If you are heading for divorce, or are in the divorce process, and you have children, then what will happen with your children is one of the most difficult parts of your divorce. As much as possible, it is important for you to try and see life through the eyes of your child, and only then as the parent making decisions to protect the best interest of the child. After all, children are out most valuable assets.
If you are not able to reach a custody agreement with your spouse, then you will be heading to custody litigation. Child custody litigation is the most contentious and destructive litigation in the arena of family law. The damage from custody litigation often ruins the remaining childhood of the child intended to be protected and throwing the child into the middle of what should be an adult dispute. It is also one of the most expensive types of litigation, often involving expert witnesses and multiple days of trial. It pits one parent against the other. The goal is often not to show who the better parent is, but rather to show who is the worst parent.
The trend today is to avoid custody litigation if it can be resolved through mediation.
What Is Child Custody Mediation?
Mediation is a process conducted by a mediator in which both of the child’s parents participate. The parents may or may not be represented by an attorney during the mediation session(s). It is important to prepare for mediation. You should know the specifics of what you want. For instance, what time will access with the child end and on which day, who will drive the child to the home of the other parent, who will pick up, whether pick up and drop off will be at a neutral location. You should map out the details of a holiday schedule and the summer schedule. What will happen with doctor visits? You should know whether you want sole or joint legal custody.
Child Custody Mediation Tips
Here are some tips to help prepare yourself for a child custody mediation
1. List Out Your Concerns
Always prepare in advance for the mediation. Take some time to think about all the concerns that you would like to discuss and jot them down. Taking time to organize all your thoughts will help focus the conversation and make sure you do not forget an issue that needs to be discussed. Concerns vary and are not easily anticipated. For instance, should the same set of rules apply at each home? Are the same disciplinary measures used? If the child is punished at one home, does it continue into the other parent’s home? Who will attend school events? Sporting events? Do both parents agree on social activities, cellphones, sleepovers?
2. Prepare Some Sample Agreements
Be prepared with some sample agreements that mention what you want to ask for in the meeting. Create a couple of 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. Be ready to talk about the sample schedules you have prepared and answer any questions that may arise. Additionally, understand that the schedule you have made is subject to discussion and change.
3. Gather Evidence
If you are worried that the other parent is getting more time with the child than you are, or that the frequent changes in custody are hurting the child’s grades, then you can gather evidence regarding your concerns and submit it to the mediator at the time of discussion. The more evidence that you have, the less likely the mediation session will devolve into a he-said-she-said debacle.
4. Speak With Your Attorney
Whether you are going to mediate with or without an attorney, you should meet with an attorney before the mediation to help prepare for the mediation. Family law attorneys who practice in the area of child custody are experienced with the issues that arise after agreements are made. It is anticipating the issues and making an agreement before the issues become a problem that better assures a successful agreement.
5. Appropriate Conversations At The Mediation
It is hard to compromise at all during the separation and divorce process, and the hardest place to compromise are on matters involving your children. But you must be ready to compromise. Your child will be spending time with the other parent, without you. Coming to terms with this reality is probably easier when you take it from your child’s perspective, and her best interest. Come to terms with the compromises that you will have to make before you mediate. This will enable you to interact during the mediation process with less emotion and more reason. It is essential that you keep the conversation focused and not argue for the sake of your children. Do not make the mistake of talking negatively about the other parent. Do not fight, even if the other parent is baiting you. Stay focused on results.
How To Have A Successful Custody Mediation
Here are some of the tips that would be helpful for you to have a successful custody mediation.
- Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Preparation is singularly the most important part of mediation. Custody mediation has several components. They include legal custody – which is decision-making. Physical custody – which is where the child will live. Physical custody requires determining a schedule, pick up and drop off details. Communication protocols. Holiday schedule. International travel issues. Summer vacation plans and schedules. It involves child support, health insurance, allocation of daycare expenses. All of this should be thought through and outlined. Your concerns should also be outlined and discussed.
- Keep the best interest of your children in mind.
- Throughout the mediation, make it a point to listen to the mediator as well as the opposite party. It is important to not talk over the other parent.
- Do not bring up personal conflicts with the other parent.
- During the mediation, be calm, professional and courteous.
- When the discussion is about a specific topic, only talk about that topic. Don’t perseverate.
- Before the mediation, know where you are willing to compromise. willing to compromise on some issues.
- Have multiple access schedules prepared, outline the holidays and how you want to share them, consider whether you want to make accommodations for important days like birthdays, what you want to do if one of the children becomes ill and can’t go to school, and so forth. ?
Mediation can be the most cost effective tools to resolve the child custody issues. Mediation can avoid the destruction of custody litigation. But mediation requires a lot of planning and preparation if it is going to be successful.
Please give us a call at 301-515-1190 if you are considering whether to mediate the child custody issues involved in your divorce. We can help you make a plan and prepare.
At the law offices of Paré & Associates (formerly the Law Office of Alice Paré), we have been helping clients in Germantown, Gaithersburg, Clarksburg, and throughout Montgomery County and the state of Maryland for more than thirty (30) years. Our practice areas include family law, divorce, domestic violence, child custody, bankruptcy, and personal injury.