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Case Study – Child Consultation in Mediation

Child Consultation In Mediation Of Separating Parents – Case Study

Child inclusive mediation is very beneficial when separating parents of children over the age of 10 are struggling to reach agreement over their arrangements. Child consultation can be part of the mediation process where the children and parents agree that they can be seen by the mediators. Siblings can be seen separately or together in a private and confidential meeting.

When the children meet the mediator, it is in a relaxed and informal situation and the children are reassured that what is discussed is confidential and most important of all; they are not under any pressure to make a decision or choose one parent over the other. It is an opportunity to get things off their chests and ask any questions that they may not have felt comfortable asking their parents. They will be reassured and can end the session at any time they want to. We can conduct these consultations in a neutral and relaxed environment which works well as it is less intimidating than a more formal setting. We can conduct these sessions via video link if that is preferred.

The following case study highlights the value of child consultation and the damage that feuding parents can cause their children. All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family.

Background to the Case

John and Anne have two daughters, aged 10 and 13, their relationship had been tempestuous and volatile for many years, with a lot of anger and fighting going on in the home. The girls had been witnessing this over the years and so had become used to the high conflict relationship between their parents.

Eventually deciding to separate, John and Anne were unable to come to agreement on the arrangements for the girls. They had attempted to organise a pattern for John to see the girls regularly but due to health issues he had cancelled at the very last minute on several occasions. This left the girls very sad not to see their Dad and Anne was constantly bad-mouthing John to the children at every opportunity.

Anne was so angry with John she wanted to cut him from the children’s lives all together and she was threatening to move to a new address where he would not know where they were. John was distraught at not being able to see the girls and started the process to fight for his right to see them.

Consultation with the Children

After the initial MIAM and mediation session, both John and Anne were keen for the girls to be part of the mediation process as they both felt that the girls were old enough to voice their thoughts and opinions. John felt sure that if spoken to away from Anne’s angry influence they would speak up and say they wanted to see him at alternate weekends.

Anne had berated John so much to the girls that they often would just agree with her and say they did not want to see their Dad just to keep the peace in the home.

Lara Aged 10

The girls agreed to be seen individually and the first session was with Lara the 10-year-old. Due to Covid-19 we arranged to meet in the park. She was keen on football and had brought her ball along to have a kick about. This was ideal as she relaxed and opened up whilst we played with the ball. Her anxiety and stress over the fighting between her parents was obvious as she explained how the shouting at home had affected her. She felt that she was to blame for a lot of the issues as lack of money was always high on the agenda during arguments between her parents. She felt guilty and afraid to ask to go on school trips or outings with friends where money would be needed.

She had been initially pleased when her Mum and Dad had eventually separated as she just wanted her parents to stop fighting. But after John had moved out, she was shouted at by her Mum if she asked to see him or asked when he was coming. A few times when he was due to pick them up, he didn’t turn up leaving her feeling abandoned by him and she felt that he had just moved on and didn’t want to see her or her sister.

She wanted her parents to stop saying bad things about each other as it was making her really sad. She wanted to see her Dad and not be made to feel guilty for wanting to see him by her Mum.

Mabel Aged 13

The session with Mabel was also arranged at the park and we walked and talked during the session as she said she would prefer to walk. Being the eldest, Mabel had been suffering the strain of the fights and arguments as she felt responsible for her younger sister. She wanted to protect her from it and had also initially been pleased that their parents had separated.

As she is older, Mabel had a mobile phone and so had tried to keep in contact with her Dad after he moved out. He never replied to her messages and she felt very sad about this. She also felt abandoned by him and that she must have been the reason for all the fights and why he had eventually left the family home.

She seemed confused that she now knew that he was wanting to see her regularly and was feeling very ill at ease as she knew that if she told her Mum that she wanted to see him, her Mum would become very upset and would start ranting about how he was useless and unreliable. She just wanted all the anger to stop and for her parents to get on better for their sake.

The Outcome

After further mediation sessions, an agreement was finally reached that John could have the girls to stay with him every other weekend. If his health issues were going to prevent him from doing this, he was to contact the girls straight away so they would be aware that he was unwell.

As it transpired, Anne had used Mabel’s mobile phone to send a torrent of abusive texts to John and then deleted them afterwards. John had thought that Anne now had control of the phone and felt it best to not try to communicate with Mabel through that device. It also came to light that John had sent regular letters to the house for the girls, but they had all been intercepted by Anne and destroyed.

Whilst John and Anne were never going to see eye to eye and become friends, they had at least realised the pain and anguish caused by involving the children in their arguments. Aside from the arrangements for the children, we also mediated with them around their financial disputes. Once these were also resolved they found it easier to be civil towards one another for the sake of their girls.

Are you Considering including your Children in Mediation?

As experienced family mediators we can help you to mediate with ex partners and family members to resolve conflict and any issues arising from separation or arrangements for children. We can include and consult with your children as part of the mediation if both you and they agree to this.

If you are struggling to agree on the arrangements for your children, or any aspect of joint parenting, we can help. Call Frances now on 0788 903 9393 to find out more.

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