On top of the questions to ask your mediator, there are some things you should ask yourself before mediation to make sure you've thought through all possible parenting issues that may arise.
While some considerations are obvious, like the custody arrangement you feel is best for your child, parents often overlook a few other important topics.
A parenting plan checklist helps ensure you tick all the boxes to make a comprehensive plan – and to figure out the issues you want to raise during mediation.
In addition, don’t forget to ask yourself the following.
1. Who should we name as a guardian?
No parent wants to think about the possibility of no longer being around for their child. Yet it is best to consider now who you would appoint as guardian for your child to make the transition as smooth as possible if it becomes necessary. The guardian would be a trusted and responsible person who could care for your child if both parents were unable to.
Many parents don’t think to discuss this in child custody mediation and instead name separate guardians in their wills, which can cause problems if both parents become incapacitated.
2. How can we help our child cope?
Don’t get so caught up in your wishes that you forget about your child’s well-being.
The transition to living in two homes can be tough on the kids. As a parent, it's vital that you help your child cope after your separation. Think about what will help your child feel comfortable. For example, allowing the child to keep belongings in both houses can make them feel more at home in both places.
You might even consider easing into the visitation schedule rather than diving right in. If your kids aren't ready to stay overnight at one parent’s house, raise the possibility of starting with daytime visits, then sprinkling in overnights when they're ready.
3. Am I worried the other parent will withhold our child?
Consider whether you have reason to believe the other parent will withhold your child. Even if they haven’t done so in the past, this is an important question to consider.
If the answer is yes, include terms in your parenting plan proposal to make withholding less likely. Maybe you’ll say how much advance notice parents must give before taking the child out of town. Maybe you'll include a provision requiring parents to allow one another to call and talk to the child while they're away on visits.
Mediation is tailored to you
Be sure to include everything you want to discuss in your parenting plan proposal. Once you've reached an agreement, it can be a pain to go back and make changes — not to mention to pay any extra costs incurred. Prepare beforehand to make sure you're ready to discuss all the terms you want in your final custody agreement.