Dispute Resolution

Child Custody Mediation: How It Works and Tips for Success

Divorce is a very tough process when the custody battle of a child is going on. Child custody issues fought in court intensify the pain for all the involved people. Child custody mediation exists so that the ex-couple can mediate and cause less trouble to each other and their child. The disagreeing couple can mediate their custody issues. Thus, family mediation is preferred over custody battles in court.

What Is Child Custody Mediation?

Mediation is one of the methods of alternative dispute resolution. In child custody disputes, mediation aims to reach an agreement between the divorced parents. The agreement focuses on legal and physical custody of their children without the pain and expense of litigation. In custody mediation, spouses approach a trained mediator. It is carried out in an informal setting. The mediator works as a guide and navigates the couple’s issue over their child. Sometimes the spouses work with the mediator themselves and approach an attorney to prepare them for mediation. In addition, the mediator doesn’t make decisions on who gets the custody issues. They use their knowledge to try to facilitate a compromise that both spouses agree on. Child custody intends to tone down the hostility between the spouses.

Types of Custody

Having child custody has been misunderstood to mean one parent gets custody. It includes two concepts:

  • Legal custody
  • Physical custody

Legal custody means the parent will make decisions regarding important matters in a child’s life. For instance, decisions on education, religious upbringing, non-emergency medical statement, etc. Physical custody means the child primarily resides with that parent. Determining physical custody depends on where each parent lives, with the aim being to provide for an arrangement that best suits the child’s needs.

Types of Custody Mediation

There are two types of custody mediation as follows:

  • Court-Ordered Mediation
  • Private Child Custody Mediation

It can be either private or ordered by a court. Court-ordered mediation is often free, low-cost, or based on the parents’ incomes. Even if a judge has ordered the spouses to participate in custody mediation, one always has the option of choosing private mediation instead of the mediation program offered through the court. Private mediation allows one to have more say in the process, and it tends to be more successful than court-ordered mediation. Court-ordered mediation has certain time restrictions.

Child custody mediation is also typically more cost-effective than going to court because spouses are paying a mediator to help reach an agreement. In a traditional court battle, the spouses would pay to attorneys on an hourly basis. This can cause a huge pain to their pockets. Also, the spouses have a say in when the sessions will take place. The spouses can’t have a say in every court hearing but they can in mediation. One needs to make sure they are doing the best for their children.

How to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation?

Firstly, one needs to remember that child custody mediation is not about parents but children. The parents need to make a commitment to offering what’s best for their child. Thus, they need to be prepared before participating in a mediation. Some tips for a mediation session have been provided below.

  • Take complete rest the night before: Meeting with a divorced partner can bring the agony back. It can be stressful to see them again. So, take complete rest the night before.
  • Keep an open mind: It is important to resolve to keep an open mind. Be understanding of the other spouse’s needs and children. Don’t start attacking the other spouse, try to co-operate during the process. The mediator may give suggestions for custody that neither of the spouses has thought of.
  • Make a proposal: Make a proposal that amounts to fair custody and proper parenting time to both. Writing down one’s thoughts and deciphering what one actually wants from the mediation can be helpful to smoothen the process. If the spouses are clear as to what they want the mediation can end in success.
  • Formulate a checklist: The spouses need to make a checklist of all the things that a child needs. It may include how to handle transactions, dropping the child at school/college, the time when one parent has the child, travel costs, vacation breaks, how to manage when the other spouse is sick, other minor changes, etc. The best way to do so is to communicate with the other spouse.

Tips for Child Custody Mediation Sessions

Even if both spouses come with the best intentions, mediation can hit rough patches. When that happens it’s important to listen to the other spouse refocus your energy on what’s best for the children. Some more tips for a smooth custody mediation session have been provided below.

  • Don’t bring up marital issues unrelated to the children: Remember that this isn’t a general divorce mediation, so don’t bring up unresolved issues of the past. Don’t start stating negative things about the other spouse. This is a prime example of what not to say in child custody mediation.
  • Be thoughtful with your language: While talking about children use “our” kids, not “my” kids. It’s more inclusive and less confrontational. Also, try to make remarks in terms of what you as parents can jointly do to make the situation as positive and painless for your children as possible.
  • Don’t let your emotions get the best of you: It is possible that the dicsussion becomes heated after soem time. Refrain from showcasing your negative emotions. You can also ask a mediator to take a short break if things go out of handle. You can use the break to calm yourself.
  • Remember, you always have options: Remember, if mediation doesn’t work you can sill approach the courts. Mediation is not the only option you have.
  • Find a qualified mediator: Pay attention to the mediator’s qualifications. Make sure to approach a mediaot who has taken up divorce cases, including custody and preparing time. Also, the mediator need not be a lawyer. Many child custody mediators are licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or social workers who have experience in child custody issues.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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