Putting Children First

Much of the information and research that has been published about how children are affected by divorce/ separation appears to paint a somewhat of a bleak picture. This picture has made the individuals that are affected and involved appear as though they are all hopeless, anxious and somewhat “mixed up”.

The good news for divorcing/ separating parents is that there is also evidence that children of ‘divorce, with support, love and a supported sense of self have become successful adults, are capable of positive marriages and relationships with their own children and have formulated the will to survive.

How parents behave during the process of breaking up is key, and I speak from personal experience of divorcing parents who handled the situation badly.  One parent feeling hurt and betrayed was totally acrimonious, bad mouthing the other resulting in the children suffering even more as a result feelings of split loyalties.

More good news is that by going through mediation and keeping the lines of communication open gives parents the opportunity to consider the situation from the children’s view and agree a plan that will work for the whole family both at present and in the future.

Parenting plans are crucial to a child’s sense of wellbeing.  It helps them feel secure and reduces the feeling of uncertainty when the plan is shared with them. It ensures that they understand what the new routine is going to be; and that both Mum and Dad will continue to be there for them and will spend time with them even if they do not want to live together anymore

In the mediation process where mediators are dealing with couples who have children their mediators will show extra concern for any arrangements that either directly or indirectly affect the welfare of children. In many ways the mediators represent the interests of the children in the room. They can do so by:

  • Reality checking any child welfare arrangements
  • Asking tough questions
  • Asking questions about family finances as they relate to the children
  • Exploring practicality points relating to education or sporting arrangements

The mediation process can also include children. They, with the assistance of their parents can have a voice in the process. In these circumstances, the mediators are extremely keen to point out to the children the positive efforts being made by their parents to secure their future and the happiness of the family going forward. Mediators are keen to congratulate parents who choose mediation in a proactive manner for the benefit of their children. If the children are experiencing their parent’s frustration the mediator is in a position to explore these topics with the children in mediation to facilitate the parents in crafting a solution to help them moving forward in the process.

No other process shows as much flexibility towards children in the family as mediation. It is well-established in many jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia, Germany and the United States that a child-centred mediation approach can provide dramatic and amazing results for families. Many judges will ask parties in court have they not considered mediation? The courts are aware that mediation is a positive development in the area of childcare dispute resolution.