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Summer Child Custody Dispute: When to Seek Mediation

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. | Last updated on

As any parent knows, summer can be a hot topic. And not just the weather.

Come June, when the kids are out of school, the real heat begins. The workable child custody agreement that separated parents have put together during the school year flies out the window, and the bummer of summer begins. If a child custody dispute arises, you may be wondering, when should you seek mediation?

How Can I Turn Down the Heat?

If you are feeling this way, you aren't alone. What can you do? That's a complicated question. If there is already a court-ordered custody agreement in place, parents have to stick to it until it is officially modified. To modify, parents either have to work it out between themselves, or seek legal advice in the form of mediation or a divorce attorney to modify the existing custody agreement.

The easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to handle a summer child custody dispute is to have the parents work together to find a solution. Open communication is key, and the earlier the better. If you foresee a scheduling conflict or are planning a summer vacation, contact the other parent as early as possible to find a solution that works for both of you.

What If This Is Too Hot Too Handle Alone?

Do you feel this is easier said than done? You may want to hire a mediator to help devise a solution. When should you seek a mediator? It may be a good idea if any of the following applies:

  • If you have issues speaking with your ex, a mediator can always help. Mediators are lawyers who are trained to find a solution that is amendable and fair to both sides. They understand that you may not be able to be in the same room with your ex, and are usually quite comfortable speaking with each separately. Mediators can devise a solution without either party ever having to even see one another.
  • If you want to modify a custody agreement on a trial-basis, and are not ready to make it part of the official custody agreement, mediators can help with that too. Unlike court orders, mediator recommendations are not binding and often not admissible in court, which means that parents may feel a little more comfortable trying out mediator solutions.
  • If you need a solution right away, a mediator can help much quicker than courts. As stated, until there is an agreed upon modification in place, parents must stick to the original agreement or risk legal ramifications. A court ordered modification can take months (maybe years!) to obtain. But a mediator may be able to hammer out an agreement in a week.
  • If you need to find a cost-effective solution, hiring one mediator is almost always cheaper than two litigating attorneys. Mediators work on behalf of both parents, so only one needs to be hired. And since mediators are attorneys, if both parents end up liking the new agreement, the mediator can file the agreement with the courts to be part of the permanent custody agreement going forward in future months.

Summer can be a fantastic time with your kids. Keep in mind, once they turn 18, those summers together could be over. Make the most out of each and every summer with your kids by planning early and often with your ex. If you need any help settling a custody dispute, contact a mediator today to see if he or she can settle the dispute quickly, cheaply, and relatively peacefully.

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