Custody mediation is a conflict resolution process in which parents attempt to come to an agreement about custody arrangements with the help of a neutral person called a mediator. Unlike going to court, going to a mediator and working through the mediation process is not meant to be adversarial. Instead, it’s meant to be cooperative and encourage parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Additionally, a mediator cannot rule on custody like a judge can, but he may make recommendations to the court in some places.
Some people doubt the effectiveness of court mediation, especially in cases in which the parents are volatile and have great trouble getting along, even for a few minutes at a time. Mediators are typically trained and skilled in facilitating cooperation between parents who have trouble working together, even those who consider themselves true enemies. In some cases, however, mediation may not be the best option. For example, if one of the parties to the custody matter has been abused by the other, the mediation session’s balance of power may be adversely affected or the abused party may be too intimidated to have his voice heard.
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Usually, custody mediation occurs without lawyers present. This may help the parties to feel less as if they are against each other in a battle and more like partners in reaching a fair and beneficial solution. It may also mean less money spent on the child custody matter, as the lawyers aren’t paid for the time parents spend in mediation, and there are no expert witness bills to pay. Additionally, custody mediation may take up less of the parent’s time, as agreements may be reached in hours, days, or weeks rather than the months or years it may take to resolve a custody case in court.
When parents attend custody mediation, there may be great benefits for their children as well. Children may feel less stressed when their parents are able to reach agreements on their own rather than battling in court. Likewise, children may feel less confused by loyalty to one or both parents. They may see the effects of mediation long after their parents have reached an agreement. Parents who learn to work together in mediation may carry their cooperative skills forward and use them to deal with potential conflicts outside of mediation.
It’s important for parents to approach mediation with open minds and a willingness to cooperate with each other. They should be willing to listen to what the other parent and mediator have to say. Parents may choose to write out their concerns and possible solutions to the matter at hand before mediation. This may help them to stay focused on the issues and avoid forgetting anything they consider important.