Outcomes of child-inclusive mediation
This article presents the findings of a small qualitative study of child-inclusive mediation concerning parenting arrangements after separation. Fourteen parents who had undertaken child-inclusive mediation, and a comparison group of 19 parents who had engaged in mediation without their children being involved, were asked about the outcomes of the mediation process. The parents had all undertaken mediation through Family Relationship Centres in communities with low to average incomes and levels of educational attainment. While participants in both groups reported positive benefits from the mediation process, child-inclusive mediation did not prove to be more beneficial in terms of improving the parental relationship or the likelihood of resolving the dispute. Only 5 parents out of 14 in the child-inclusive group felt that mediation had helped them to resolve some or all of the issues that they went with, compared with 13 out of 19 in the comparison group. Only 4 of the 14 parents in the child-inclusive group, compared with 11 of 19 parents in the comparison group, thought that their relationship with their ex-partner had improved as a consequence of the mediation. The best predictor of resolution overall was not the parents’ mediation group, but their levels of acrimony, conflict, and cooperation. Nonetheless, parents perceived that there were benefits from the involvement of children in the process other than achieving better outcomes in terms of dispute resolution, and the experience of having the children seen by a child consultant was generally positive. However, child-inclusive mediation could also lead to disappointment when raised expectations were not fulfilled.