Direct consultation with children involves a specially trained family mediator talking with a child or children as a part of a mediation in which arrangements are being made for children. The government has suggested that children aged 10 and above should be able to talk to a mediator when child arrangements are being made. Parents sometimes suggest that their children are involved in the mediation process, sometimes the child makes the suggestion.
It is important that parents understand the thoughts, needs and feelings of their children and involving them in the mediation process may be a good way to do this. Children like to be informed and appreciate having their views and options heard, although it is always made clear that they are not responsible for any overall decisions – these need to be made by their parents.
Involving children in mediation can be very complex and a great deal of preparation is needed before a mediator will speak to a child. Different considerations apply depending on the age and maturity of the child. The child and both the parents have to agree to the consultation and the mediator must decide whether child consultation is appropriate.
Direct consultation with a child means the child talking face to face with the mediator separately. This conversation is confidential, between the mediator and the child. However, very often the child does have something that they want the mediator to tell their parents, and that they would like the parents to take into consideration when making their decisions. Strictly with the child’s permission, the mediator will then bring the child’s voice into the mediation.
Consultations with a child usually last approximately 45 minutes. Siblings will be seen separately or together depending on what the children themselves prefer. Children should generally be aged 10 years and over, but in exceptional circumstances younger children may be seen.