There is often a misconception about family mediation, that the aim is the reconciliation of a couple, and a counselling session, like Relate, for example. However, mediation allows parties to discuss all elements of a separation, with an independent and trained mediator who will assist the parties in reaching agreement in respect of finances, and children, following separation.
Once parties have made the decision to separate, one of the first issues that will have to be considered is the arrangements for the children. Family mediation can be a way of resolving disputes relating to the children, before, during or after separation. Issues that may arise include the arrangements for the time the children spend with each parent, education, and holidays. Mediation is a resource available to assist the parents in putting into place effective co-parenting plans.
Child inclusive mediation is increasingly being considered by parties and can be helpful to allow the child to have a “voice” in the agreeing of arrangements. The mediator will meet with each of the parents, who can explain their concerns and needs to the other parent, in the presence of a mediator. If appropriate, the mediator will then meet with the child, and obtain their wishes and views on the arrangements that are being discussed.
The advantage of involving a child in mediation, is that the child will benefit from having their views and opinions heard. However, it is important that the child understands that they are not making any decisions themselves, and that their parents will still make all decisions in the mediation process. The parents should also ensure that the child is not used as a weapon, and is not put under any pressure to agree with one party or the other. Therefore, involving a child in mediation must be given careful consideration.
Mediation is voluntary and confidential, and allows parties to reach agreement between them. However, it should be noted that mediation does not guarantee an outcome, as no binding decision is made, and therefore it is sensible for legal advice to be sought, even upon agreement, so that the agreement can be placed into a Court order, which will provide more certainty for the parties, and for the child.
If you wish to consider child inclusive mediation, you will also need to ensure that the mediator instructed is qualified to deal with this type of mediation. A list of family mediators can be found at Resolution.
Our team of experienced Family Solicitors are all members of Resolution, the national association of family lawyers, and abide by the Resolution Code of Practice which commits them to act to resolve disputes in a non-confrontational way.
Contact the Family team to arrange an appointment at any of our office locations, or virtually.