Direct consultation with children involves a family mediator who is trained as a child consultant talking with a child or children as a part of a mediation in which arrangements are being made for children. The government has suggested that children aged 10 and above should generally have access to a mediator when questions about their future are being resolved in mediation.
Parents sometimes suggest that the child or children are involved in the mediation process. Sometimes the child makes the suggestion. It is important that parents understand the views, needs and desires of their children and involving them in the mediation process may be a good way to do this. Children like to be informed and they appreciate having their views and options heard, although they need to understand that they are not responsible for the overall decision.
Involving children in mediation can be very complex and a great deal of preparation is needed before a mediator will speak to a child. Different considerations apply depending on the age and maturity of the child. The child and both the parents have to agree to the consultation. It is the mediator’s decision whether child consultation is appropriate.
Many of FMA’s members offer direct consolation with children. These mediators have attended specialist courses to equip them with the necessary skills to consider whether direct consultation with a child is appropriate and to carry out that consultation if it is.
Direct consultation with a child means the child talking face to face with the mediator separately on the basis that what they say is completely confidential from anyone else including their parents. Very often the child does have something that they want the mediator to tell their parents, and that they would like the parents to take into consideration when making their decision. Strictly with the child’s permission, the mediator will then bring the child’s voice into the mediation.
The child can either meet with the mediator who is already working with the parents or, as often happens, with a different mediator. Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. Siblings will be seen separately or together depending on what the children themselves prefer. Children should generally be aged 10 years and over, but in exceptional circumstances younger children may be seen.
A register of FMA’s specialist family mediators who are able to offer direct consultation can be found at Find a Mediator Near You.
There are several websites with material designed to help children understand more about their feelings when parents separate – here are some of our favourites.