Child custody is often the most contentious aspect of divorce proceedings. But this doesn’t have to be the case for you and your soon-to-be-ex. Instead, you can strive to achieve a mutually satisfactory resolution when it comes to child custody—even if your custody talks start out rocky. This can help avoid expensive additional litigation for both parties as part of the divorce process.
Here’s a look at how to go about mediating custody in a highly contested divorce case.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where you and your spouse can try to work out your differences regarding family matters, such as child custody and visitation. A third party will serve as your mediator, acting as a go-between for your negotiations with the goal of helping you reach an agreement. In the case of child custody, it is best that this person be an expert in family law, and understand the standard possession order for the state in which the divorce is filed.
A typical mediation may require couples to attend three or four mediation sessions that last about two hours each. These sessions are typically spread out over one or two months. However, if your case is more complex, mediation may take between four and six months. The more highly-contested a divorce is, the more difficult mediation becomes.
Mediation itself is already a sign of a contested divorce. If a divorcing couple is in agreement on all terms, it may be considered an uncontested divorce. In this case, a mediator is not required.
Family courts often require divorcing parents to go through mediation before they’ll issue trial dates for the family law matters they’re disputing. This is because mediation has proven to be extremely successful even in highly-contested divorces. In addition, mediation can help you and your future ex-spouse to achieve an outcome that might not be possible if you go through traditional divorce litigation.
As soon as you both arrive at and sign your mediated agreement, the agreement will become binding, which means the court will enforce it.
The Connection Between Mediation and Time, Money, and Privacy
Divorce mediation offers a number of benefits for parents who are at odds with each other when it comes to the area of child custody. Let’s take a look at why it may benefit you to pursue mediation with your future ex-spouse.
Cost and Time Savings
Mediation is less expensive than going to divorce trial because mediating a divorce is generally a faster process compared with litigation. For this reason, it’s a smart avenue if the goal is to minimize the cost of the divorce in time and money.
The truth is, especially if you are in a highly contested divorce case, the fewer exchanges you make with your spouse regarding custody, the better.
If you choose mediation, any information you share during your mediation sessions will remain confidential. In other words, the court and other people who are unrelated to your mediation process will not be privy to this information. The opposite is true at trial, where anything you discuss pertaining to child custody will become a matter of public record.
Mediation and Relationship Preservation
Mediation is deemed the most child-friendly divorce option because unlike litigation, it makes it easier for you and the other party to preserve your relationship long after the divorce has been finalized. Why? Because going to trial is an adversarial process, whereas mediation is a more collaborative one.
Through mediation, you and your future ex-spouse can meet at halfway points, and this will decrease your chances of experiencing discord as you tackle child custody. This certainly benefits you both, but it also helps your children, as they won’t have to witness your and the other party’s emotional dysregulation as you deal with rage and frustration. In turn, they’ll be less likely to assimilate your impulsive and angry behaviors into their personal behavior long term.
The Reality of Co-Parenting
Even if you and your spouse are experiencing a great deal of conflict during your divorce, you’ll still have to interact with each other for the sake of the children once you’re divorced. When you go to court, it’s easy to feel as though one parent loses and the other wins, which can make maintaining a healthy co-parenting relationship nearly impossible. However, with mediation, you both can come out feeling like winners in light of the circumstances, and this will help you both to work better together in the future.
What You and Your Spouse Will Discuss During Mediation
During mediation, you and the other party will work on coming up with a parenting plan, which includes making arrangements related to co-parenting the children following your divorce. You’ll also discuss the monetary support that both of you will give your children. These matters will be addressed in tandem with property division (including who gets to keep the family home) and spousal maintenance, or alimony.
Your divorce mediator can also provide guidance with matters like how to let your children know that you are getting divorced. In addition, the mediator can help you both to sort out what religion your children will observe and who will take care of your family pet, for example.
Move Forward with Mediation in Your Divorce Case
Going through a marital breakup isn’t an easy process, especially if minor children are involved. Experiencing extensive conflict with your soon-to-be-ex only makes matters worse. However, mediation can assist you in overcoming even the most contentious divorce situations in the best way possible for the entire family.
The good news is that if a substantial change occurs in either parent’s circumstances after the divorce, the family court can modify your divorce order to reflect the new situation. Consider what you have to gain from mediation, and take the first step toward pursuing this alternative dispute resolution process today.
Dr. Hymes would like to acknowledge the inspiration and assistance of Tony Belak and J.R. Curtin in the preparation of the manuscript.A thorough understanding of any tool, any technique, any...By William Hymes