Child-inclusive mediation refers to the inclusion of the children of a relationship in the process of separation and divorce mediation. The purpose of this involvement for the children is to ascertain what it is they know, feel and fear during this stressful time.
Interview the Child
The children will be included only if the child and both parents agree that the child will choose what can be revealed. The mediator will be trained to interview the children, in an age appropriate way, to discover from them their perceptions of the conflict in their home. Children always know more than what we think they do!
Under the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015, parents must bear the cost of an expert to hear the views of the child in family law proceedings.
Though it seems that we are still getting to grips with this, various tranches of recent legislation emphasise the right of the child to be heard. Family Solicitors will advise in relation to this.
The Mediator’s Role
The mediator’s role in child-inclusive mediation is to gather information from the child, and pass it to the parents, in the words of the child, with the permission and agreement of the child. It is a slow and sensitive process, and the mediator will use a number of techniques to relax the child, and to give the child a safe space in which to talk. There are a number of approaches to this.
Mediation is very well developed as a dispute resolution methodology in Australia. Professor Jennifer Macintosh is a pioneer of child inclusive mediation, and uses a relatively therapeutic approach. In Ireland Dr Ann O’Kelly is developing training around the Macintosh method.
This is not the only approach however, and other mediators employ other techniques developed to elicit information from children in a gentle age appropriate way.
Dr. Kyle Pruett
Dr Kyle Pruett, Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry Yale School of Medicine, on a recent visit to Dublin, delivered a workshop on his method of child interviewing which he practices as a Forensic Psychiatrist (Accessing the voice of the child). This is a less therapeutic method, and allows for the mediator to operate independent of a social worker or child psychologist. (http://bit.ly/2ex162i – LINK TO GOOGLE SEARCH)
Whichever method you prefer, there is now an obligation to offer this as a service in Separation and Divorce mediation. it must be better to know what the children are thinking, as it gives the opportunity to the parents to offer the support that children need at such a stressful time.