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Child Informed Mediation

Woman looking at phone with children


Divorce affects more than a million children in the United States of America. Many parents go for different methods to minimize damage to their children due to divorce or separation such as family mediation. This method is considered to be the better solution in comparison with litigation.

There are two ways or approaches to get more benefits of mediation. These are Child Focus and Child informed mediations. These two approaches of mediation are used by the family dispute resolution practitioners belonging to two schools of thought. 

According to the article that was published in 2013 in psychology, public policy, and law by five professors working for Indiana University Bloomington, the child-informed approach is the better option because it gives positive mediation results. 

Other schools of thought think that child-focused mediation is a better approach in every mediation because they are of opinion that this mediation approach can provide better information about the needs of the children than other types of mediation and enables them to convince parents to stay focus to get agreements in the best interests of the child. 

Now in the past few years, Family dispute resolution practitioners are adopting child informed approach more frequently in comparison with child-focused mediation because the child-informed approach allows the children to participate in the mediation process. Dr. Jennifer Mclntosh who is one of the leading advocates for annulments in Georgia favors the child informed approach because he explains that this approach enables parents to focus on the needs of their children among the emotional extremes of their disputes. 

A child informed mediation involves a child consultant, counselor, or practitioner who conducts confidential and supportive sessions with the child separately outside the mediation. If more than one child is involved then he can have sessions together at the start but can later on separately if they ask. In this type of mediation, the age of the child or children should be school-going and the consultant should talk to the child in a neutral, safe, and welcoming environment independently. The child consultant spends time with the child in such a way that child remains relaxed and feels no pressure while answering the questions. To create this type of friendly environment, the consultant engages himself in drawing and playing with the child. The consultant should not ask questions to make a decision or preference to live with either parent. The questions should be easy to understand for the child and he/she able to explain his/her position in the family and the current situation. 

The children are very sensitive and can feel and react to the changes around them especially when their parents are separating. They understand what is going on between their parents and their reaction is also not surprising. Children are generally least interested to share their feelings with anyone because they don’t want to hurt either parent. If the consultant creates a friendly environment then they can speak openly and share their feelings with him about an issue like separation of parents and their living arrangements. The child consultant gathers useful information about the children to report back. This information includes child’s understanding of disputes and experience of separation between their parents. The consultant also notes and reports the wishes and developmental needs of the children. All this information gathered and compiled by the consultant is used to decide about the future of children by keeping in view the best interests of the child. This type of session with the child and fair report by the consultant can soften one or both parents for the best interests of the child. 

The child consultant listens to the child about all concerns of separation and reports to the parents about this sensitive issue. The parents after getting feedback, make decisions about the future of the child with special emphasis on living arrangements, schooling, and all other factors needed for the best interests of the child. Parents usually respond to feedback given by the consultant by keeping aside their conflicts and try to understand that what is needed for making informed decisions about parenting/co-parenting. This process usually ends positively in the best interests of the child. 

Divorce or separation usually affects children’s mental health and they suffer from complex emotional distresses. The child-informed approach compels parents to avoid warring attitudes and keep their conflicts aside to create an atmosphere that is good for the best interest of the child. Things become more easy and implementable if the parents practice this approach more. The child-informed mediation approach enables the parents to know and understands the needs of their children. Due to this approach, parents can decide about a parenting arrangement that is best for the children’s interest without any significant psychological impact of separation on the children. This serious dispute ends on higher grounds.

The child informed mediation also enables the parents to inform the children that they are getting support and help from the mediators to make some decisions about their future issues like living arrangements, education, and financial assistance. The parents can explain the fact that this type of mediation is adopted by keeping in view your best interest. The parents can also elaborate to the children to play games and enjoy the company of the consultant and co-operate to let the consultant know about anything that they want to be kept private.

Another feature of the child informed mediation is that this approach ensures that children are not only very important and the main issue to be resolved but also the main strategy for the end of conflicts between the parents. It becomes easy for the parents to identify and understand the needs of the children more accurately to decide not only what is good for them at this crucial time but also enables them to change their attitude accordingly for the best interests of the children. 

So, it will be a good idea for the separating parents to get help from a mediator because the consequences of the current conflicts can not only be complicated but also last for a lifetime.

More on this topic:

Will the Judge Consider the Children’s Wishes During the Custody Hearing?

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