Children in Mediation (CiM) in relation to an Amended FMC and FMSB Code of Practice effective from September 2018
From my family mediation experience, children are generally at the core of most cases and this involves working objectively to help a child who is or has been affected by the anxieties caused by family separation. It is about gaining trust by offering an informal conversation with a child about his/her views, feelings and suggestions and to share any messages or suggestions she/he asks the mediator to share with one or other or both of the parents. Children and young people are sometimes unsure and they can have mixed feelings that are hard to explain to their parents. They can find it helpful to talk with a professional person outside of the family with whom they feel able to talk and who they already know is involved in discussions with the parents concerning their family arrangements.
Prior to the mediation, the parents are asked to agree that there will be no coaching nor to ask questions about it afterwards.
Children are generally compassionate about their parents and are worried if they think the parents may be angry or upset about something they have said. Carefully planned steps and conversations take place between the mediator and the parents before any meeting may be set up with a child.
As with other types of mediation, there is a process which is in place to help and protect all of the parties and which they take part in by their own initiative.
I am aware of the difficulties of obtaining assistance within court proceedings in securing the opportunity for the voice of a child to be heard where that child has expressed a wish to express his or her views. Article 12 of the UNCRC 1989 gives all children the right to express their views in all matters affecting them in accordance with their age and maturity.
In this jurisdiction, children of 10 and over should have the opportunity to be consulted if they wish, when decisions and arrangements are being made that affect them. Younger children (including younger siblings and other children of the family) should not be excluded from having a similar opportunity for child-inclusive mediation, since they are equally important members of the family. Exceptions include safeguarding concerns and/or consideration of a child's learning difficulties or mental illness.
An important caveat is that the mediator's role is not to provide false hope to a child, nor to agree to make these things happen but, for children to have a professional person to talk to and who has met the parents and who have confirmed their consent. Most children want to explain their anxieties without causing offence and to release them from the worry or responsibility to make decisions that they perceive will affect their future. It is my wish to offer children the safety of an environment where they can still exercise choice as to whether the information is to be shared or how it is to be shared.
I find it a privilege to do this work and I shall be happy to discuss this with any parent that wishes to take this forward.
Tricia Muzalewski, FMCA and Law Society Accredited and qualified to work with children within family mediation
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