One of the roles of mediation is to help parents to make arrangements for their children following separation or divorce. It is important that decisions about future parenting are made by the parents, as they are the ones who know their children best. The perspective of the children is crucial in helping parents with decisions they propose to make for the children.
Children can find themselves caught up in family disputes which have been brought about by divorce or separation and it is often difficult to gauge the extent to which they can be upset by what is going on around them. Many children will try to conceal their feelings in an attempt to avoid upsetting or hurting their parents. As part of the mediation process, the mediator will offer to see your child to give them the opportunity to talk to someone independent. This direct consultation will allow the child to give their views on the proposals and arrangements you are talking about in mediation.
When parents are disagreeing about how to share their parenting, the voices of the child are sometimes not heard very clearly, as the adults are preoccupied. A direct consultation meeting may help you both to make arrangements as you will have a clearer view of your child’s perspective.
The mediator will not be asking the child to take sides or make decisions about what they want or who they may wish to live with. This is for the parents to decide. However, it does give the child the opportunity to voice any worries, views or thoughts they may have on the proposals their parents are making.
The mediator will only see the child with the permission of both parents and will write to the child to offer an appointment. If the child does not wish to see the mediator they can say no. Both parents will be aware of when the appointment is.
The mediator will have talked to both parents about ways to prepare the child for this meeting.
The meeting with the child is confidential and at the end of the meeting the child and the mediator will agree what can be fed back to the parents. The mediator will talk to the child about the limits of confidentiality – the same limits for the parents in the mediation process. If there are brothers and sisters, they can be seen together or separately.
The parents will have agreed with the mediator to a further meeting to hear what the child had to say. This will give the parents the opportunity to take account of the comments and views of their child and help them to make particular decisions which suit both the child and themselves. If the child wishes, they can come to that meeting as well as talk directly to their parents with the support of the mediator or just listen to the feedback.
Sometimes the information that the mediator feeds back is difficult for the parents to hear and sometimes it is unexpected. Parents need to prepare for this and there will be an opportunity to talk about this with the mediator, either with the parents together or separately.
Seeing children in mediation is not counselling. If counselling seems to be appropriate the mediator can explore with the parents where there may be alternative sources of help for the children and parents.