Going to mediation about your children – is it all about Child Arrangements?

Our Amy Trevellick continues her series of articles about mediation.

Where children are concerned, our client’s attend mediation mostly to discuss when and how often their children will see each parent after a separation or divorce. This is commonly known as “child arrangements”. If these arrangements are agreed as a result of mediation, or indeed, via a direct agreement between the parents, they can be drawn up into a Parenting Plan or, if necessary, a Child Arrangements Order.

However, mediation can also be used for a number of other reasons, and you don’t have to wait until you have separated to attend mediation. It can be helpful to agree to joint approach to things such as how or when to tell your children you are separating, or how to approach the subject of divorce. If the mediator is trained in Child Inclusive Mediation, your child or children can also form part of the discussions, encouraging them to focus on positive outcomes and not be fearful of the separation.

Can my child be forced to see both parents?

The law presumes that involvement from both parents is in the best interests of a child, provided that such involvement is safe or can be safely managed. There are however, a number of reasons why a child may not want to see a parent, or indeed, why a parent has not seen their child for a long time. In these situations, contact may need to be reintroduced gradually so that relationships can be repaired and rebuilt. Child inclusive mediation allows the child to be part of the process, so that their voice is heard and things are taken at their pace. This often helps to resolve the root cause of the issue without making them feel like they’re being forced into something.

If you are hoping to resolve issues in this way, remember to check that the mediator you wish to use is trained in child inclusive mediation.

Is mediation legally binding?

The simple answer is no, a mediated agreement is not legally binding unless you get the agreement drawn up into a court order. However, when it comes to child arrangements, the court will only make an order where it is necessary to do so. The court will also take into account any previous Parenting Plan or the arrangements that were in place before the court became involved, so if you implemented an agreement made at mediation and later changed your mind and stopped it, the court will consider whether that previous arrangement should stand.

If you have any questions or concerns about child arrangements, please contact one of our team today. You can also contact a mediator direct. We work with specialists at Mediate UK (https://www.mediateuk.co.uk/) who may be able to help you in the first instance.