Having children participate in the child custody mediation process is controversial. However, the vast majority of mediation experts agree that there is a time and place for certain children to participate as their parents decide upon a visitation schedule and parenting plan.
If both parents and the child’s court-ordered representative all agree that it is a good and beneficial idea for a child to share his or her input during the mediation process, there are four basic ways that this input can be communicated:
- Personal participation in a session. In some cases, a child may be invited to a mediation session and asked to actually participate in person. This form of participation is reserved for older, emotionally mature children and for parents who are going through a largely amicable divorce or separation. Your mediator can share the pros and cons of personal participation with you regarding your individual case.
- Mental health professional interview. In order to minimize any harmful affects of your child participating in your mediation, you may wish to have a professional counselor or other mental health professional speak with your child about his or her thoughts on custody and visitation—and that professional can report back to the parents and mediator. The benefit of this approach is that the counselor can gently secure information from your child and analyze your child’s answers from his or her professional viewpoint.
- Mediator interview. Alternatively, the mediator can interview the child privately and ask a series of questions regarding the child’s feelings and preferences. The major benefit of this approach is that the mediator is a neutral, unbiased participant in the process who can serve as a messenger to the parents. In addition, the child will not be exposed to the actual mediation process.
- Written or taped statement by the child. In order to most limit exposure, some families choose to allow their child or children to submit a written or videotaped statement regarding their thoughts, feelings, and wishes. While this approach allows children to voice their needs and concerns, it also prevents them from being pulled into the decision-making process itself. However, the children do not get the opportunity to answer specific questions or interact with the mediator or the parents.
Do you need a Bellevue child custody attorney to assist you with your divorce and mediation process? Call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to schedule an appointment: 425-460-0550.