’s voices in disputes concerning them (although they have stopped short of enshrining this as a principle in law). It is telling that in a 2015 survey of young people whose parents had separated 48% say they did not feel that their parents had properly explained to them what would happen after the separation. Children are often aware of far more than their parents realise; they may have experiences of separation through friends or classmates at school, and can have worries that their parents know nothing about. There can be many unintended consequences for children whose parents have separated in terms of emotional, mental health, social and even physical health problems. There can also be behavioural issues. These can stay with children until they are adults and able to independently embark on therapeutic help. This is particularly the case where children are exposed to, and caught up in, conflict between their parents. As mediators we often see parents whose views of what they want for their children following their separation are shaped dramatically by their experiences of their parents’ separation. With 42% of marriages ending in divorce and (in 2010-11) one third of all children aged 16 and under not living with both of their birth parents, this is a big societal issue and you can see why the government has sought to make this a better outcome for all involved.
As mediators we see that even those who have a difficult relationship gain something from being able to hear each other’s views, thoughts, priorities and worries in mediation – even where they don’t agree with them. Issues around children can often be stuck where each parent has a different perspective on either what is in the children’s best interests, or what the children themselves want. It is common for children to tell their parents different things, for a variety of reasons.
Child Inclusive Mediation is where your child or children can also talk to the family mediator as part of the mediation process. This enables them to have their voice heard as part of the mediation process. It does not give them any responsibility for decision making which continues to rest with you, as parents. But it affords children the opportunity to be able to air things they’re worried about, things they don’t like and their thoughts and feelings on what should happen next in a safe space with a specially trained and insured mediator. They can then ask the mediator to pass on their views to their parents. The mediator only passes on what information the child or children are comfortable sharing. They pass on the children’s specific words and they do not interpret or expand on this for the parents.
As a rule of thumb the idea is that all children who are 10 and over, or of sufficient maturity, should be given the opportunity to speak to the mediator so that they can decide whether they would like to do this. The age of 10 is not set in stone and it’s something the mediator will explore with the parents. The mediator will only meet with the child or children if both parents agree, and if the child is willing to do so. It can be scary to meet with a stranger and to talk about issues that are very personal. But this may be more scary for the parents! Children often have experience of peer mediation in schools and of sharing information with those in school and for them it may be an exciting opportunity to talk about things they have wanted to share for some time but not felt able to.
We are able to offer Child Inclusive Mediation at LKW Family Mediation and consider this to be an exciting, worthwhile and important part of our service. The mediator will discuss this with you prior to making any arrangements but it can be helpful to have an idea of costs. The Child Inclusive mediation process requires an initial meeting with parents (usually around 1.5 hours in length) to fully explain the process and to obtain your consent. The mediator then meets with your children at a time agreed with you both and usually for around an hour. There is then a follow up meeting with you as parents fairly soon after this to enable the mediator to pass on any information that your children were willing to share. You can have additional meetings if you and your children feel this would be helpful.
Child Inclusive Mediation can be set up in a joint mediation meeting between parents. If you require a standalone meeting to do this then this can be done at a discounted rate of £250 for a 1 hour meeting (£300 for a 1.5 hour meeting if this is done on a shuttle mediation basis. The mediator will then meet with your child or children for 45 minutes to an hour. Following this the mediator will meet with both parents to give them feedback and explain the messages that their child or children wanted to be passed on. This feedback meeting is for an hour. The cost of the meeting with the child and the feedback meeting for parents is £400 or £475 if the feedback meeting takes longer (1.5 hours) because it takes place on a shuttle mediation basis.
For more information you may find useful: