Child-inclusive family & divorce mediation

What is child-inclusive family & divorce mediation?

When parents decide to separate or divorce, they can choose to resolve aspects related to the care and wellbeing of their children with a child consultant, who has the requisite qualifications and experience in working with children in the post-separation context. The child consultant will facilitate the parents’ decision-making by constantly drawing their attention to the psychological and developmental needs of the child in order to work out care and contact arrangements that are in the child’s best interest. The parents’ agreements will be recorded in a parenting plan, which can be registered with the Family Advocate’s Office or made an order of court as part of a divorce settlement agreement.

During the process the children are ‘interviewed’ by the child consultant to ascertain their views and wishes in an age appropriate way as mandated by the Children’s Act, 2005. The aim of the consultation with the child is to establish what it feels like to be this child, in this family, at this time. The child’s experience of his or her world is ascertained in a deep and meaningful way. The information gathered by the child consultant will be used to assist the parents in making decisions that will be in the child’s best interest and inform the contents of the parenting plan. The parents will also be guided on how they can reduce the conflict between them and work towards a more cooperative way of co-parenting their children. 

The aim in this process is to preserve and strengthen the relationships in the family and to avoid the blaming, judging and criticising that often transpires in the litigious, adversarial system, which often results in relationships been irrevocably damaged.

Why involve children in the process?

Research has shown that involving children in the separation and divorce process benefits children in the following ways:

  • It gives them the opportunity to be heard in a safe, neutral space by someone who has the expertise to understand their experience and their developmental needs.
  • Children are the experts of their own lives. They know what works for them and what does not.
  • It is a cathartic experience to feel heard in a process, which largely excludes them.
  • It decreases the sense of the unknown and the uncertain, and consequently reduces anxiety and creates a feeling of calm and safety. 
  • The children feel more able to trust that their parents are thinking mindfully about them and that they genuinely want what’s best for them.
  • It helps parents focus on their children’s needs and not just their own.
  • It offers parents insight into their children’s emotional wellbeing, their experience of themselves, their lives, and their family.

What are the outcomes of this child-inclusive process?

  • Parents and children are more satisfied with the parenting plan and therefore more willing to comply with its provisions.
  • Parent-child relationships are strengthened.
  • Conflict between ex-partners/spouses is reduced.
  • The psychological and mental well-being of the parents and children is improved.
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