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Child custody is a sensitive topic for all parents. With emotions and pressures high, it's easy to get flustered and overwhelmed at the idea of a child custody mediation meeting.
So, here are five tips to help you prepare for child custody mediation.
1. List Your Concerns
You don't want to go in unprepared. Take a moment to list out all of the issues you want to discuss at the mediation. What are your concerns? What are your fears? How would you like it to be resolved?
Organizing your thoughts will help you understand the issues and problems that may be obstacles to you getting the arrangement that you want. Also, you'll be more prepared to negotiate and cooperate with the other parent.
2. Prepare Sample Custody Agreements and Schedules
Know what you're asking for. Do you want to share joint custody, or do you want to have more custody? Create a couple sample parenting plans with schedules of when the kids will be with you or the other parent. Take into consideration your children's schedules, vacations, and holidays.
This will give you a starting point when you get into mediation. However, remember that this schedule is not set in stone, and you won't always get exactly what you want. Be prepared to compromise and modify the schedule so that it works for both of you and more importantly, your children.
3. Gather Your Evidence
Are you worried about your children spending too much time with the other parent because of past abuse? Or, do you want to have custody of the kids during the week because the frequent back and forth schedule is hurting their grades?
Gather documents such as a police report or the kids' report cards to show the mediator as support for your claims. The more evidence that you have, the less likely the mediation session will devolve into a he-said-she-said debacle.
4. Consult With Your Attorney
In some courts, your attorney will go to mediation with you. In others, your attorney cannot come with you to mediation. Regardless, you should discuss your mediation plan with your lawyer. Explain what your concerns are and what you want accomplished. Even if your attorney can't be there, he can help you develop a negotiation strategy.
5. Be Zen
Too often, custody disputes can get very confrontational. Parents may hate each other and want to use custody as another battleground. However, the best way to work out an agreement beneficial to all involved is to be a bit Zen about it.
Take deep breaths and stay calm. As frustrating as the mediation may be, try not to lose your temper. It'll only make you look irrational and volatile to the mediator. And most importantly, keep an open mind and be willing to compromise.
If you need help preparing for mediation or with your child custody case, consult an experienced local family law attorney for help.