Why mediation should be considered with child cases
Although the Family Court is often seen as the panacea to disputes that arise upon divorce or separation, when it comes to arrangements relating to children, delegating that responsibility to someone who does not know that child as well as you do should always be seen as a last resort.
Every family is unique and the dynamics that exist when a relationship breaks down, particularly where arrangements need to be made for children, can be challenging, varied and complex.
Parental conflict that is enduring and remains unresolved can have a significant impact upon the social and psychological development of a child. Research also suggests that a child's ability to adjust following parental separation is largely dependent upon the ability of the parents themselves to co-operate with each other.
So how can mediation help in the most challenging of cases?
- Improved communication
Reaching a solution that takes into account the best interests of the child when emotions are running high and feelings have become embittered can be very difficult. An experienced mediator, however, can help lower the emotional temperature which is often one of the most significant barriers to resolving parental disputes. They will be able to encourage calm communication in such a way that both parents feel heard and understood.
- Bespoke process
The process itself is entirely tailored around the needs of the family, from the number of sessions required, to where, when and how often those sessions take place. This can allow for early intervention and the flexibility to table meetings quickly with minimal delay as helping to prevent issues from escalating.
It also enables arrangements to be reviewed and finessed within appropriate timeframes, giving parents the opportunity to experience and work through the detail of each arrangement in practice.
- Integrated support
Whether you chose either an integrated or hybrid approach, the mediator will be able to work with the parties' lawyers and their support teams including counsellors, life coaches and mentors to ensure everyone is appropriately supported and has what they need to be able to make informed decisions as to the way forward.
This can also include the appointment of a child-inclusive mediator to help parents gain a sense of how their children view things, what is important to them, what might be working well or is or would be difficult for them in everyday life.
- Ability to address wider issues
Mediation can allow for other issues to be discussed and resolved such as 'agreed behaviour' that promotes effective co-parenting. This means working out how each parent will behave towards the other, establishing agreed expectations and levels of communication including how they will communicate, keeping distressing disputes away from the children.
- Cost efficient
Most mediators offer fixed fee packages and by setting the agenda and choosing the number of sessions needed, the parties are able to retain far more control over the process and therefore cost, compared with court proceedings.
At Weightmans Radcliffes Individual Services our mediators are specialists in successfully handling the most complex and challenging of child arrangement disputes.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.