This weeks blog post comes from Jane Affleck a Mediator and Relationship Practitioner at Tees Valley Mediation. Jane has 25 years experience mediating between parents on matters around child contact arrangements and finances to help them reach an agreement. This week Jane discusses the importance of hearing from the child when parents separate.
Back in November 2011 the final version of the Family Justice Review was published and in relation to the ‘Child’s Voice’, it was recommended that;
‘Children and young people should be given age appropriate information to explain what is happening when they are involved in cases. They should as early as possible be supported to make their views known and older children should be offered a menu of options, to lay out the ways in which they could – if they wish – do this’.
After much discussion, debate and planning, the Family Mediation Council published it’s updated Code of practice in May 2018 stating that all children of 10 and above should be routinely offered the chance to speak to an appropriately qualified mediator with the consent of both parents and the children/young people themselves. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the rights of Children (UNCRC), emphasises the need to respect the views of children and young people in an age appropriate way but without taking the responsibility for decision making away from parents.
In mediation, parents need to be reassured that their children are not going to be questioned about who they want to live with or what the contact arrangements should be. Parents are often anxious that the other parent will manipulate the process to get the child to say what they want them to say. Parents need to be reassured that these meetings are intended to allow the child confidential space of their own to express their views on what is happening in their family now that parents are no longer together. Children and young people can find it difficult to talk to their parents about what they really think, particularly in situations of high conflict, yet their thoughts and feelings can defuse these situations if parents can be helped to understand the impact it is having on their children. Mediators will always discuss with children just what they want feeding back and how feedback will be delivered so they maintain control. (The usual exceptions to confidentiality apply).
Mediation then encourages parents to consider this feedback when it comes to their decision making. It can help in their discussions on how to parent co-operatively and collaboratively and manage their children’s potentially unrealistic expectations. Children and young people can be made to feel they have been taken seriously an parents can explain why they have made the joint decisions they have made.
This is something Tees Valley Mediation is strongly committed to. I have been offering what used to be known as ‘child consultation’ meetings for 20 years and I’m fully recognised and approved by the Family Mediation Council. Thanks to all those children and young people over the years who have agreed to speak to me and for teaching me how important it is to be felt heard.
For more information on how Tees Valley Mediation could help you through separation or divorce visit their website or call 01429 891444 or 07983475946.