Mediation Advantages for Children


Helping children cope with the break-up of the family unit is a core issue for the twenty-first century. Separation and divorce generally have a detrimental impact on children. This is sadly exacerbated in cases where there is heightened parental acrimony and/or domestic violence. Given the serious emotional effects of the breakdown of family relations and divorce on children, the advantages for a child of participating in their parents’ mediation (whether directly or indirectly) can not be overlooked. This, even where the benefits may on the surface only appear minimal.


Why Do Children Need Help Coping

Sadly, contested divorce matters in South Africa can take between twenty-four to thirty-six months to come to trial.  The impact of this “long wait” on the family, is not only that finances will, in the process, be significantly depleted, but emotions between parents often become frayed to the point of extreme animosity and bitterness. For the child caught-up in the middle of the family conflict (and what child isn’t?), the waiting period for trial will increases their anxiety, may annihilate their identity, and probably destroy their confidence in their self-worth and the world at large.
Research shows that a child’s recovery from divorce may, in many instances last a lifetime.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation is not a cure-all for every family conflict and woe. It is however an alternative that should not be disregarded or overlooked willy-nilly. Especially when one considers the full impact of contested litigation on a child.

Focusing on the Child’s Best Interests

Mediation in the family realm has as its primary focus the interests of the child. Parents are encouraged to recognize and accept that whilst a divorce may terminate their personal relationship with one another, they will always remain their child’s parents.  As such, parents are encouraged to work together for the sake of the ongoing psychological well-being of their child.
This is where the mediator’s role becomes optimal and where mediation offers numerous advantages for the child participating therein. The mediator would in such instance:
  • focus on assisting the parents to air their issues of concern in respect of their co-parenting of their child.
  • ensure that the child best interests remain at the forefront of any discussion that impacts the child,
  • help the parents to put forward and consider creative parenting solutions which they believe could contribute towards the future welfare and happiness of their child.

Developing Optimal Co-Parenting Strategies

In countries where family mediation is an accepted process, research has shown that while mediation may not be appropriate for every family dispute, in cases where it is utilised, there is greater potential for the development of optimal co-operation and an improved co-parenting relationship. Additionally, research shows that agreements reached through mediation are more likely to be adhered to by the parents. The reasons for this include:
  • they have  control over the process,
  • parents are able to develop custom-made outcomes to meet their child’s unique needs. 
The prevailing opinion is that the children most likely to cope post-divorce are those whose parents have managed to work through their own acrimony and work together for the sake of the children. Additionally, children who are given a “voice” – by being allowed to share their views and perspectives with a mediator or other neutral third party on what is happening in their home and day-to-day home-life, and what their needs are over this time and into the future – are also more likely to be able to effectively navigate the emotional aspects of their parents’ divorce. 

Mediation’s Advantage for Children


The advantages of mediation for children currently exposed to the acrimonious breakdown of their parents’ relationship, are profound.  Family Mediation must accordingly be the process of first choice when break-down happens.  Rule 41 A of the High Court Rules and the Chapter 2 Rules of the Magistrate’s Court Rules set out the mediation laws. These laws compel parties to litigation to consider mediation as an option for potential resolution of their matter.


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