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Child Custody | Family

What To Expect During a Child Custody Mediation

7 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Divorce can be a painful process, especially when it comes to child custody issues. However, court battles are not the only option for disagreeing couples. Child custody mediation offers a way for parents to work together toward solutions that avoid the financial and emotional costs of court battles.

What is Child Custody Mediation?

Child custody mediation is a process where a neutral third-party mediator helps divorcing or separated parents work out a child custody arrangement outside of the court system.

The mediator helps the parents communicate and negotiate effectively and encourages them to come up with a mutually agreeable parenting plan that meets the best interests of their children. Mediation is often less expensive and less adversarial than going to court. It can help parents maintain a better relationship with each other and with their children in the long run.

What Does the Process of Child Custody Mediation Involve?

The process of child custody mediation typically begins with an initial consultation with a mediator who will explain the process and gather information about the family’s situation.

The mediator will then work with both parents, either together or separately, to identify and explore the issues they need to resolve to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children. 

The mediator will facilitate discussions and help the parents to communicate effectively, to reach an agreement that works for everyone. Once an agreement is reached, it is typically put in writing and presented to the court for approval. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to court.

How To Prepare for a Custody Mediation?

There are several things you can do to prepare for a child custody mediation so that your time in the mediation section is used the most effectively:

  • Research the laws and procedures in your state regarding child custody mediation.
  • Hire an experienced mediator or choose a mediator recommended by the court.
  • Gather important documents such as financial records, school reports, and medical records that support your position on child custody and visitation.
  • Make a list of your priorities and be prepared to discuss them with the mediator.
  • Practice active listening and communication skills to ensure that your concerns are heard and understood.
  • Be willing to compromise and negotiate in good faith to find a solution that works for everyone involved.
  • Be open to exploring alternative options to traditional child custody arrangements, such as shared parenting or joint custody.
  • Consider bringing a support person or a lawyer to the mediation to provide guidance and advice.

How To Make the Most Out of a Mediation Session

Mediation can be a highly effective way to resolve disputes without the expense, delay, and uncertainty of going to court. However, making the most of a mediation session requires preparation, patience, and a willingness to compromise. Whether you’re going through a divorce or trying to resolve a business dispute, mediation can help you find a mutually acceptable solution to your disagreements. Here are a few best practices that can make your mediation session as effective as it can be:

  • Be open-minded during mediation sessions and keep in mind that the goal is not to get everything you want. It is possible that your spouse has a different perspective on what is best for your children. Rather than immediately resisting, try to understand where your ex-partner is coming from. The mediator might also propose custody and parenting time arrangements that you have not considered.
  • Avoid unrelated disputes. During child custody mediation, it’s important to stay focused on the specific issues related to custody and parenting time. Avoid bringing up irrelevant marital issues that can make the situation more contentious and difficult to resolve. Ranting about your grievances towards your ex-spouse is counterproductive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Try to keep your emotions in check during the mediation session. It’s understandable that discussions related to your children can become intense and emotional, but it’s important not to use these emotions as an excuse to attack or criticize the other parent. Doing so can derail the progress made in the mediation session. If you feel like your emotions are getting out of control, it’s okay to ask for a short break to regain your composure.
  • If mediation fails, it’s not the end of the road. Remember that you have the option to turn to the courts. However, even if you end up going to court, your mediation sessions can still be helpful. The issues you couldn’t agree on during mediation will likely have been highlighted, giving you a clearer idea of what to focus on moving forward.

Where To Find a Professional Mediator?

There are several ways to find a professional mediator for a child custody case:

Court-Appointed Mediators: In some states, the court will provide a list of mediators that are approved for child custody cases. These mediators are often court-appointed and may have special training and experience in family law.

Private Mediation Services: There are many private mediation services that specialize in family law and child custody mediation. You can search online for local mediators or ask your attorney for recommendations.

State Bar Associations: Many state bar associations have a referral service that can connect you with a qualified mediator. These mediators are often experienced attorneys who have completed additional training in mediation.

Mediation Organizations: There are several national organizations that provide training and certification for mediators, such as the Association for Conflict Resolution or the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. You can search their directories for mediators in your area.

It’s important to do your research and choose a mediator who has experience with child custody cases. It may be a good idea to consult your lawyer and ask for mediator recommendations for your case.

Can a Lawyer Be a Mediator in a Child Custody Case?

In some cases, a lawyer can also act as a mediator in a child custody case.

However, it’s important to note that a lawyer-mediator must remain neutral and not provide legal advice to either party during mediation.

It’s also recommended to choose a lawyer who has received specialized training in mediation to ensure they have the necessary skills and experience to help facilitate a successful mediation. 

Additionally, it’s important to check the laws and regulations in your specific jurisdiction to see if there are any restrictions on lawyers acting as mediators in child custody cases.

Is Mediation Alone Enough to Resolve a Child Custody Case?

Mediation can be an effective way for parents to work out a custody agreement that meets the best interests of the child without the need for a trial. However, in some cases, mediation alone may not be enough to resolve all of the issues, such as when there is a history of abuse, mental illness, or substance abuse. In these cases, additional legal action or evaluation may be necessary. It’s best to consult with a qualified family law attorney to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

Is a Lawyer Necessary in a Child Custody Case?

While it is not legally required to have a lawyer in a child custody case, it is highly recommended. Child custody cases can be complex and emotionally charged, and 

having a lawyer can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process. 

A lawyer can help you understand your legal rights, navigate the legal system, and negotiate on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children. A lawyer can also help ensure that your rights as a parent are protected and that your children’s best interests are served.

How To Manage Legal Fees in a Custody Case?

Child custody cases can come with exorbitant costs, with lawyers charging high retainers that can exceed $5,000, and hourly rates ranging from $300 to $500. 

This can be a significant financial burden, particularly for those fighting for their parental rights.

At Unbundled Legal Services, clients can partner with lawyers and small law firms to create arrangements that fit their financial situations. Our lawyers’ fees are significantly lower, with some clients paying as little as $500 to $1,500. This is because, with Unbundled Legal Help, clients can choose which aspects of their case they want their lawyer to handle, and what they can manage on their own.

Our child custody lawyers can provide help with one or all aspects of your case, depending on your preferences, while helping you save money.

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