The Child Mediation Process and Child Wellbeing
By Lisa Romano-Dwyer PhD, RSW
How will hiring a mediator help me with my family law issue? What is the child mediation process?
Separation and divorce processes are complicated matters that often occur in a myriad of social and emotional experiences for everyone involved. Mediation is often considered for people who can work with a neutral third-party individual who has little to no emotional investment or attachment to the problems at hand.
This impartiality and emotional distance often provide the clarity of mind and fairness required to develop a consensus-based model for the division of financial and physical goods held in common. Certified Family Mediators have taken specialized courses in mediation processes and generally have backgrounds in Social Work, Law, Education, and Health Care.
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Registered Master Level Social Workers with Child and Family Expertise and Training are often best suited to mediate Family Law matters involving children and adolescents. Sensitive to the needs of minors, Social Workers will centralize the needs of children in mediation processes and outcomes.
Family Law Mediators
Often less expensive than lawyers, mediators are highly trained individuals who usually also have extensive collaborative counselling experiences required to ensure that everyone’s perspective is heard and validated in the process. Of course, not everyone will “get their way” in mediation, however, it is critical that everyone “has their say”. Where people in a family do not feel that their particular perspective or wish has been heard by the mediator, then the process is not likely to yield the positive results that people are hoping to achieve. Unlike lawyers, mediators are engaged with the expectation that they do not “take sides”.
Again, individuals who are fully engaged in their family and wish to separate or divorce without causing any more emotional harm expected when families grow apart, need to feel that their opinions, experiences, desires, and wishes have been heard and validated first by the mediator. Where people believe that a mediator exhibits preferential treatment to one person’s point of view in the family, then the process is also unlikely to yield results that will hold over the long term.
What does the child mediation process look like?
In general, mediation is a process whereby your Mediator meets with every member of the family individually and where recommended in smaller groups or dyads. It is the job of this impartial person to listen to the opinions of all members of the family, to gather information and facts shared, and then to use this information to help everyone develop a plan that works for all involved. Where a mediator is procured to assist with the entire divorce proceeding, then individuals agree to provide all their personal financial information, holdings, and reasons for separation and divorce to the mediator. A mediated agreement will be developed in the form of a report, which is sealed by the signatures of the adults involved. A divorce mediation process is as legally binding as an agreement created by lawyers.
Most mediators will help families generate a few variations of the same basic plan. These plans may be related to any one of the several potential issues related to separation and divorce including the fair division of financial investments, properties, pensions, and the often-heated issues related to child custody and access.
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Learn more: Who Gets The Family Home In A Divorce?
Most people have a good idea about what they believe will be fairest for them after deciding to separate or divorce. Of course, these subjective plans are often biased by the person’s own sense of family life with whom they married or under guardianship. It is the role of the mediator to provide a safe and trusted forum in which to unpack, discuss, challenge, review, and rewrite, amend, or append the plan. Mediation ends when everyone in the family agrees that the plan is workable and worth a try for an agreed upon period until which it is re-evaluated either with the services of a mediator or independently.
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What happens if mediation fails?
Mediation fails when family members involved in the process cannot agree with the plan or several iterations of the plan. Sometimes, this failure happens during the mediation process. People have the option to cancel the mediation process and to reconnect with a lawyer for a temporary, interim, or final rendering in family court by a judge or justice of the peace. Mediated agreements are best described as legally binding, and where successfully implemented, affordable fair solutions to separation and divorce proceedings that are all too often acrimonious and painful for everyone involved.
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