Some of my experiences of mediating with children
I have trained to mediate with children (Child-Inclusive Mediation) with the Family Mediators Association.
If both parents agree and the child wants to be part of Family Mediation they should have a voice in Mediation. The Mediator will also have to determine if the case is suitable for the child to be part of Mediation.
Certain facts have been changed to provide anonymity.
I have mediated with 4 boys who were upset that their mother left the family home and went to live abroad without saying anything. The mother realised that she had not dealt with this in a good way and wanted to come to Family Mediation to start seeing the boys again. The boys also wanted to mediate as they had questions that they wanted to ask the mother. The boys found the mediation a positive experience and they decided arrangements when they would spend time with their mother when she was in the country. They also made plans for when they could visit her abroad during the holidays.
In another mediation I was contacted by a mother who said that she wanted to spend more time with the three children. I met with the children and they explained to me that they also wanted to spend more time with their mother but when they were with her she was always working and looking at her phone and that she needed to make time to be off her phone when she was with them. The mother said that she would take this on board and arrangements were made for the children to spend more time with their mother. They also decided which activities they could all do together outdoors.
In a different mediation I was working with the parents who had a family business. They had two children who were in the middle of their exams. I waited until the exams had finished and then met with them. They explained that they wanted to be involved with the family business in the future and did not want the business to be sold now as part of the divorce. This helped the parents to decide not to sell the business.
In another mediation I met with a child who agreed to come to mediation but in the session did not want to say a lot. However, afterwards one of the parents explained that the child spoke to both parents after our meeting about their wishes and feelings as they felt they now had permission to explain about what they would like to happen.
When I met the children for mediation I always aim to have the feedback to the parents on the same day I have met the child or the following day so that the child can be reassured that the parents will receive the feedback very soon after I have met them. I do not want the child to feel anxiety so plan to have the meeting with the parents as soon as possible.
Mediation with children is not right for every case but if the child is old enough and the parents believe mature enough then it is helpful to consider whether the child should be involved in Family Mediation. In many situations the children can often come up with sensible and creative solutions that the parents had not considered.
Austin Chessell is an Accredited Family Mediator, Child Mediator and PPC at London Family Solicitor. He co-ordinates the meetings for the London Family Mediation Group that meets several times a year in Central London.
If you would like to find out more about Child-Inclusive Mediation his email address is email@example.com and his contact number is 0208 365 1535.