At its root, divorce mediation involves you and your ex making decisions together. However, if you have kids, you may also wonder if your children should be involved in the process. To decide whether this is wise or not, consider the following factors.
How old are they?
Many children are too young to be involved in complicated divorce-related matters. And in the legal context, courts typically do not even consider a child’s preference as a factor affecting custody matters until they are of reasonable age and maturity. Generally, this is about age 14.
Your child’s age (and maturity) influences how they make decisions and whether they understand the implications of their choices.
Mediation can serve as a safe space for your child to express themselves, describe household dynamics and talk about their feelings with a mediator, but it can also put stress on a child if they don’t want to feel like they are in the middle.
If you are unsure what to do, you can talk to your attorney or your child’s doctor or counselor about their opinion.
What issues are you confronting?
You will address several issues in mediation, and children need not be involved in all of them, regardless of their age or maturity.
Often, a child’s insight and opinion can be valuable in matters including custody and visitation, reasons for the divorce or parental behaviors. Outside of these situations, having a child participate in mediation can be more harmful than helpful.
What is the relationship like between you and your ex?
The parental relationship can affect whether your child should – and wants to – be involved in mediation. For instance, if you are amicable, cooperative and can communicate respectfully, there may be little need or value to having your child participate because you are likely both making informed decisions that prioritize your child’s best interests.
However, it can be a different story if you and the other parent are combative, put your child in the middle of disputes or if your child feels they don’t have a voice. In these cases, being able to speak with the mediator can reassure your child there is someone listening to them and that their feelings matter.
Every situation and family is unique, so consider these elements and what is best for your child when it comes to participating in mediation.