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The Journey of the Child Custody Mediation Process Explained

Reasons to use child custody mediation.

What is child custody mediation?

Mediation is the process of solving differences between two parties through communication and negotiation to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon solution. In a child custody case, a 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 often preferred by parents going through separation or divorce.

Reasons to use mediation

  • It’s less costly than both parents hiring lawyers to negotiate a settlement.
  • It’s usually faster than wading through court systems and processes.
  • The two parties involved can agree on the mediator and how he or she is selected.
  • Preparing for mediation is more manageable and less stressful than preparing for hearings and litigation in court.
  • Mediators often make themselves available when both parties are available to meet, such as evenings and weekends, which helps parents avoid taking off 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 and more cooperative than a court trial.

Some states require 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’s in the child’s best interest for the parents to decide on custody and visitation versus a judge if possible.

Couple signing legal documents

Tips on how to set up mediation

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 where 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. Even if you must pay for a mediator, it can be significantly less expensive than if you and your child’s other parent decided to hire lawyers.

Mediation can occur jointly or separately depending on whether you and your spouse can be in the same room together. The mediator can go back and forth, helping you find a solution.

Couple fighting in front of a mediator

10 common child custody mediation issues

1. Custody

How will you structure the custody arrangement with your ex after divorce or separation? A custody arrangement dictates which parent is responsible for the physical care of your child, where your child lives, legal custody, and significant life decisions on behalf of your minor child. Are you requesting joint custody or sole custody? Mediation can help with each of these issues.

2. Time schedules

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?

3. 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 schedule change or other family members are involved?

4. Financial responsibilities

How will financial responsibilities for the care of your kids be divided? Are you and your ex both financially capable of caring for the children? Will child support be required? How will everyday, school, medical, and extracurricular activities be handled? How will money be exchanged between parents for shared expenses? Who will claim the children on their taxes?

5. Medical care

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?

6. Education

Where will your child attend school? Who will participate in parent-teacher conferences and open houses? How will you share school report cards and other essential documents with your ex?

Person using a calculator

7. General guidelines and tips

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 starts dating someone new? Do you have rules on introducing someone you are dating to the kids? If you hire a babysitter, are there restrictions on the sitter’s age? How will grandparent visits be handled? The more issues you can anticipate and prepare for ahead of time in mediation, the better the experience will be for you, your ex, and your children.

8. 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? It’s beneficial to do planning for travel and relocation in the early stages.

9. Amendments

No parenting plan will last forever, no matter how many issues you try to handle beforehand. How will you modify your parenting plan as your children’s age and situations change? If you have disagreements with your ex about the parenting plan, how will you resolve them?

10. Communication

How will you and your ex communicate with one another as co-parents? 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? These can all be worked out in mediation.

Many mediators recommend TalkingParents as a communication tool during and after a divorce or separation. Our co-parenting communication service gives you the ability to send timestamped messages, make phone and video calls, send and receive money, store important information, and much more while keeping everything on an Unalterable Record. TalkingParents can help make co-parenting easier, keeping all communication and coordination surrounding your kids in one organized, documented place.

The child custody mediation process aims to help you and your ex develop a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. It’s essential to start mediation with that mentality. Mediation isn’t the time to fight over why the relationship failed - it’s the time to move forward for the sake of your children.

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