Direct consultation with children involves a family mediator who is trained as a child consultant talking with a child or children as a part of a mediation in which arrangements are being made for children. The government has suggested that children aged 10 and above should generally have access to a mediator when questions about their future are being resolved in mediation.
Parents sometimes suggest that the child or children are involved in the mediation process. Sometimes the child makes the suggestion. It is important that parents understand the views, needs and desires of their children and involving them in the mediation process may be a good way to do this. Children like to be informed and they appreciate having their views and options heard, although they need to understand that they are not responsible for the overall decision.
Involving children in mediation can be very complex and a great deal of preparation is needed before a mediator will speak to a child. Different considerations apply depending on the age and maturity of the child. The child and both the parents have to agree to the consultation. It is the mediator’s decision whether child consultation is appropriate.
Our specialist mediators offer direct consultation with children. These mediators have attended specialist courses to equip them with the necessary skills to consider whether direct consultation with a child is appropriate and to carry out that consultation if it is.
Direct consultation with a child means the child talking face to face with the mediator separately on the basis that what they say is completely confidential from anyone else including their parents. Very often the child does have something that they want the mediator to tell their parents, and that they would like the parents to take into consideration when making their decision. Strictly with the child’s permission, the mediator will then bring the child’s voice into the mediation.
The child can either meet with the mediator who is already working with the parents or, as often happens, with a different mediator. Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. Siblings will be seen separately or together depending on what the children themselves prefer. Children should generally be aged 10 years and over, but in exceptional circumstances, younger children may be seen.
Our family mediators have a great deal of experience of the issues surrounding separation and divorce and are able to give you general information about all the options available to your family. Family mediators will also be able to ask both of you important questions about the practical impact on your family of any option that especially interests you. Family mediators can talk to you about some of the legal implications of some ideas that you may be interested in. Family mediators are specially trained to focus on the needs of the children in the family and will help you, as parents, to do that together.
During the mediation your mediator will give you information about how to deal with financial issues, how to deal with children issues, relevant legal principles, the court process, court orders, and how to contact other agencies and specialists who may be able to help. The mediator will ask you important questions about what ideas you have about the future, and about what is worrying you about the present. They may even talk a little about what has gone wrong in the past, although the problems of the past are not the main focus of mediation. The mediator will also set the rules he or she expects everyone to follow. These will include speaking and listening to each other with respect and working with the mediator to make sure that conflict and any strong emotions that emerge during the mediation don’t overwhelm the process.
Most family mediators work in a relatively informal setting, and all qualified family mediators provide clients with a relaxed and secure environment. During the session, the mediator will record key pieces of information or ideas or particular options in a way that allows both of you to see what has been written and to comment on it. Usually, the mediator will use a flip-chart to do this, but many also use more modern technology. You will be encouraged to ask questions and discuss what is being written down. If you don’t understand something that is being said by anyone in the room or you don’t understand something that has been written on the flip-chart by the mediator, say so. It is the mediator’s job to help. Your mediator will be keeping an eye on how you are feeling, but if you feel uncomfortable or worried about anything, it is very important to say so.
If the two of you are able to identify some proposals that you think might work, the mediator will record those proposals in a confidential way, for you to turn into a legally binding agreement after getting legal advice.
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