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Why the voice of the child is important in Mediation

19th January 2022 by Gemma Burden

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Mediation usually takes place between separated parents when they cannot agree on what arrangements should be in place for how their children share their time with each of them.  However we should not forget another important potential participant to the mediation process and that is the child themselves.  Where a child is of an appropriate age and understanding, parents are encouraged to give them an independent voice in the process.  This can provide both the information and the incentive for parents to work together on an agreement that meets the needs of their child and puts their happiness at the centre of any decisions.  Today we set out 5 important things to bear in mind when considering whether your child should be given a voice in mediation:

1. Talking to someone independent 

Children can feel caught in the middle when parents separate and can struggle with divided loyalties. For this reason, when children are given a voice in mediation, their discussion with the mediator takes place without either parent present.  It gives them a chance to talk about their wishes and feelings without the pressure of either parent being there.

2. A conversation without emotional pressure

A child has the right to express his or her wishes without pressure or repercussions.  When we are asked to see children, we do so on the understanding that neither parent will prime the child about what to say, and they also agree not to reproach or cross question the child afterwards either.

3. A safe and confidential discussion

The conversation between the mediator and the child is confidential between them. The child will have a discussion with the mediator about what they do or do not want the mediator to relay back to their parents following that meeting.  This gives the child a safe space to talk freely and leaves them with a sense of being respected and listened to.

4. Removing pressure about decisions  

Seeing a child and giving them a voice is not the same as putting them in control of the decisions that need to be made. We explain to children that the decisions will still be made by Mum and Dad but that they are central to those decisions and so their input is recognised as valid and important.  This helps a child to feel loved and cared for without feeling the pressure of having to make the adult decisions or take responsibility for what should happen.

5. The voice of the child as a catalyst for change

In our experience, the input form a child in even the most entrenched case can bring about a vital shift in the progress of the mediation. It can act as a wakeup call to parents when they hear things from their child’s perspective.  Children add honesty and reality to the discussions when parents have become too focussed on their own rights and wishes, and have lost sight of the wider picture.

If you would like any further advice on Mediation, please visit our Family Mediation page on our website or  contact our Mediation department directly on 01202 377993 or g.burden@laceyssolicitors.co.uk

Gemma Burden

Partner — Mediation

Direct dial: 01202 377993

Email

Gemma Burden, head of Family Mediation, Laceys Solicitors
  • “As it was mediation for divorce I was worried just how complicated it would be but it was all handled well by Gemma who put my mind at ease and explained everything well. Thank you. ”

    John Littlefield

  • “Gemma was able to help us narrow the issues between us so we could focus on resolution. I feel she treated us both equally and professionally.”

    Maria Vine

  • “Gemma seemed to quickly understand our situation and acted accordingly and in what I felt with best interest.”

    Charlotte

  • “I was very happy with Gemma Burden. She was very clear and to the point. Gemma Burden was very good at staying neutral. This must be very hard sometimes. She is very professional and is very good at explaining all points in mediation. I would recommend Laceys Mediation to all. I would give Gemma Burden top marks in all aspects of mediation and she has my thanks.”

    Anonymous

  • “Having used Laceys before, it was an easy choice to use them again. Gemma was professional, polite and thorough. An absolute credit to the company.”

    A Wood

Gemma is the head of our mediation department and a Family Mediation Council Accredited lawyer mediator. Gemma qualified as a solicitor in 2000 and joined Laceys in 2001. She has specialised in family law since qualifying as a solicitor and has worked full time as a mediator since 2009.

Gemma is qualified in all areas of family mediation, including divorce and financial settlements, child arrangements and property disputes between cohabitees.  She is also qualified to see children as part of the mediation process.  Gemma is able to draw on her legal expertise when helping couples work out complex financial settlements and new parenting arrangements.

In her spare time Gemma likes to spend time with her family, especially her dog who never answers back.  Her chosen stress beaters are running, swimming and the beach.

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