Mediation is coming of age, that is the theme of the 2017 College of Mediators National Conference. But what does this mean exactly? In this four-part series I will describe how mediators themselves are striving to make mediation a professional service that not only serves our clients well, but all of our professional colleagues as well. In part 3 of this blog, I will discuss the manner how family law is responding to the need to include the wishes and feelings of children in the decisions made between their parent about their own futures.
It has long been considered that the people who are best equipped to make decisions about any given child, are that child’s own parents. It is felt that parents know their what their children want and need more accurately than any social worker or officer of the court. With the obvious exceptions where a child in in danger from a parent: for examples where one is a paedophile, active alcoholic or drug addict, there are few in family law who would disagree with this concept.
Unfortunately, at times even the best of parents can become temporarily incapacitated by the events in their own lives. Once such circumstance can be the breakdown of a marital relationship and subsequent divorce process. We’ve all seen Kramer vs. Kramer, where feelings of anger, grief, loss and frustration ended up with the parents playing the children off against each other. We sometimes see parents equating the number of contact nights with how much money is to be paid or received. We sometimes parents who are determined that their ex, who is now in love with another person, is not going to be allowed to have this new person become a part of their children’s lives. Of course there are also many cases where parents are getting along relatively well, and are merrily making plans between themselves as to how best to carve up the parental week, but even then at times they forget that the children themselves might have some ideas about what’s best for them.
Because of all of these situations, it has now become the law that all children over the age of 10 must be offered the opportunity to speak with an appropriately trained professional for the purposes of ensuring their voices are heard directly within the discussions and negotiations of their parents. This is called a Direct Child Consultation, and this author conducts these on a regular basis.
The outcome of such a process is that children are allowed to become involved in their own futures, and waring parents are offered the opportunity to step back from the front lines and heavy artillery of their divorce battle to think about those who they love the most, who will be effected the most by their actions and decisions, but who are the easiest to forget about in the heat of the fight.