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What is child inclusive mediation

Over time two primary models for mediation in relation to parenting disputes: the traditional (and still most common) model is “child focused” mediation but there is a growing trend to adopt the “child inclusive” model.

Child focused mediation seeks to encourage the parties to focus on promoting the best interests of the children; essentially asking them to look beyond their disputes and consider how any proposed arrangement affects or benefits the children.  The mediator asks the parties to focus on the emotional needs of the children.

Over the past decade or so there has been a slow shift towards child inclusive mediation.  This is where the focus is still on encouraging the parties to focus on the emotional needs of the children, but this is done with the more direct involvement of the children through the inclusion of them meeting with a qualified child consultant.

Child inclusive mediation involves the children meeting with a child consultant to talk about their experiences of the dispute – with the child consultant conducting that separate meeting in a considered, developmentally appropriate way.  The child consultant does not pressure the children to express a view – or to make any decision between parents or homes.  The aim is for the child consultant to get a feel for that child’s life within the family.  At the conclusion of the session the child consultant and the children agree on what, if any, information will be shared with the parents.  The child consultant, along with the FDR, then engages in a separate session with the parties about the needs of the children and what this may mean for any arrangement that can be reached.

The intention of the child’s participation in child inclusive mediation is not for them to be involved in the decision making, but rather including the child’s needs and perspectives in the process and hopefully resulting in an increased consciousness by the parties of their child’s needs – and therefore a more child-focused outcome.

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