Child Inclusive Mediation

Child inclusive1 practices have been introduced into the mediation community as a way of finding the child’s voice in the absence of the child. This model of mediation has been practiced for more than 10 years in Australia with positive effects. The model embraces the essential need of separating and divorcing parents to focus on and plan for the needs of the children post-separation. It is a process that seeks to focus on the best interests of the children through an enhanced level of thinking and planning for the children. The model is similar to the use of a child specialist in the collaborative law model. Child inclusive dispute resolution involves two professional roles: a mediator who conducts a formal negotiation of the dispute with parents, and a child consultant, who meets with the children and provides parents and the mediator with feedback. The child does not attend the mediation with the parents. He or she meets with the child consultant outside of the mediation setting in a supportive, developmentally appropriate manner.

The aims of child-focused dispute resolution are to:

  • Create an environment that supports parents in actively considering the unique needs of each of the children;
  • Facilitate a parenting agreement that preserves significant relationships and supports children’s psychological adjustment to the separation
  • Support parents to leave the dispute resolution forum on higher ground with respect to their post-separation parenting
  • Ensure that the ongoing mediation process and the agreements or decisions reached reflect the psycho-developmental needs of each child, to the extent that they can be known without the involvement of the children.

The child inclusive model includes:

  1. Consulting with children in a supportive, developmentally appropriate manner about their experiences of the family separation and dispute;
  2. Ensuring that the style of consultation avoids and removes any burden of decision-making from the child;
  3. Understanding and formulating the child’s core experience within a developmental framework;
  4. Validating children’s experiences and providing basic information that may assist their present and future coping;
  5. Ensuring that the ongoing mediation process and the agreements or decisions reached reflect the psycho-developmental needs of each child.

1This child inclusive model and the information on this page is based upon and reprinted in part from the Child Inclusive Mediation and Counseling Model of Children Beyond Dispute and the research of Dr. Jennifer McIntosh, a clinical child psychologist, family therapist and developmental researcher based in Melbourne, Australia

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