Ian Walker – Founder/ Director/ Solicitor/ Mediator/ Arbitrator
When we ask children what they want
As parents we think we know what is best for our children and we do our best to do the best we can for them. In a couple we discuss and make decisions together.
When parents separate it can be difficult to work together.
Different ideas about what is best for their children can become more pronounced.
Children can also say to each parent what they think the parent wants them to say. This can make disputes worse because both parents believe that they are doing what their child wants.
Finding out the views of their children can help parents make good decisions in mediation. Child Inclusive Mediation is very much to be encouraged.
Child Inclusive Family Mediation
Child-Inclusive Mediation (CIM) provides opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard directly during the process of mediation.
This is to help children feel respected and listened to and, at their request, to assist parents or carers to receive, understand and take account of their messages regarding decisions and arrangements for and about them which will be made by their parents. Hearing the voices of their children should help parents make better decisions.
All family mediators are expected to explain to parents/carers at the mediation initial information and assessment meetings, that children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have a conversation with a professionally qualified mediator or child consultant. This expectation is ongoing – so even if the parents decline to proceed with Child Inclusive Mediation at the outset, the mediator should still remind them of the benefits subsequently.
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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
The reason for this requirement is that the Family Mediation Council (FMC) Code of Practice embodies Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 1989, which gives all children the right to express their views in all matters affecting them in accordance with their age and maturity.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and is the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history. The influence of the UNCRC can also be seen in the Children Act 1989.
In England and Wales, all children of 10 and over should have the opportunity to be consulted if they wish, when decisions and arrangements are being made that affect them. The Standards Framework produced by the Family Mediation Council/Family Mediation Standards Board goes on to say that younger children (including younger siblings and other children of the family) should not be excluded from having a similar opportunity for child inclusive mediation, since they are equally important members of the family.
The exceptions to this requirement include where there are safeguarding concerns or where a child has learning difficulties or mental illness which would make child inclusive mediation inappropriate.
Child Inclusive Mediation Principles:
The following principles apply to child inclusive mediation:
Voluntary participation: The child or young person participates voluntarily, with the informed consent and support of both parents (or those holding parental responsibility (PR)). Child-Inclusive Mediation cannot be ordered by the courts. Mediators must ensure that they have invited the child to participate and that it is for the child to choose whether they accept any invitation.
Confidentiality: Conversations with a child or young person in the course of mediation are confidential and are not reportable to the court or to third parties except a) where there are safeguarding/child protection concerns or b) where, in exceptional circumstances, the law (or a court) imposes an overriding obligation of disclosure upon the mediator or c) where the child or young person requests the mediator to share specific messages with their parents/carers. Mediators must ensure that they have explained confidentiality (including in relation to safeguarding from harm) in an age appropriate manner and have checked as far as is possible and practicable that the child has understood.
Impartiality and Neutrality as to outcome: The mediator must remain impartial in a meeting with a child or young person and must remain neutral as to the outcome of the mediation. The mediator does not represent the child or act as the child’s advocate.
Decisions remain with the child’s parents (or others holding PR): Children and young people may make requests and offer suggestions, but they are not asked, or given power, to make choices or decisions.
The family mediator is required to have extra training
The mediator is required to have additional training to be approved by the Family Mediation Council to facilitate these meetings. Within our team Ian Walker is so trained. We also have the ability to refer to external mediators or an external child consultant as required.
Ian Walker is trained by Resolution to meet with children as part of the mediation process.
He is a parent of four and has been a member of the Law Society Children Panel for over 24 years which means he is able to represent children in complex court proceedings.
This process can greatly assist parents to make the right decisions for their children.
This doesn’t mean the parents necessarily doing everything the child wants, but rather making informed decisions based on a child’s views and feelings.
The process helps parents,
Is online mediation here to stay?
With the COVID restrictions which have been in place now for nearly a year, many changes to the working environment have taken place. We have adapted to online mediation. Meetings have been set up on line and parties to mediation
Family Mediation in a pandemic. The pandemic has, much like most other things at the moment, forced mediation online. There are benefits to this. For some it can be a much less daunting process when taken place remotely as individuals
Understanding fathers’ repeat appearances in care proceedings
Fathers are often the forgotten figures in care proceedings, sadly sometimes quite literally. It is therefore essential that we find out more about their role, particularly where there are recurrent care proceedings
Judge strongly criticises council’s failings in care case
A local authority has been strongly criticised by a Family Court judge for its long-standing failings whilst dealing with a care case involving four children.
Three of the children are now aged 17, 13 and 11 years old.
More separated families have child maintenance arrangements
Last month the Department for Work and Pensions (‘DWP’) published its latest statistics relating to separated families and their child maintenance arrangements. The statistics say some interesting things about separated families in Great Br
In a much-anticipated judgment the Court of Appeal gives guidance on domestic abuse that the Family Court that they should take to allegations of domestic abuse in cases affecting the welfare of children.
Mixed messages from latest Family Court statistics
The Ministry of Justice has published its latest Family Court statistics for cases dealt with by the Family Courts, for the quarter October to December 2020, and the messages sent by the statistics are somewhat mixed.
Research provides insight into child applications made by mothers and fathers
We wrote here last month about research carried out by The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (‘NFJO’), which carries out research with the aim of improving the family justice system, into who is going to court to resolve children disputes