Child Inclusive Mediation
Child inclusive mediation provides a child with an opportunity to tell their story and express their views in a safe, confidential environment. It can assist separated parents to better understand how their child is coping with the separation and parental conflict—views that may not be expressed in the confines of the family dynamic.
What are the steps?
Parents must first agree to child inclusive mediation (although in some cases the Court will order it.) This can be done through an organisation such as Relationships Australia. Each parent usually begins with one individual session with a mediator. The parents then meet together with the mediator for a joint session. If the matter is appropriate for child inclusive mediation, the child will then be interviewed by a child consultant. Subsequently, parents will be given feedback from the consultant for the purpose of facilitating on-going parenting devoid of conflict or dispute.
For example, children in child inclusive mediation may express sadness and anxiety about the ongoing conflict between their separated parents. Parents are often surprised to hear that the children are overhearing arguments on the phone or at changeover between the two homes and, as a result of that feedback, parents feel that they can try to reduce or eliminate conflict for the sake of the children.
What age is appropriate for child Inclusive mediation?
Generally speaking, child inclusive mediation is relevant for school age children, from 5 to 15, depending on the child’s maturity and developmental stage. Parents should expect mediation to take about 5 sessions.
It is designed to enhance collaboration between parents and keep the best interests of the children at the forefront of the mediation. Child inclusive mediation also helps separated parents develop co-operative parenting strategies for the future.
The child consultant is not judgemental, suggestive or adversarial in tone. The purpose of the session is to gain insights into how the child is feeling and provide a forum in which they can comfortably express themselves. After the session, the Child Consultant provides feedback and recommendations to both parents. This feedback is then used as a guide and reference throughout the Family Dispute Resolution process.
Is child inclusive mediation suitable for all family dispute resolution mediations?No. Careful consideration must be given as to whether the parents will prioritise the children’s best interest above their own grievances or hurt and utilise the recommendations constructively as part of the Dispute Resolution process. The Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner will suggest child inclusive mediation after assessing and considering a number of factors within each individual case.
Can this information be used in court?
No. Child inclusive mediation is an optional and non-legal service. Sessions are not mandatory and children's feedback is inadmissible in court. However, child inclusive mediation does allow the children’s voices and perspectives to be considered and taken into account as part of the Family Dispute Resolution process.