I’m in the middle of family law proceedings – are my child’s wishes considered?
Resolving parenting arrangements after separation is often a difficult task. Fundamental to ensuring that decisions regarding ongoing co-parenting arrangement are more durable, workable and provide for the needs of the entire family is awareness about the child’s thoughts and experiences. Independently ascertaining the wishes of a child can be a challenge. Child Inclusive Mediation can assist parents in understanding how their child is coping with the separation and current parenting arrangements. This is particularly fundamental where a parent’s wishes are inconsistent with the best interests and developmental needs of the child.
What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation provides children with the opportunity to speak safely and meaningfully about their experience through play and discussion with a qualified child consultant. The child is not directly involved in the mediation, allowing children to be involved in their parent’s negotiation process while still shielding them from any conflict and limiting their exposure to the family law process as much as possible.
Prior to Mediation, parents will appoint a child consultant, who will meet with the children separately from their parents. The child consultant is a highly trained specialist, who utilises specific skills to gain a genuine understanding of the child or young person’s needs and experiences. In their session with the children, a Child Consultant explore a wide range of topics, which may include:
- How the child feels when they witness conflict between their parents
- How the child feels about being a ‘messenger’ between their parents
- How a child feels about their siblings, school and friendships
- Things causing worry, excitement or hope for the child
- Their family’s strengths
- Any areas in their family which they wish were different.
The child consultant typically approaches these topics in a subtle, rather than a direct and confronting, manner, such as by engaging in games with the child.
A child consultant has numerous roles, including:
- Providing a neutral space for children to share their feelings and experiences of their family’s situation
- Communicating your child’s feelings in a safe and constructive way to both parents
- Acting impartially and independently to bring the child’s voice into the mediation process
As with other forms of mediation, information obtained through Child Inclusive Mediation is confidential, and is not admissible in Court.
What are the benefits to Child-Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation provides a child the opportunity to express their views, giving them a voice without fear of upsetting either of their parents. It allows children to be included in the decision making process, without putting undue stress or pressure on them. It allows all parties to gain deeper understanding of how their child is feeling or coping with the separation process or current and future parenting arrangements, ensuring that all parties are consistently focussed on the child’s best interests.
When should you engage in a Child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive mediation can be extremely beneficial for children who are of an age where they can express an independent view of their wishes. For small children, it can be difficult to understand and articulate their views. In these circumstances, Child Inclusive Mediation may not be appropriate.
Child Inclusive Mediation is not suitable for all families. Our family law solicitors can make a careful assessment to determine whether Child Inclusive Mediation is a safe and appropriate option for the children involved. This is particularly necessary in high-conflict cases, or situations involving a history of family violence.
If you believe that your family may benefit from Child Inclusive mediation, or are wondering whether this may be a suitable process for you, reach out to our experienced team of specialist Sydney family lawyers. We have family lawyers in North Sydney, Leichhardt and the CBD who are here to help you with their experience in all parenting matters following separation.