Child Custody Mediation FAQ

A child custody case can be a long and drawn-out process. This is especially true when it's tied up with a divorce. However, if you and your child's other parent agree on most of the terms of child custody, then mediation may be both a cost and a time-effective method for resolving this issue.

This article provides the basics of mediation. Learn about the benefits of mediation, as well as some scenarios where mediation may not be the best choice for a separating couple. The following are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about child custody mediation.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that involves a neutral third party (a “mediator"). The mediator assists in negotiating a settlement between the parties. The mediator does not make decisions or impose solutions. Instead, they help the parties communicate and reach a mutually agreeable outcome. Many family courts across the United States actually require divorce mediation sessions before proceeding to trial.

Mediation can be an effective tool for resolving a wide range of legal disputes, including custody issues. When parents separate or divorce, they may need to establish a custody order that outlines how they will share physical and legal custody of their child. Mediation can be a useful option for parents who want to negotiate the terms of their custody agreement without going to court.

Why Should I Try Mediation Instead of Going to Court for a Child Custody Dispute?

Mediation programs are used for a variety of issues but are often used for family law disputes. This is because emotions are usually running high in these situations. In a battle over the custody of the child, a judge in a trial may make a decision which satisfies neither party. The process is also emotionally taxing and expensive.

In mediation, the parties work together with a neutral third party to reach a custody agreement or parenting plan. The agreement or plan will be tailored to their unique situation and meet the child's needs. Mediation can be a less adversarial and more effective way to resolve custody disputes than going to court.

What Are Some of the Specific Advantages of Mediation for Child Custody Cases?

Some of the many benefits of mediation include the following:

  • Unlike the family court, mediation is a non-adversarial approach to problem-solving. This means that the process is less threatening. Any agreements resulting from mediation will typically go to the judge to sign off before it can become a court order. Also, nothing you do or say in mediation will be used as evidence in a potential trial. So, parties can speak more freely in mediation than in court. However, always check with a local attorney to verify that this is the case in your jurisdiction.
  • The mediator is a professional, neutral third party who is not invested in either side.
  • Mediation can offer a solution more quickly than any trial. Mediation can be conducted in a week or two. Conversely, the entire trial process could take months or years. The court process is not only long but expensive.
  • In addition to parents, other parties may have an interest in the child's custody, like grandparents. Mediation can provide a forum for these parties to voice their concerns and reach a resolution that is in the best interests of the child.
  • Mediation can set the tone for your relationships going forward. You and your ex may have parted ways, but you still need to be able to communicate in some fashion. Numerous studies have shown that children do much better if their parents can cooperate and communicate, even if they are no longer in a relationship. Remember, you're setting an example for your child. Always put the child's best interest first.

Is Mediation Expensive?

The mediation process can be significantly less expensive than working through the courts. Rather than having each spouse pay for an attorney to work on their behalf in court, the parents can hire one mediator (who is often an attorney). The mediator can help the parents come to an agreement, which they can then submit for a court's approval. Usually, the parties split payments and cover the costs of the mediation sessions. A mediation agreement should cover these details before the mediation process begins.

My Ex and I Have a Bad Relationship. Can Child Custody Mediation Still Work?

Mediation can be done separately. If you and your ex can't be in the same room together, mediation can accommodate your animosity toward one another. The mediator will go back and forth between the parties and work on a parenting agreement until it's completed.

Keep in mind that mediators do this for a living and can skillfully deal with fighting couples. Mediators will stress the importance of putting aside personal issues for the sake of the child. They are typically very good at redirecting a parent's focus back to the issue that really matters -- the child.

In some situations, mediation may not be the best option for a couple. For example, if there is a history of child abuse or domestic violence, it may not be appropriate in these cases. In these situations, mediation can further exacerbate the power dynamics between the couple and lead to further harm to the victim.

Need Help With Child Custody Mediation? Ask an Attorney

If you'd like to know more about the possibility of a mediated child custody arrangement or have questions about your child custody case, there's no substitute for professional legal counsel. Having sound advice and expert representation can make all the difference in the outcome of your child custody dispute.

A child custody attorney will be able to help you. They can provide valuable legal advice to guide you through the mediation process. They can even help represent you at mediation sessions, or alternative dispute resolution sessions. They can advocate for your parenting time or child support payments. They can also help draw a custody agreement.

Get started today and find a qualified family law attorney near you.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
  • An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
  • An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent

A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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