Child Inclusive Processes in Family Dispute Resolution Mediation – Child Inclusive Processes in Family Dispute Resolution Mediation – Some Thoughts

By Dr Brian Williams
Ph.D, LLB (1st Class Honours),
FDRP, NMAS Mediator, Child-Inclusive Mediator and Consultant
Principal – Premier Mediation Australia
Child Inclusive Processes In Family Dispute Resolution

Many clients about to embark on the path of Family Dispute Resolution ask about whether or not there children will play a role in Family Mediation. In order to assist children (school-aged and above) to deal with family conflict and/or separation, some professionals (most often a Child Consultant) can engage in Child Inclusive Practice techniques.While focussing on the best interests of the child, this process provides a significant opportunity for a child to explain his/her concerns and opinions – articulating what he/she really thinks – not just what they are expected to say by either parent. This can demonstrate to a child that his/her voice is being listened to, as well as providing clearer insights into the child’s interpretations and needs. Without this direct input, many assumptions need to be made exclusively through adult eyes, and some of these assumptions could be erroneous.

I believe that in most cases the benefits of Child Inclusive FDR Mediation can significantly outweigh the negatives.
But there are at least two important provisos about this opinion, namely:
– The process needs to be handled very competently, expertly and professionally by an appropriately equipped Child Consultant, and
– The pre-mediation screening and all other observations must indicate that the case is indeed suitable for this type of process. In other words, it must be the right sort of case.

For this type of voluntary process to be beneficial, the right types of parents also need to be involved. They must each be genuinely interested in resolving the relevant disputes, and be fully prepared to resist the temptation of ‘coaching’ their child about what to say or think. To do so would not only undermine the whole process, but also risk damaging a child’s trust in ever being involved in any sort of similar process ever again.The parents must be also be genuinely interested in knowing what their child has to say, and be respectful of their child’s view. Even more significantly, they have to be resilient and flexible enough to hear something that they may not want to hear.

What About Negotiation?

My enthusiasm for this process does not extend to children actually being part of the on-going negotiations. I believe that in most cases this would place too much of a burden on the decision-making responsibility of the child. At one end of the scale this could lead to a child being quizzed or grilled about their opinions. They could find themselves in a wheeling and dealing atmosphere, wielding inappropriate power. There is also a potential for parental alienation to occur in such circumstances. At the worst end of the scale, a child could ultimately even become a target of blame by a conflicted parent.In any event, it could be argued that an involvement in ‘negotiation’ should not be necessary if Child Inclusive techniques have been well handled throughout the process.

Like To Know More?

If you wish to enquire further about Child-Inclusive FDR Mediation, or anything else related to Family Dispute Resolution and Family Mediation, please feel free to reach out and contact us. We are always happy to help:
Premier Mediation Australia
Chadstone, Tower 1, Level 8,
1341 Dandenong Road
Chadstone Vic 3148
0477 130 667
(03) 8563 9544

Free Consultation/Diagnostic Session We offer a free 30 minute telephone consultation for all potential clients, during which we can discuss the circumstances of your particular case and provide guidance about the best ways for you to move forward.