Sarah Smith, one of Yorkshire’s most respected Family Law practitioners, is hailing new guidelines which give the children of separated parents a voice in family mediation a significant step forward.
The new guidelines are being introduced as part of changes to family mediators’ Code of Practice. The aim is to ensure that all specialist family mediators actively promote listening to the voice of the child as part of the family mediation process.
Sarah, who is a family lawyer and mediator at Harrogate and Leeds based law firm Berwins explained: “The changes to the Code of Practice will require all family mediators to encourage parents involved in family mediation to consider the wishes and feelings of their children.
“Significantly, the changes mean that the Code now says that all children and young people aged 10 and above should be offered the opportunity to have their voices heard directly during the mediation, in line with government recommendations. That does not mean that children should meet with a family mediator if they don’t want to; the point is that they should have the choice.”
These changes are designed to give children the same opportunity to contribute to the family mediation process that children involved in the court process already have to contribute to that.
Reflecting on the changes Sarah added “Some parents worry that this will put pressure on their children to make choices between their parents, but family mediators can only meet with children as part of a mediation once we have completed rigorous training focused on what is important to the children they are talking to, without pressure.”
The announcement coincides with the Family Mediation Week (21st – 25th January 2019), a national campaign run by the Family Mediators Association with the aim of highlighting the many advantages of family mediation as an alternative to litigation between separating couples.