The Children Act 1989
When a court determines any question with respect to—
the upbringing of a child …..
the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.
a court shall have regard in particular to—
…. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding).
Child inclusive mediation provides a safe space for the wishes and feelings of your children to be heard without the necessity of court intervention.
As mediators we often hear parents talk about their rights as a parent, for example a right to see a child who is living with another parent. This approach can heighten acrimony between parents and result very quickly to court intervention.
But let us hear the voice of the child and see what a difference this can make.
There are two ways your child’s voice can be heard:
- An accredited child inclusive mediator can speak directly with an older child, usually ten or over, if both parents agree and if the child is agreeable.The mediator will first meet with both parents to discuss the suitability of this option. If it is agreed by both parents that this will be in the child’s best interests the mediator will explain that she will contact the child to arrange a meeting, in person or by zoom. She will then meet the child and, without asking him to choose, ascertain his wishes and feelings and , in particular, whether there is anything he would like to communicate back to his parents. With the child’s permission, the mediator will then speak with each parent separately, or both together depending on the circumstances and communicate the wishes and feelings of the child. This can often result in highly productive discussions on how the parents can move forward, away from their disagreements and hostilities as a separated couple, and towards a new role as separated co-parents of a much-cherished child.
- Alternatively, if the child is too young or it is felt that the above approach might not meet the needs of the particular child, the mediator can invite the parents to imagine that their child is actually in the session, looking at a photograph can help; what would he say to you now if he was in the session with us; if too young, what might an older version of him be saying to you perhaps in his teenage years or even as an adult; how would he want to look back at your separation in the context of his future life and happiness.Such questions can be enormously powerful by allowing separating parents to find consensus through the voice of their child and, again, to start the new chapter of their lives, no longer as a couple, but a co-parent.
By considering the wishes and feelings of their child in mediation, by allowing their child’s voice to be heard in the mediation room, separating couples can move away from the acrimony of their former relationship and embark on a new fulfilling chapter. In our experience as mediators, there is a much higher prospect of this outcome when parents feel empowered by the mediator to make their own decisions on what is in the best interests of their child rather than having a decision imposed upon them by the court process.