Preparing for Custody Mediation / by Cassandra Hearn

It is widely known that legal proceedings can be lengthy and costly, and divorce and child custody are no exception to this rule.  Alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, has become increasingly popular as way to resolve cases quicker and with less expense to the litigants.  Mediation also allows parties to a child custody matter to tailor-make parenting and custody solutions that work for their family and their children.  It is important to properly prepare for custody mediation in order to make sure you get the most out of it and maximize the chance that you and the other parent can reach a resolution to your case.

Before you get to mediation, you should create a proposed parenting schedule and write it down.  This proposal should include not only your proposal for day-to-day schedule, but also how special occasions, holidays, and summer vacation should be handled.  Specifically articulating your desires on paper can help you work out some details and inconsistencies.  In addition, it will mean you can have a hard copy of your plan to provide to the mediator, giving a solid starting point for negotiations.

Second, you need to think about your “line in the sand.”  Your proposed parenting plan may be what you think is optimal for the child, but the other parent will no doubt have his or her own opinions about will be best.  You need to have an idea of what areas you can bend on and what areas are non-negotiable.  For example, would you be willing to give up more time in the summer in exchange for having the child every spring break?  Or are you willing to reduce the number of weekends during the school year you receive in exchange for all summer?  These questions can only be answered after you do some important thinking. 

Finally, be prepared to be reasonable and to compromise.  The entire aim of mediation is to help you and the other parent to find a middle ground that is best for the child.  Going into the process with an open mind can greatly increase your chances of finding that middle ground.  Be mindful that you absolutely do not have to settle, but remaining inflexible and adamant about your position can mean you miss opportunities to find a parenting schedule that is made specifically for your child.

Call us today for a consultation.  We have extensive experience talking to our clients about mediation and helping to guide them through the child custody process.