How to Set Up Child Custody Mediation
Mediation is a process of solving differences between two parties through a process of communication and negotiation to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon solution.
In a child custody case, a specially trained, neutral, third-party mediator will help you and your child’s other parent negotiate a child custody settlement and parenting plan that is acceptable to both of you.
Mediation is preferable by separating or divorcing parents for the several reasons listed below.
Reasons to Use Mediation
- It is less costly than both parents hiring lawyers to negotiate a settlement.
- It is usually faster than wading through the court system.
- The two parties involved can agree on the mediator and how he or she is selected.
- Preparing for mediation is easier and less stressful than preparing for court.
- Mediators make themselves available when the parties are available to meet, such as nights and weekends. Rather than parents taking off time from work to adapt to the court’s schedule.
- Mediation is confidential as opposed to a public court hearing.
- Mediation gives the parties a forum to express their feelings and the ability to help craft the final agreements, rather than having a judge make a final ruling in which the parents have no say.
- Mediation tends to be less hostile than a court trial and more cooperative.
Some states require that separating parents to go through a mediation process before a judge renders a final decision on their case. After all, who knows the children better than their parents. The courts recognize that it is in the best interests of the children for the parents to make the final decisions on custody and visitation versus a judge if possible.
If you want to set up mediation for you and a separating spouse, you’ll want to talk to the Clerk of Courts in the County in which you are filing for the divorce or separation. Every municipality has a unique process.
For example, if mediation is required, it may be free of charge, provided you are willing to work with the court-appointed mediator assigned to your case. In other counties, you may be required to pay for the mediator’s services, but again, it can be significantly less expensive to hire a mediator versus two lawyers.
Mediation can take place jointly or separately if you and your spouse can’t be in the same room together. The mediator can go back and forth, helping you work out a solution.
Common Child Custody Mediation Issues
How will you structure the custody arrangement with your ex? A custody arrangement includes physical care, where your child lives, and legal custody, making major life decisions on behalf of your minor child. Are you requesting joint custody or sole custody?
When will each of you have time with your children? This schedule includes overnight stays, day-to-day routines, extracurricular activities, vacations, holidays, and special occasions. How will childcare arrangements work if you are both employed?
Drop Off and Pick Up Schedules
How will drop off and pick up routines work if you and your spouse share custody? Where will they occur? What will happen if there is a change in the schedule?
How are financial responsibilities for caring for your kids divided? Are you and your ex both financially capable of caring for the children? Will child support be required? How are school expenses, medical expenses, expenses for everyday needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, and extracurricular activities going to be handled? How will the money be exchanged between parents? Who will claim the children on their taxes?
Who is responsible for making routine doctor and dentist appointments? How should medical emergencies be handled? Who is responsible for providing health insurance for the children?
Questions to consider include:
- Where will your child attend school?
- Who will attend parent-teacher conferences and open houses?
- How will you share school report cards and other essential documents with your ex?
General Guidelines and Rules
Do you have rules about discipline, food, diet, bedtimes, homework, screen time, or religious education you want the children to adhere to? What if you or your ex begin dating someone new? Do you have rules on how to introduce someone you are dating to the kids? If you hire a babysitter, are there restrictions on the age of the sitter? How will grandparent visitations be handled? The more issues you can anticipate and work out ahead of time, the better.
How will you and your co-parent communicate with one another? How will you share the children’s schedules and notify one another about important events in the children’s lives? Where will essential documents like birth certificates, insurance cards, and social security cards be kept?
Travel and Relocation
What happens if a parent is relocated for their job or wants to move because they eventually remarry? What if one parent wants to take an extended vacation with the kids?
No parenting plan will last forever, no matter how many issues you try to handle ahead of time. How will you make amendments to the parenting plan as the children get older and situations change? If you have disagreements about the parenting plan, how will you resolve them?
The purpose of child custody mediation is to come up with a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. It is important to start mediation with that mentality. Mediation isn’t the time to fight with your spouse over why the relationship failed. You are trying to move forward as two co-parents for your children.