Family Law

Child Custody Mediation May Be Right for You

During the divorce process, the emotions of parents can be very intense and highly personal in matters involving their children. Sometimes these emotions can lead to stress on the children and decisions that aren't in their best interests.

Child custody mediation will keep intense emotions in check and help create a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which parties involved in a dispute sit down with a neutral third-party, or "mediator," who helps them settle their dispute. The mediator helps the parents form an agreement but can't force the parents to agree to any particular plan.

Why Choose Child Custody Mediation?

During the typical adversarial process, parties to a custody dispute often get hostile and don't look out for the best interests of the child. This is the guiding legal standard courts use in deciding custody matters. There are several advantages of using mediation as an alternative to the normal adversarial process, including:

  • Less stress for all and it's easier on the children
  • Providing greater child custody flexibility
  • Less time and expense than going to court
  • Fostering cooperation between parents

Non-Adversarial Process

One of the best reasons for using mediation for child custody matters is that it's non-adversarial. You must collaborate and negotiate with the other parent in creating a satisfying custody arrangement. With a say in how the plan is shaped, typically the parties experience less stress and anger.

The Children Benefit

Children can benefit the most from mediation. They aren't caught in the middle of an angry dispute and forced to pick sides. Mediation allows all parties to focus on the needs of the children and to determine what's best for them.

Parents Benefit, Too

A mediator also helps the parents focus on the future, and not the past. In mediation, parents can concentrate on a workable custody plan for the future instead of placing blame for who caused the relationship to fail, for example.

Child Custody Flexibility

In the usual adversarial court proceeding, a judge decides custody matters. Mediation, however, allows flexibility in the custody arrangements that are unique to each family situation. The parents have control over the custody plan and can tailor it to suit their needs and the needs of their children. Often this flexibility and certainty is preferred to what a judge might decide.

Faster and Cheaper Alternative

Adversarial child custody litigation can be expensive and time-consuming. Mediation can save you money in legal fees, and it can also reduce the length of the divorce process, helping you move forward with your life. This time and resource savings also applies to other areas, such as time you'd have to take off from work, or arranging and paying for child care services, so that you can go to court for custody hearings.

Future Cooperation

Parents must work together during mediation to create an agreeable custody arrangement. Mediation promotes a give-and-take attitude during the child custody dispute. This cooperation will help lay the groundwork for future cooperation and help the parents reach agreements on any conflicts or questions that may arise after the divorce, such as changing the custody agreement.

While mediation has many benefits, it's a good idea to talk to your divorce attorney about it. Your attorney can point out the legal problems you need to avoid and the legal rights you need to protect when it comes to the custody of your child. Also, whether you're the custodial or non-custodial parent, ask your attorney to look over the custody agreement you made during mediation to make sure your parental rights are protected.

With an open mind, a willingness to negotiate and a focus on the best interests of your child, mediation can be a fast, fair and less emotionally taxing path to a child custody arrangement for everyone involved.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How much will you charge me to look over the custody arrangement my spouse and I agreed on in mediation?
  • Can you be involved in the mediation process and give me legal advice during it?
  • Are there specific laws or court rules about mediation in divorce and custody cases in my area?
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