Will my child have a say in mediation?
I am very keen to try mediation to resolve the issues between me and my ex, but they have steadfastly refused and asked what’s the point if it’s not binding on us. How can I convince my ex that this would be a good step for us as parents? I am keen for our son, who is aged 10, to be heard but I am not sure I want to expose him to the potential conflict. Will he have a say?
Mrs Trellis of Tunbridge Wells
Dear Mrs. Trellis
Thank you for your email.
It is a common worry that nothing said in mediation is binding, but that is also its strength, as it helps promote a good open discussion about what works for you as a family without being worried that you may have said the wrong thing or agreed to something that, on reflection, you feel won’t work. Mediation gives you an arena to discuss and challenge all sorts of options in a calm and safe space.
I am guessing you are interested in discussing arrangements for your son, that includes how he shares his time with his parents. He is of an age where I would have an expectation that his voice be heard within the mediation process. This does not mean that he attends a mediation session with his mum and dad, it does, however, mean that he would have a chat with a specially trained mediator who is used to talking with children, to find out his hopes, fears, what is working for him and what is not. These meetings are entirely confidential. The mediator will take notes and then read back the notes to your son and ask him if there is anything that he doesn’t want fed back to his mum and dad.
The mediator will stress this is not about him making decisions or choosing who he wants to live with, he has parents to make those decisions, but it will be really useful for his parents to know his thoughts so that they can make a really informed decision about his future.
You say you do not want him exposed to potential conflict, you are correct, conflict between parents is one of the most damaging things for children. Mediation is hard work but you and dad both have to work together for the sake of your son. The message he will receive is that his parents love him enough to work together.
All the best,