Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) – a guide for clients
In a divorce or separation, children can be among the most affected. Child Inclusive Mediation gives them a chance for their voice to be heard. Here, our accredited Family Mediator Elizabeth Morris explains how it works.
Note – throughout this guide, the term “parents” is used to mean parents and/or other caregivers as appropriate.
What is Child Inclusive Mediation?
Child Inclusive Mediation (CIM) offers an opportunity for children aged eight and over (or younger if part of a sibling group) to express their wishes and feelings regarding decisions that affect them. If both parents agree, a suitably qualified family mediator will invite the child to have a chat – this can be in person or online – and the child can decide if this is something they would like to do.
CIM will never involve asking a child difficult or leading questions. It is informal and relaxed with no pressure on the child to give a required response. They can say as little or as much as they like.
At the end of the session, the mediator will agree with the child what they would like the mediator to feed back to their parents. This feedback is then provided to the parents at a follow up mediation session.
Is the child present for the parents’ discussions?
No. The child would be seen separately to the adults and would not be present in their mediation sessions.
Are sibling groups seen together or spoken to separately as individuals?
Siblings will be given the opportunity to be seen separately or together – it is their choice.
What if the child(ren) doesn’t want the mediator to feed back to their parents?
In theory this could happen and if permission is not given to feedback to parents, no feedback can be given. However, in practice, this is unusual and most children who agree to take part in CIM are keen for their parents to hear what they have to say. There are occasions when children will not want everything they say to be passed on. The mediator will respect the child’s wishes and will only feedback what the child has agreed.
Is it appropriate for a child to be spoken to directly? Surely it is the adults who should make the decisions?
Research tells us that older children who have some input into the decisions that affect them are happier with those arrangements and this leads to better outcomes. There is now a presumption that a child aged 10 and over should be given a chance to express themselves in any dispute resolution process and it is often appropriate for younger children to be given the same opportunity (depending on their maturity and level of understanding).
That being said, it continues to be the responsibility of the parents to make the final decisions. CIM simply allows the child to feel that they are part of the process and that their feelings have been taken into account when those decisions are being made.
When is CIM not appropriate?
CIM may not be appropriate where one or both parents are relying on the process to prove that they are right and the other parent is wrong. Parents need to be prepared for the possibility that their child may have a different viewpoint to them and be willing to take this on board if that is the case. For CIM to be effective, parents need to be prepared to listen to what their child has to say.
This does not mean that the child makes the decisions – they may want something to happen which isn’t practical or achievable – but parents need to demonstrate that they can be responsive to their child and if they make a decision that is not in line with the child’s wishes, be able to explain to the child why that decision was felt to be in the child’s best interests. If parents cannot listen to their child – or if there is a danger that they will react negatively to that child for expressing their wishes – then CIM is unlikely to be appropriate.
What if the other parent has told the child what to say? How can I be sure the child is expressing their true feelings?
This is a common concern, but in practice, a qualified CIM mediator can tell if a child is parroting the views of one parent. The structure of the CIM discourages rehearsed responses and instead encourages the child to speak openly and freely.
How much does it cost?
Currently the cost of CIM is £75.00 plus VAT (£90.00). It may be that this cost can be met through the current mediation voucher scheme or possibly through legal aid (if one or both parents are eligible).
For more information, please contact us at email@example.com or call us on 01482 326666.
30 June, 2022
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