Child custody mediation is a process where the parents and their lawyers gather around a table with an unbiased third party and work towards reaching a decision on the legal custody of the child.
This is guided by rules that ensure confidentiality, fairness, and objectivity for both parties involved in the case. The mediator does not have any power over what final agreement is reached between parties but rather guides them towards reaching an agreement.
This process is not binding, meaning that either party can choose to ignore the agreement after it has been reached. However in some cases where agreed upon by both parties in a court hearing, this may be enforced by law and must be followed through with.
Third parties such as therapists or psychologists may not be utilized without first getting approval from the mediator. This ensures impartiality of any opinions shared during sessions but does not mean confidentiality between therapist / psychologist and parent is broken.
As part of this order, child custody agreements reached through mediation cannot exceed 60 days before they need to come back into court for review unless special circumstances apply regarding domestic violence issues where more time needed before coming back into court again after 60 days has passed.
This order is normally followed for six months after which the parent’s file may be reopened if there are still problems or communication issues between parents.
Private mediation happens where parties agree to use a private mediator to settle their child custody issues outside the court. With a private mediator, the parties have control over the mediation process and what to discuss.
Issues that May Be Resolved Through the Mediation Process
In a child custody case, parents are typically more concerned about what is best suitable to themselves, and the best interests of the child. This can involve joint or physical custody, parenting plan, and child support among other issues. Mediation can address the following:
- Type of custody that is most suitable.
- Primary physical custody of the child.
- Legal custody or the parent who makes major decisions.
- Parenting plan and visitation schedule.
- Child support payments and other financials.
Mediation vs Court
When parents agree on child custody decisions or agree on a parenting plan, the mediator can take the agreements to the judge for approval.
When the parties fail to agree on the whole or part of the issues regarding child custody, then the litigation process becomes inevitable. Any party may file for child custody with the court, and the litigation process begins.
In court, the parties will have no control over the decisions. Everything is left to the court and after the court process, the judge makes decisions regarding the suitable custody that is in the best interests of the child, and the parenting plan as well.
Benefits of Child Custody Mediation Over Court
Of course, numerous benefits come with mediation over the court process that can be just emotionally draining.
Mediation Is Less Expensive
Mediation is not expensive as compared to a court process that will involve a lot of court fees, and attorney costs. The court process can also take a long time and that also skyrockets the cost since most attorneys charge on a per hour basis.
With a mediator, you have control over the costs since you can set the mediation time and the mediator that you can afford without strain.
Mediation Is Faster than The Court Process
Unlike the court process that is usually lengthy, mediation can take only a few hours depending on the issues and the complexity of the case.
Regardless of the number of issues that are to be addressed during the mediation process, it still takes less time to resolve as compared to the unpredictable court process that may take years for the decision to be made.
Mediation Leads to Satisfying Outcomes
This is the most important thing about the mediation process. Both parties will be happier with the outcomes (or at least more equally unhappy) since it is not the mediator who makes decisions.
Rather, it is the parties involved that agree to compromise on the issues regarding child custody. When both parents can agree on the issues regarding the child, that also enhances the best interests of the child and makes parenting easier.
Mediation also encourages both parents to cooperate which reduces the stress on children. Most courts encourage parents who are facing child custody issues to enter into alternative dispute resolution mechanisms before taking matters to court.
Since parents are typically more satisfied with the outcome, it becomes easier for each parent to follow mediation agreements. That makes parenting easier and more beneficial for the child.
Decisions that are imposed by the court are pretty damaging to the party that loses the custody case. That makes parenting hard when one party is hurt or not satisfied with the outcomes of the court.
The parties may become adversarial to each other and that may adversely affect the child emotionally or psychologically.
Easy Modification Process
During mediation, you and your ex may agree on when and how to make modifications to the agreements that you have already put in place. This becomes easy when there are changes in circumstances that may necessitate modification.
You can also agree on modifications outside the court and thereafter take it to the court for approval. That will take less time and resources than going to court.
The Court Process Is Stressful
The court process is not just a lengthy process but it is also emotionally draining to the parties involved and to the children. This is especially true if one party contests and the case is referred to trial.
Even when there is no contest, one party may be disadvantaged by the decisions of the court and that can severely affect the party that lost, psychologically.
When Court Process Is Inevitable
If parties in a child custody case are unable to embrace alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or negotiation, it becomes inevitable to litigate matters of child custody in court.
Sometimes the parties involved in the case are in constant disagreement and are not willing to negotiate outside the court. In that regard, some of the reasons that may necessitate the need for litigation may include:
- One party is hostile and not willing to compromise.
- If there are issues of domestic violence and abuse by one parent.
- One of the parties wants the other party to pay for damages regarding child custody.
- When the case is of high-conflict and complicated nature.
Mediation may be the best solution to child custody issues if you and your ex are willing to cooperate with each other. It is less time consuming, more flexible and it saves both parties money that would have been spent on court fees.
This system of alternative dispute resolution also enhances better interests of children even when parents cannot come up with agreeable decisions regarding child custody.
Mediation also helps parties to become more reasonable and flexible in their negotiations since it is a win-win situation for both parents. It facilitates the attainment of satisfactory agreements between parents and makes parenting easier for both parties.
When mediation is not an option, litigation becomes inevitable and may lead to a lengthy court process that can negatively affect the interests of children in child custody matters.