What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation is used during disputes between families where an issue must be solved (eg. two divorcing parents deciding a custody care plan for their children). It is a type of Family Mediation.
Child Inclusive Mediation is a reliable process in which a qualified mediator will speak to the children to know their feelings and wishes.
The child’s wishes and feelings may be shared by a mediator with the parents in a different meeting. The parents then can use the information obtained from the mediator to allow the child arrangements to proceed further.
What does the law say about child inclusive mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation is governed under the UN Convention on the rights of the child and The Children's Act, 1989. The legislation highlights how the “ascertainable wishes and feelings” of the child should always be considered, and how children have a right to be heard in family proceedings.
Therefore, children can also speak to Child Inclusive Mediator - but their parent’s to retain the right to protest and veto this at any point.
The recommendation is that children over the age of 10 years old should be aware of their right to be involved in the process. But both parents must give consent before a child speaks to a mediator. This does not mean that children under the age of 10 cannot be involved in mediation, but this is an estimate. Once again, the final decision lies in the hands of the parents.
How does Child Inclusive Mediation work?
At the MIAM meetings (in case of initial appointments), the mediator have to discuss the basics of the child inclusive mediation. At the first joint meeting, the mediator will ask both parents to discuss and share their opinions of the child inclusive mediation.
If (and only if) both the parents agree to proceed with a Child Inclusive Mediation, the mediator may follow up with “screening questions”, such as:
Asking both the parents to consider how they will react upon hearing the feedback from the child
How the parents will take this feedback into consideration, and how they will alter their Child Arrangements plan accordingly (if necessary)
Will the parents be able to respect the child’s opinions
Holistically, the mediator will be trying to determine whether Child Inclusive Mediation will be in the best interests of the child in each specific case.
The mediator may directly write to older children, inviting them to the Child Inclusive Mediation and explaining what it actually is. In other cases, parents may choose to have the initial invitation discussion with their children themselves. If the children do not want to go forward with this, then in no circumstance will or should they be forced to do so.
What are the benefits/ the theory of child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation is built on the basis that Children have a right to have their voices heard, especially when the decisions being made directly concern or effect them. Children want to be able to have their say in things, to share their observations, wishes and feelings.
Child Inclusive mediation is a great middle ground for disputing families, where all voices can be taken into account. It can help parents create plans that benefit both themselves and their children.
Who needs to consent for Child Inclusive Mediation to take place?
It is to be noted that Child Mediation can only be arranged with the consent and permission of both the parents of the child, and ultimately, the child themselves. If the child truly does not wish to be involved in the Mediation process, they should not be forced to.
The mediator must also agree to doing Child Inclusive Mediation, generally after one or more sessions with just the parents, so the Mediator can see whether or not Child Inclusive Mediation is suitable for the family at hand.
At what age is Child Inclusive Mediation suitable?
Generally, Children aged 10 years and over are most suited to Child Inclusive Mediation. However, if both parents agree and the mediator thinks it is feasible, children younger than 10 years of age can be involved in Child Inclusive Mediation. As a child gets older (eg, Teenagers), they may have more direct involvement in the Child Inclusive Mediation Process.
There is no upper age limit in case of child inclusive mediation. However courts generally do not make Child Arrangements Orders for children who are above the age of 16 (unless the child's safety is at risk), and then, Child Inclusive Mediation may work as a guided substitute.
When is Child Inclusive Mediation not appropriate?
Child inclusive mediation is often not appropriate or suitable for children who are under 5 years old.
Mediation is not appropriate when one or more parties are at risk (eg. Domestic Violence has occurred), and in cases such as these, other paths such as litigation may be an alternative route.
If parties involved believe that involving children in the mediation process may further upset or confuse a child, then they may decide against this and use another method (eg a Counselor or a CAFCASS officer) to ascertain the feelings and wishes of the child.
Child Inclusive Mediation is one tool of many to allow children's voices to be heard in the courtroom.
Does the child have to make any decisions in Child Inclusive Mediation?
No. Children will not have to make direct decisions in mediation. This could upset or stress a child, or may lead to them simply giving an answer that they think will please one of their parents.
Instead, Children will be asked questions that allows the mediator to understand their feelings and wishes. These could be questions that relate to a decision, but the child will not have to make the decision themselves at any point.
When and where does child inclusive mediation take place?
A child inclusive mediation takes place at a time that is best for the children.
Places such as mediators offices or the child’s school could work. Sometimes, people may opt to use Zoom calls. Neutral places are generally best to conduct these meetings, but if a child is more comfortable or less comfortable in certain areas, these guidelines can be shifted to accommodate the child’s wellbeing.
The key objective of these meetings is to make the child feel comfortable and talk to the mediator without any fear or outside influence (eg parental alienation).
At what stages of the mediation process are children involved?
In the first and second stage of the mediation process, children get involved as the mediation begins as the mediator communicates the messages of children to the parents.
How much does child inclusive mediation cost?
Mostly, the cost of mediation companies is based on hourly rate.. Generally, mediate UK cost a total of around £120 for a meeting with the child or children. If there is a 30 minute feedback session, then further £120 will be usually charged which can be shared between the parties.
Where can I find a child inclusive mediator?
On the database of Mediate UK, there is a section with trained selection of family mediators in child inclusive mediation. Also, one can search within the FMC database and click on the option box that mentions ‘Qualified to see children in mediation’.
Note: This article is not meant as legal advice and must not be treated as legal advice.