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How Child-Focused Mediation Protects Children During Divorce

Posted on in Mediation and Collaborative Law

mediation, Naperville family lawyerDivorce is a stressful process for everyone involved, but experts recommend divorcing parents do their best to stay focused on the number one priority in their lives; their children. Spouses tend to hire professionals to represent and assist them, be it attorneys, mediators, or other divorce experts, but in many cases, children going through divorce have no voice. Divorcing parents must remember that divorce affects everyone involved. For many children, divorce can mean new living arrangements, time apart from a parent, and a new lifestyle, all changes that can be difficult to process, especially as a child. For parents hoping to protect and prioritize their children during divorce, experts recommend a non-adversarial divorce process known as child-focused mediation.

What Is Child-Focused Mediation?

Child-focused mediation is a type of mediation that originated in New Zealand and Australia, both places where collaborative divorce methods are used frequently by the court systems. The goal of child focused mediation is not to bring a child into the middle of the chaos of a divorce, but rather to ensure that their voice is heard during the process, and that they are advocated for. Mediators may use different methods, but the end goal and result is always the same; to provide a voice for children caught in the middle of divorce and to ensure that divorcing parents are aware that every decision they make can impact their children. Mediators agree that divorce is not an ‘adult-only’ problem, and child focused mediators are trained in a variety of techniques to help divorcing families shift the focus to their children. To do this, experts say parents need to avoid the conflict-focused state of mind that is typical during the divorce process, and instead adopt a child-focused state of mind.

“The family is a system,” says an experienced child-focused mediator. “The goal in a child-focused mediation is to rebalance the family since divorce alters this system greatly. All family members need to be able to have a voice in order to move forward.” Parents going through a divorce are often consumed by their personal divorce process, so child-focused mediators work to help parents understand how the divorce process affects their children, even when the effects can not be seen. In many cases, experts say that parents going through a divorce adopt a sort of tunnel vision and are unable to see the very real tole their divorce is taking on their children. “Without question, divorce can be emotionally devastating.” says the director of Cook County Circuit Court’s Family Mediation Services. “Parents often forget children might react to the divorce and experience different emotions than the parents do.”

What Techniques do Child-Focused Mediators Use?

While different mediators may use different techniques, all mediators work towards bolstering communication between parents and their children. Many child-focused mediators refer to each parent as “mom” and “dad” rather than by their formal names, to remind them that while their relationship with each other may be ending or transforming, they are still both parents, and have a future duty of doing what is best for their children. Other mediators say they encourage divorcing spouses to view their parenting duties like a business relationship, with the goal being to develop emotionally healthy and well rounded children. Ongoing conflict between co-parents is unhealthy for everyone involved, and even parents with intentions of hiding their fighting are often unsuccessful, as children are notoriously adept at picking up on conflict, even from another room. By treating future co-parenting duties as a business relationship, both parents will hopefully be able to set their personal feelings aside and prioritize the best interest of their children. “Would I say this to my co-worker, my colleague or my boss?” asked one court supervisor and mediator. “If the answer is now, I advise them (the co-parents) to take a step back and appropriately reframe what they want to say.”

How Are Children Involved in the Mediation Process?

Directly involving children in the divorce process is an idea about which mediators and other divorce experts are conflicted. Some say that children have no place in the divorce process, while other mediators believe allowing children to be brought into the process is essential to ensuring that everyone is properly advocated for. Some mediators may choose to meet with the parents and children separately and then share information exchanged with both parties. Other mediators may choose to meet with parents and children separately, and then bring them all together for a follow-up meeting. Regardless of how children are involved in the mediation process, mediators all agree that nothing a child reports to a mediator will leave the room, unless special circumstances require further action. “The mediator may be the only neutral adult in the child’s life during the divorce,” says one court mediator. Because of this, mediators frequently choose to refrain from sharing any details a child shares with them unless told otherwise. Mediators say that most often, children want their feelings on divorce shared with their parents. Only in cases where a child was in immediate danger would a mediator share information without the child’s permission. Most commonly, mediators gather information from both parents and their children, then communicate with the parents on how their children are handling the divorce.

Regardless of the type of divorce, children should remain the primary focus during the entire process. For parents who feel their children may be suffering due to their divorce, or are dealing with parenting issues during the divorce process, experts recommend looking into child-focused mediation. The qualified Naperville divorce attorneys at the Pesce Law Group, P.C., are trained in mediation and collaborative law and will work tirelessly to ensure you and your children receive a beneficial divorce outcome. Call 630-352-2240 or visit us online to schedule a consultation with a member of our team and learn more about the wide range of solutions we have available to fit your family’s needs. We are available to meet with you today.

Sources:

http://law.marquette.edu/courtadr/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Child-Focused-and-Child-Inclusive-Divorce.pdf

http://collablawil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/McCormack-CDLB-July-2015-Children-Mediation-Process.pdf

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