If you’re going through a separation with children involved, it can be sensible for your mediator to talk to them directly, without you in the room.
That might sound strange, but it’s important for children to have a voice when their parents are separating, and they don’t always feel comfortable speaking their mind openly in front of one or both parents.
This is true even in the most loving and caring of families – sometimes the child feels they would be letting you down, or they might think they are partly responsible for your decision to separate.
By allowing your child to talk to a family mediator, you give us an opportunity to find out what they are thinking, in a safe and supportive environment.
Where there’s a chance to use that to find a better way to proceed – for example, if it’s useful in deciding on residential arrangements for the child in the future – we will do so.
The exact questions mediators ask children will vary a lot in different cases. They can depend on the age of the child, whether they have any siblings, and how amicable the parents’ relationship is.
In general though, a mediator will sit down and have a fairly informal chat with the child, to try to put them at ease and make clear that they are not in any trouble.
This conversation can then turn to practical issues, such as where the child hopes to live in the future, as well as any personal concerns they might have.
As a result, a child mediation session can flag up things that might otherwise have been missed, for example:
Children are much more aware of events than their parents sometimes realise, even if you have tried hard to keep your separation a secret, and talking to them can provide crucial insights into how they are feeling.
We wouldn’t talk to children in mediation if it didn’t help. Asking your child how they are feeling and if they have any worries can identify issues that could be preventing you from making meaningful progress in your separation negotiations.
In the most obvious examples of this, the child might have clear ideas about where they want to live as their primary residence in the future, which you may choose to respect as much as possible.
Less directly, that could be an indication of a deeper worry in the child’s mind, such as how well they think one or other parent will cope with the separation.
We will always proceed with caution and gently ask the questions we believe will help the most, before reporting back to you so that you can decide how to use that information positively in the arrangements you make for your child or children going forwards.