Direct Consultation with Children in the Mediation Process
Many National Family Mediation services provide the facility for children to be included in the mediation process.
Research indicates that at the time of separation children feel as though they no longer have a voice in the future structure of their family. They have anxieties about how the new arrangements are going to work and how it will impact upon their lives in terms of maintaining friendships, schooling, relationships with extended family group members, etc.
National Family Mediation offers children an opportunity to express their views and wishes about the issues affecting them post separation. Parents are routinely encouraged to consider inviting their children to participate directly in the mediation process.
We believe that most children appreciate the opportunity to be heard directly.
Parents are assured that:
children will not be asked to make choices or decisions
parental authority is respected
children are seen only with the agreement of both parents
we will discuss fully with them the process and purpose of a “listening meeting” before involving children
When are children involved?
Children can be invited to meet with the mediator
at an early stage, to ensure that their issues are included in the parental agenda
once options have been identified and explored, in order to hear their views and take them into account
at the end, to communicate and explain proposed future arrangements and to “fine-tune” them in light of children’s response
more than once
for an individual or family meeting
The stage that parents are at in negotiating their future arrangements is likely to be a key factor in deciding when to involve children. With highly conflicted couples, or couples at very different stages in accepting the end of the marriage, early consultation with children is unlikely. The mediator’s discussion with the parents about the purpose and process of involving children will guide decisions on timing.
Children and parents are told that this can be an opportunity for children to talk privately with the mediator. Parents will only be told what children wish them to hear (with the important exception to confidentiality in relation to risk of harm).
The lower age limit for children being involved depends on their parents’ view of their capacity to use and understand the opportunity, but we use age 5 as a guideline.
The mediator working with the couple may meet with the children alone, or may involve a co-worker. Arrangements for when the children come; who brings them; where people wait; how feedback will be communicated to parents; etc. will all be addressed with parents as part of the preparation process Children are invited to attend but may choose not to.
This is a limited exercise. We believe it may help children and parents. It will not solve problems, but may assist communication at a difficult time.
Mediators are trained specifically to include children in this way and a major element of our core training focuses on bringing the children in to the process to ensure their needs are considered as paramount.
You can use family mediation to ensure your children’s voices are heard. Once you have entered into mediation and the mediator feels it is appropriate to consult the children, the mediator can arrange to meet them. They will be offered a confidential session and told that the mediator does not report everything back to the parents unless the child agrees to this. This allows children to get things off their chest, ask questions they might not otherwise feel okay about asking and generally be reassured that things will get better. Children can say no to meeting the mediator and no pressure should be placed upon them to do so. Once the child has agreed to feeding certain information back to their parents, the mediator will meet up with parents and incorporate this into the mediation, enabling the children’s views to be taken into account before final decisions are made.
NFM is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family
If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can also contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.
All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.