Child-inclusive divorce goes hand in hand with mediation as a way of making sure any dependants have a voice throughout their parents’ separation, and is a crucial way to reduce the stress of the process particularly for young or vulnerable children.
It is not just about letting children have their opinions heard though; it can equally serve as a way to help young people to understand what their parents might want to tell them, especially if mum and dad find it hard to express themselves with other distractions and emotional challenges to face at the time.
Overall, child-inclusive divorce removes some of the head-to-head nature of divorce, instead making it more about transitioning the whole family towards a happier living situation for the long term, even if it means one parent moving out of the family home.
A mediator in a child-inclusive divorce will make sure that the welfare of the child or children is put on an equal footing with that of the parents – nobody is more important than anybody else, and nobody is the ‘default’ voice in the discussions.
By speaking through a mediator who is not on any one person’s side, you engage the children in the negotiations, even allowing them to make decisions that directly affect them where it is appropriate for their choice to do so; however, the mediator will never ask the child to make an important decision, but will always make sure such choices are reached by mutual consent of the family as a whole.
Importantly, you also avoid portraying one parent as the ‘bad cop’ and potentially souring a previously strong parental relationship, which is equally vital whether the parent is taking residential responsibility for the child after the separation, or is the one moving out of the family home and visiting less frequently.
Mediation helps to relieve the feeling of being ‘pulled’ in opposite directions by parents who cannot agree on the child’s future residence or visitation rights – and the feeling of not having a say on such issues.
It opens up the lines of communication, so that anything worrying the child is not overlooked in the negotiations, and so nothing is decided in good faith that will actually end up harming the child’s welfare over the long term.
We have even seen instances where a dependant was reluctant to visit one or both parents, but after being consulted as part of child-inclusive divorce proceedings, felt much more able to go to either parent’s home and feel relaxed there.
As always, mediation aims to make divorce a less stressful and emotionally challenging process, and a mediator can be a friendlier face for young children than a lawyer would be, helping the whole family to move to a brighter future as effectively as possible.