Children in Mediation, the pros and cons. Hearing the voice of the child on matters affecting him or her is not only a critical component of our Children’s Laws but is an international standard to which most modern states aspire. The weight attaching to the child’s voice being subject only to the age, maturity, and developmental stages of the child in question. Currently, the Jury is not yet out on the role a child should play in respect of his/her parents’divorce discussions. In particular, their parents’divorce mediation process.
The Role of Children in Mediation
There are two sets of arguments regarding the role of children in mediation:
- The pro child involvement argument advocates for a child-inclusive mediation approach.
- A child-focused mediation approach which calls for a more cautious approach to the issue, whilst still keeping the best interests standard at the forefront of discussions.
The benefits of the child-inclusive approach are manifold. and include the following propositions:
- Being involved in the Mediation, helps the child to better understand his parents’ motivations and decisions.
- The process honours children. It shows them that their wishes, views, and feelings matter.
- A child-inclusive approach helps parents to better understand their children. In particular, it better clarifies the child’s fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams.
- The process eases communication between parent and child moreover it may help to reduce the tensions in a parent-child relationship.
- Children are given a clear voice to express their wishes with the advantage that this allows parents the opportunity to take these wishes into account and reflect them in the Parenting Plan.
- The process empowers children.
On the other side of the coin, proponents in favour of the child-focused approach assert that:
- Participation in their parents’ mediation can have a negative emotional impact on a child.
- Whilst empowering the children, the process could nonetheless end up disempowering the parents.
- The parties may become confused about the role of the mediator. In particular, the parties may confuse the mediator’s role with that of a child psychologist, the child’s legal representative, or alternatively that of a Judge.
- Children may fear becoming involved in their parents’ dispute.
- The process can disempower children, especially where what they say is not heard or adopted by the adults.
- Children may fear that they will have to make the final decision in particular they may worry about hurting or alienating a parent.