Children and young people in family mediation

When parents are discussing arrangements for their children in family mediation, we can include the children’s input too.   Children and young people have a right to be heard. Article 12 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.  They should have information and be consulted.

As with all mediation, Child inclusive mediation is voluntary.  If a child feels uncomfortable, they won’t be pressured to come to mediation, but many children and young people respond positively to the invitation. Child inclusive mediation also requires the informed consent of the child and both parents (or persons with parental responsibility). 

Who? Every child has the right to be heard, but the appropriateness of consulting or the weight given to feedback will be impacted by the child’s age and maturity.  The current guideline remains at children aged 10 and above being consulted, but that feels too restrictive.  Much younger children can express their opinions, so are often seen in mediation, including as part of a sibling group where appropriate. 

Where? Meetings with children can either take place in person or online.  Online has advantages that the child or young person is likely to be familiar with the technological world, the session can take place in a setting they are comfortable in, and can take place at a convenient time, e.g. after school.

Potential disadvantages include the conversation not being totally private for the child or young person. It can feel impersonal, body language is missed, no opportunities to do icebreakers such as games, drawing etc.

Alternatively, the mediator can meet in person with the child or young person.  This might be at the mediator’s office, other meeting place or the child or young person’s school.  Meeting in person can help redress the advantages potentially missing online, but the child may feel uncomfortable meeting the mediator whilst being in a new environment.

The child should be given the choice of meeting forum and their preference respected wherever possible.


The mediator will meet with all the children or young people from the family who want to be involved.  The mediator will explain fully what mediation is and give them a chance to express how they are feeling about things and what they might like to see happen going forward.  The mediator will explain that mediation is voluntary and confidential (subject to safeguarding); at the end of the session it is the child or young person’s decision what feedback is shared with the parents.  Giving this confidentiality reassurance helps children and young people say what is on their mind.  

Child mediation cannot be court-ordered, and mediators do not provide court reports or professional opinion.  Mediators remain impartial during child mediation.  Children aren’t asked to make choices and the mediator won’t ask the children to resolve the things their parents may be struggling with.  Often children will make requests or offer suggestions.  The mediator will be careful to explain that they will feed these back but can’t promise what the final outcome will be. 

It is an opportunity for a child to talk and be listened to.  Child inclusive mediators have undertaken specialist training and regularly keep this updated, so they have lots of creative ways of putting children at ease and creating a safe space in which they can talk.

Research demonstrates that children of separated parents did not feel heard; decisions were made about them rather than with their input.  

Benefits of Child inclusive mediation:

  • children and young people might tell a mediator things that they are struggling to say to one or both of their parents; often because they are worried about hurting the parents’ feelings, being seen to be taking sides or concerned that the parents already have enough to deal with.
  • parents may be in an emotional or vulnerable place themselves; hearing their children through the filter of a mediator may help both parents and children move forward.
  • giving children a safe space to talk about their feelings helps manage their understandable anxiety about what their parents’ break-up means for them.
  • knowing what is going on gives children certainty and can help them feel more in control, especially important at a time when it can feel like everything is changing.
  • if everyone feels heard when exploring options, the family is more likely to reach agreements that work for everyone. Children often make really creative suggestions that the adults hadn’t thought about.


What sort of feedback do children share?  

Children might talk about their hobbies (e.g. sport) and the implications being in two different homes might have on their abilities to participate.

Some siblings express frustration that they always ‘travel together’ meaning that they miss out on activities that they used to do themselves, or the ability to have quality solo time with one of their parents.

Pets often get a mention!

As do friends – children love their parents and want to spend time with them but they also don’t want to miss out on what is going on in their friendship groups.

Mediation can be a safe space to work out feelings around parents having new partners and/or step-siblings for the child.

How (process)?

We will have mentioned the possibility of child inclusive mediation at your individual (MIAM) session.  It will be discussed in more detail in the parents’ first joint (or shuttle) mediation session.  We will ask you to confirm your written consent after this.  Then we will contact your child(ren) with an invitation to attend.  If they say yes, the mediator will meet with them to listen to what they have to say.  Then there will be a feedback session to the parents, followed by a chance to reflect on what you have heard.  Further mediation sessions will encourage to take that feedback on board and make the best arrangements you can for the family as a whole.  Sometimes other interventions might be helpful too.


Each child consultation is priced separately taking various factors into account, including location of meeting, number of children, ability to group meetings etc.  Prices start from £200 per child consultation, which includes the mediator’s time in preparation and summarising notes afterwards ready to give parents the feedback.  Travel time will also usually be included; additional costs such as petrol, parking or train fares etc. may be charged in addition.

More resources for parents this excellent FMA video gives parents an idea of how child inclusive mediation works and what the experience is like for both the parents and the child(ren) in Tom’s story, 13-year-old Tom shares what parents separating feels like for the young person.  He also talks about his right to be heard and the positive experience of being involved in child inclusive mediation.  in Chloe’s story, a slightly younger child talks about managing her emotions and the opportunity child inclusive mediation gave her to work through some of this. this helpful Resolution video is a succinct (and poignant) reminder of what children need from their parents.