This week is Mediation Awareness Week 2015 and you may have heard Joan Davis, Director of Family Mediation NI talking about the benefits of mediation this morning on U105 FM.
To help mark Mediation Awareness Week 2015, Joan has provided Life Law NI with a guest blog looking at the importance of making your child’s rights a priority when dealing with relationship breakdown and how mediation can help assist you in doing this.
“25 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the question needs to be asked – why does society still ignore child rights?
We hear a lot about human rights, animal rights, parental rights, minority rights and so on from mainstream media, but what about the rights of children?
Article 9 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states: –
’Children have the right to live with their parents unless it is bad for them. Children whose parents do not live together have the right to stay in contact with both parents unless this might hurt the child’.
Let’s look at that statement in the context of 21st Century family life here in Northern Ireland:-
- In 2014, 8,443 children in NI were the subject of final Court orders in Children Order cases.
- Of these 8,443 children, 3,383 were under 4 years old, 2,468 between 5-8 years old, 1,683 between 9-12 years old and 90 were between 16-18 years old.
- In 2013, 42% of the births in NI were to unmarried parents.
- A total of 4,100 children were affected by 2,403 divorces in 2013, yet divorce statistics do not reflect current relationship and family patterns in NI family life.
It is important to consider that behind every statistic, there is a child potentially being denied a healthy relationship with one parent.
You may ask; ‘Where are a child’s rights and voice in all of these adult-constructed life-changing experiences?’ Ok , after separation, some children of a certain appropriate age will be spoken to within the legal system by a Court Children’s Officer and their views and wishes will be sought. But is this the way we should be approaching our future private family life choices, living as separated parents?
You could also ask; ‘Why do parents default to the law when a romantic relationship ends? What can we do as a society to begin changing a deeply ingrained mind-set that essentially disables otherwise capable people and renders them incapable of making a sensible decision about their own children’s future?
Independent legal and financial advice is always useful to enable informed decision-making upon separation. However, for better long-term relationships and for the overall well-being of the child and safeguarding of the child’s rights for the future, Family Mediation NI offers a 21st Century approach to modern family disputes. We believe mediation should be the natural and first choice for most separating parents.
Entering the process of family mediation empowers parents. It enables parents to be the natural decision makers and encourages the child’s voice to be equal, to be heard and to be respected.
Child-focused mediation and, in appropriate cases, direct child consultation moves a family from an acrimonious, adversarial, ‘blame game’ system of behaviours to a responsible, future-focused, co-parenting state of mind.
Mediation provides the thinking, talking and listening space, the negotiating space and the neutral space. It facilitates option generation, assists agreement on a bespoke parenting plan and ultimately a mediated agreement that informs the way forward and introduces the learning of a new form of communication as separate but loving parents, with the child at the heart of the process.