Child Inclusive Mediation
The UK government recently made changes to policy regarding the involvement of children in court proceedings and mediation regarding them. This resulted in the Family Mediation Council amending its Code of Practice to include; “All children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the Mediation, if they wish.”
Until recently it was often the case that decisions would be made regarding arrangements for children without ever involving the children themselves. This was the case whether the arrangements were arrived at through court, solicitor negotiation or mediation. There has now been a move across the whole family justice system to give children the opportunity to express their wishes and feelings and have these taken into account in deciding on arrangements. Under the FMC Code of Practice children of 10 or older MUST be given the opportunity to do this, although they can choose not to take the opportunity. For children under the age of 10 the opportunity does not have to be offered, but it can be where the mediator and parents think it appropriate.
When a CIM is to take place, a specific procedure must be followed. The parents must have a mediation session in which they discuss CIM, how it will work, what the goals are and the limitations of the process. This provides them with the opportunity to fully consider CIM, to prepare for it and for what they may hear and to agree what will and will not be said to the child or children prior to and after the consultation takes place. It is essential that both parents commit in advance to not briefing the child prior to the consultation nor question them afterwards about what they did or didn’t say.
The mediator will then write to the child, in whatever format is agreed with the parents, to invite them to speak to the mediator. If the child or children accept the invitation, they will meet the mediator without their parent’s being present in the room.
At the end of the meeting, the mediator will ask the child / children what they wish to be fed back to the parents and will check the exact wording with them. The child / children will then leave the mediation service.
As soon as possible after the meeting with the children, with immediately being the best option, the mediator will have another meeting with the parents and will give the feedback. The mediator will not interpret or speculate on what the children have said, they will just tell the parents what the children have asked them to.
The parents will then discuss how to deal with what they have been told with the help of the mediator. As with all mediation, the CIM is confidential. It is used to inform people to help them make the best decisions for themselves and their children. It does not provide evidence for any later legal proceedings.