Family Law & Children

Should children be involved in their divorcing parents’ mediation?

If you are going through the stressful and testing times of a divorce particularly one in which the marriage has borne children, you may at some point have to endure the emotional and time consuming event that is mediation with the mother or father of your children. This process involves trained mediators meeting with yourself and your ex-partner to try and help resolve disputes in relation to the arrangements of your children.

Both yourself and your ex-partner meets with the mediator to discuss the issues that you can’t agree yourselves with the view of reaching an agreement together and mediators are completely neutral and will not take sides with either yourself or your ex-partner. The mediation process can however be very emotional and frustrating and this will only get more emotional should the Government’s proposal that children be included in the family mediation sessions goes ahead. The Voice of the Child: Government response to Dispute Resolution Advisory Group report has long been campaigning for a more child-focused approach to all areas of family law including divorce and the welfare of children. The body wishes to create a more inclusive practice in relation to children so that they can be given a voice to express their feelings about their lives.

If these proposals are accepted it will be a huge step towards child inclusive dispute resolution. On the one hand, this will enable parents to focus on their children throughout divorce proceedings to make decisions that are 100% in the best interest of their children, which can only be a good thing. However, on the other hand, is it right to include children into such a disheartening and difficult time in their parents’ lives, especially if the main dispute concerns the child themselves? Clearly, it does depend on the age of the child, however even when a child gets to typical teenage years, aren’t they more likely than not, going to refuse to participate in such matters and in any event do what they wish anyway? The reality is it may simply increase the child’s emotional stress levels having to liaise with a stranger to inform them of their wishes and feelings. In any event, if court proceedings do commence if child arrangements cannot be agreed between parties during mediation then CAFCASS, a public body set up to assist family court services will discuss the child’s wishes and feelings in order to provide independent assistance for parties going through child arrangement proceedings.

What has to be weighed up is that on the whole, most parents know their children more than any stranger ever could regardless as to whether they are a trained mediator. However, a child of divorce may on the other hand open up to a stranger more than they could their parents to avoid confronting delicate issues.

There is no doubt that this is a difficult subject, if you are going through a divorce, get in touch with one of our specialist family lawyers on 0208 252 7373 to discuss in detail the options available to you.

Simone Barton

Trainee Solicitor

Business Services News

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