10 Child Custody Mediation Q&As
Child custody is certainly a topic that causes a great deal of anxiety for a parent. It can be terrifying to think that a judge who does not know you has the power to make a decision that has such a massive impact on your life and that of your child. The good news is, that does not have to be the case. While it is possible to go to court and spend lots of time and money letting someone else decide how and where your child should live, you can also make that decision yourself. In fact, you only have to go to court to receive a child custody order if you and the child’s other parent are unable to arrive at a decision yourself. Child custody mediation can be an excellent way to do that.
What is child custody mediation?
Child custody mediation is a process that allows you and your co-parent to decide on your own what arrangement is best for you and your child when it comes to physical custody, visitation, and the development of a parenting plan. These decisions and the negotiations and conversations required to reach them are facilitated by a neutral third-party mediator who uses dispute-resolution techniques to help parents reach mutually agreeable terms based on what is in the best interest of their child. This agreement can then be drafted, reviewed by lawyers, and submitted to the court for approval.
What does a child custody mediator do?
The child custody mediator is a neutral third-party who is trained in conflict resolution techniques. They are able to remain neutral because they do not have to make any judgments or decisions when it comes to your divorce. They simply guide you in arriving at decisions to which you both agree. You can then have your own lawyer review the agreement to ensure that it is in your best interest and is equitable before it is submitted to the court for approval. Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds, but many are retired judges, social workers, or licensed family law attorneys.
Is the outcome of a child custody mediation binding?
No, the parties are not bound to anything that is decided in mediation. Even if a verbal agreement is reached and that agreement is drafted and put into writing, the parties still have the right to change their mind about it or to have the agreement reviewed by their own attorney and request any changes or rescind their agreement before it is submitted to the court. The agreement is not binding until it is submitted to the court, approved, and ordered into effect by the judge. At any point up until then, the parties can change their minds.
Is child custody mediation mandatory?
Child custody mediation is not generally mandatory although some judges may require parents to try it before beginning litigation. This is because mediation often reduces the burden on the court by allowing the couple to resolve as many of their own issues as possible and leaving only the most intractable issues to the judge for an opinion. Even in cases where mediation is not required, it is generally greatly beneficial to try.
Is it possible to determine child custody without going to court?
Yes, it is a common misconception that child custody must be determined by a judge. Parents only need to go to court for the determination of child custody issues if they are unable to come to an agreement on their own or with the help of lawyers and/or a mediator.
Should I get a lawyer for child custody mediation?
It is up to you whether you retain an attorney for your child custody mediation. You can bring an attorney with you to mediation to advocate for you and make sure that your interests are represented, but you do not have to. Many people choose to attend mediations on their own but retain a divorce attorney to consult with as the negotiations are ongoing and have their own attorney review the custody terms before they are submitted to the court. If you are already working with an attorney or have started court proceedings, it is also not too late to try mediation. You can try it at any point throughout the divorce process.
Will my child come to child custody mediation?
No, generally child custody mediation is limited to the parents, the mediator, and any lawyers or experts that the parents and/or mediator have elected to include in the process. One of the factors that may be considered in the determination of physical custody is the child’s preference, if the child is old enough to form an intelligent opinion on the answer and it is not based on arbitrary criteria, or criteria against the child’s best interest (such as wanting to live with one parent because they always have junk food). However, it is up to the mediator, parties, and attorneys how that preference would be assessed and weighed, as either party could easily claim that the child would prefer to live with them. The mediator will keep the parties focused on what is objectively in the child’s best interest even if the child is not physically present.
How long does child custody mediation take?
The amount of time that child custody mediation will take depends on the complexity of the matters being resolved and how contentious or willing to collaborate the parents are. If the parents can remain focused on what is in the child’s best interest and actively participate in the process it may only take two or three sessions to arrive at an outcome that is agreeable to both parents. This is generally far faster than it would be to resolve the matter in court.
What are the benefits of child custody mediation?
One of the biggest benefits of child custody mediation is that all information pertaining to the process is kept confidential. This is different from the court process where everything is a matter of public record. This can allow for a healthier and more collaborative co-parenting relationship moving forward and can create less stress for all parties involved, including the children.
Is child custody mediation expensive?
Child custody mediators cost less per hour than lawyers do, and avoiding litigation is the best way to reduce the expenses associated with a child custody hearing. Most parents save a significant amount of money by attempting child custody mediation.
Talk to Asa Pitt Mediation
If you are interested in whether child custody mediation could make a difference in your life, Asa Pitt Mediation is here to answer all your questions and help you decide whether mediation is right for you. Contact Asa Pitt Mediation today to schedule a consultation.