Mediation exists to help prevent divorces from turning into shouting matches, with the mediator acting as a go-between and as an independent opinion on any disputes, and working to overcome the gulf between the two parties so that the process can move forwards.
Of course not every separation includes children, and mediation has direct benefits for childless couples, where communication might only involve the two parties themselves, and can therefore be kept quite simple and amicable.
But where there are also dependants, mediation is a way to make sure that those ‘little voices’ have their own say on issues that will affect their future – and crucially, this goes far beyond the day the divorce is finalised.
A recent report by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme noted calls from campaigners, some children and some senior judges for young people to have a direct say in divorce proceedings – even being allowed to speak privately to the judge about their wishes for their own future.
There is currently no legal right for children to be given this opportunity, although some judges go to extra lengths to include them in proceedings and even to ensure their ruling reflects the child’s own wishes as far as possible.
However, in all family law cases, mediation must at least be considered, and when a mediator is involved with the proceedings, they can make sure that any affected young people are kept involved too.
It’s important to realise that involving children in divorce and other family law cases means more than just asking them what they want.
Mediators can also make sure that children receive continual updates about the proceedings, without legal jargon, so that they do not feel like they have been shut out of the room and kept out of the loop.
But even after separation, mediators can continue to provide much-needed support as parents adjust to new residency arrangements and shared responsibility rather than round-the-clock co-parenting.
Your responsibilities as a parent do not end with divorce, and while they do not change fundamentally either, the practicalities of being there for your child can be very different after separation.
Mediation is there for both parties and for your children too, without judgment or partisanship, but always for the mediator to share with you their expertise and experience, to calm the waters, and crucially to resolve any future disputes as they arise, before they can cause undue trauma to your child.