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Elevating Your Child’s Voice in Divorce Mediation

Arrangements for child custody — whether agreed upon by parents or ordered by a judge — must be in the child’s best interest.

When addressing divorce and child custody in mediation, it’s often difficult to balance your child’s needs and what you want out of your divorce. Bringing your child’s voice to the forefront can help. There are specific types of mediation for this purpose.

The child won’t be in the mediation room, nor will they make decisions. But the mediator and any other professional involved will work to make sure that parents consider the child’s needs while they negotiate.

What is child-focused mediation?

Child-focused mediation prioritizes the needs of the child over those of the parents.

In this form of mediation, the mediator:

  • Centers conversations around the child’s best interest
  • Speaks up for the child’s best interests if discussions begin to stray from them
  • Ensures parents look at how their positions in negotiation will affect the child if put in place
  • Shares information from outside sources about what is best for the child (e.g., suggesting age-appropriate visitation schedules)

Child-focused mediation is a simple way to assert the child’s voice without directly involving the child.

What is child-inclusive mediation?

Child-inclusive mediation involves a child specialist who interviews the child to figure out how parents can meet the child’s needs.

The child specialist:

  • Interviews each parent to gather information about the family and what they will discuss at mediation
  • Interviews the child to learn about their relationship with each parent, how the separation has impacted them and how they’re adjusting
  • Attends the mediation session to speak about their findings and possibly co-lead the session with the mediator

The child specialist interviews the child twice. A different parent will bring the child to each interview so the specialist can tell if being around a certain parent changes the child’s behavior.

The child specialist’s method of interacting with the child will vary based on the child’s age and maturity. Regardless, they won’t ask the child what they want to avoid giving them the impression that they have control over what happens.

Other forms of negotiation, like collaborative divorce, often involve a child specialist.

The importance of hearing your child

Divorce effects kids, too. Placing an emphasis on meeting the needs of the children could help the child deal with the change in the family dynamic.

Prioritizing the child’s best interests can help parents see past personal biases and focus on the well-being of their child. They may also foster a co-parenting relationship as they realize they’ll have to set aside their differences if they want to have an active part in their child’s life.

Many parents believe they are sparing their children by not discussing the life changes that come with divorce. While it is true that your child should not be intimately aware of the details of your divorce, they deserve to know how their lives will change and be accounted for in decisions that will affect them. Making decisions with the child’s voice in mind is integral to helping your child cope with divorce.


Zarira Love

In her three years of researching and writing for Custody X Change, Zarira Love has distilled the topics of child custody and parenting to make vital information accessible to all parents. She earned a BA in Creative Writing from SUNY Purchase College and currently resides in New York City. MORE

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