The Superior Outcomes of Child-Inclusive Mediation: A Mediator’s Perspective

2 children on a hammock

As a mediator experienced in both traditional and child-inclusive mediation practice, I have witnessed how the inclusion of children’s voices can profoundly shape the process and outcomes of mediation. Research has consistently shown that child-inclusive mediation often results in more sustainable and satisfactory agreements than traditional mediation, benefiting both children and parents (McIntosh, Wells, Smyth & Long, 2008).

Benefits for children of child-inclusive mediation

The most immediate beneficiaries of child-inclusive mediation are the children themselves. In traditional mediation, children’s perspectives are often shared indirectly, filtered through the views and biases of the adults involved. However, child-inclusive mediation provides children with a direct channel to voice their thoughts, fears, and hopes about their future family arrangements (Cashmore & Parkinson, 2008).

This direct participation not only ensures children’s perspectives are genuinely represented, but also gives them a sense of empowerment and validation. It helps them feel acknowledged and respected, reducing feelings of being ignored or overlooked, which can often accompany family disputes (McIntosh, 2007).

Benefits for parents of child-inclusive mediation

Parents also benefit significantly from participating in child-inclusive mediation. Hearing the child’s voice, communicated via the neutral child consultant, often helps parents re-focus on their child’s needs, rather than their disputes. It can provide parents with insights into their child’s emotions and perspectives that they may not have been aware of, promoting more empathetic and child-centred decision-making (McIntosh, 2007).

Research indicates that agreements reached through child-inclusive mediation are more likely to be followed through by parents, as they’ve been informed directly by the child’s needs and wishes, resulting in more stable and enduring post-separation arrangements (McIntosh et al., 2008).

Addressing parents' concerns about child-inclusive mediation

Despite these benefits, some parents may have concerns about their children being interviewed by a child consultant. They may worry about the child feeling stressed, or fear the child could be influenced to favour one parent over the other. These are valid concerns, and as mediators, we must address them openly.  They are certainly concerns I have had raised with me by parents.  Those parents frequently choose to go ahead with a child-inclusive process after learning more about the process.

Child consultants are highly trained professionals who understand how to engage with children in a gentle, non-threatening manner (Moore, 2013). Their goal is not to interrogate or pressure the child but to provide them a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings. They also maintain a neutral position, ensuring that the child’s voice is heard without bias or influence.

The child consultant’s role is to convey the child’s perspective to the parents in a non-identifying, generalised way, focusing on their feelings and needs, rather than attributing blame or taking sides (McIntosh, 2007). This reassures parents that the process prioritises their child’s wellbeing above all else.

From my perspective as a mediator and someone who has practiced in the family law space for more than 25 years, child-inclusive mediation offers a more empathetic, respectful, and ultimately successful path towards resolving family disputes than traditional family dispute resolution, and certainly more than a family report process. 

By including the child’s voice, we ensure the child’s needs and emotional well-being are central to the mediation process, leading to outcomes that are better for the child, more satisfactory for  parents, reality-tested and more likely to succeed long-term.

Jennifer Hetherington

Registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner.

Accredited Family Law Specialist


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