As family lawyers we are often asked – “what about what the child wants?” In some cases child inclusive mediation can help.
Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that courts must make the best interests of the child a primary consideration. Article 12 of the Convention further states that a child must be provided with the opportunity to be heard in any court proceedings affecting them. Child inclusive mediation is a way that the children’s views and wishes are considered in a safe and protected way.
Child inclusive mediation involves the parents and the children meeting separately with a child consultant (often a child psychologist or social worker) to safely ascertain the views, opinions and wishes of each parent and the children. The process should not make children express a choice and hold them responsible for that choice. Instead, it should provide them with an opportunity to express their feelings about their own family situation.
The parents then attend with the child consultant for a feedback session to listen to the child consultant outline the views and opinions of each party and provide recommendations for future parenting arrangements. The parents then attend mediation with an independent mediator to discuss future parenting arrangements that are in the child’s best interests taking into account the child’s perspectives.
Is the agreement reached binding?
Parents can reach agreement on a final or interim basis which can then be formalised by a Parenting Plan or Consent Order. For more information, see our article “How to make a Binding Parenting Arrangement”.
Is it compulsory?
Mediation is not compulsory and requires both parent’s consent. It can be utilised at the beginning of the matter, prior to court proceedings, or whilst court proceedings are ongoing. Parents can choose whether they want to be legally represented throughout the process. Representation is recommended.
Everything discussed during the child inclusive mediation is confidential and can’t be disclosed to any third party or the court.
Child inclusive mediation is not for everyone and it may not be appropriate for all families. Therefore to decide whether child inclusive mediation is right for you, please contact the DBL Family Law team.