What clients might be suitable for the One Solicitor: One Couple process (also known as Solicitor Neutral or Resolution Together)? I’m delighted to be joined in this blog by Dr Angharad Rudkin, a child psychologist, author and creator of the What...
What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
A specially trained mediator talks and listens to your child(ren). It’s usually not suitable for children under 10 years old but there are occasions when it is - it depends on the child.
Both parents must agree to CIM taking place. The child(ren) must also agree to talk/meet with the mediator. The CIM will ‘screen’ your family to check it’s the right process for you all; this protects the child and ensures the parents are using CIM for the right reasons.
That mediator will write to the child(ren) to invite them by post or WhatsApp (or whatever your child is most likely to see.) The child(ren) feel(s) very grown up to be part of things and are often happy to go.
If you have more than one child, they can go together or separately depending on their preference (or what you, the parents think might be most helpful).
The Child Inclusive mediator will talk (in person or online) to the child in an age-appropriate way and listen to their situation (or through their interaction with toys and drawings). They will be able to express how they feel about the present and the future. They will not be asked to make a decision about the future arrangements of their care.
The child gets to choose, what, if anything is fed back to the parents during a mediation session with me. Sometimes, a child might just want there to be a ‘witness’ to their situation. Or it’s enough that they’ve had the chance to talk to someone that they trust but that isn’t their parents. So that this can be enough to help the child feel better. The mediator may suggest other support services for the child (ren) e.g., counselling or useful books/websites.
The voice of the child
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was agreed by governments (including ours) around the world in 1989. It says what they must do so that children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, receive protection, have their views listened to and are treated fairly. All the rights in the Convention apply to every child, no matter who they are or where they come from. Article 12 - ‘Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously’.
When young people look back on their parents’ divorce/separation they tell of feeling powerless and unheard. Further to this, they report that they didn’t know what was going on and weren’t consulted. They don’t expect to be the decision maker (so don’t ever make them one) but they would like to have a voice. Child Inclusive Mediation is a way to give them that voice without also giving them the pressure of making the decision.
Could it work for you?
Yes, it’s a very successful way to open up a discussion between parents; it’s very rare for the children to say anything that upsets their parents - but they do give essential food for thought. Often the child(ren) will reassure parents that they are ok and are dealing well with what’s going on. The children feel heard and part of the process.
It can be a cause of conflict if one parent refuses to allow the child(ren) to see the child inclusive mediator.
How to prepare?
DO: Reassure the children that they are important. However, any decisions will be yours as the parents to make.
DO NOT: Prime the children to say what you want them to. This is upsetting and confusing for the children. And also, likely to be picked up by the mediator.
DO NOT: Ask the child(ren) searching questions or try to find out what was said to the CIM mediator.
Children often have a mixed reaction to an invitation to see the CIM. Expect the following:
- Jumping at the chance to go.
- Wanting to go but only if they can go with sibling(s).
- Taking some time to think about it all and then agreeing.
- An absolute no - there is no way they want to go!
Take advice from the CIM about what to say to them. You will be meeting with him/her separately before you proceed anyway. So that’s the time to ask how best to prepare the child/ren. To some extent it will be fact specific but generally you explain that you have been working with a mediator to sort out things following your divorce or separation and often the children are asked to go along too.
I am not a Child Inclusive Mediator and my view is that this person ought to be separate to the mediation process with me; I have a list of Child Inclusive Mediators I can recommend for you.