Divorce is a stressful process that becomes significantly more so if you have kids. No parent wants to be away from their child for any longer than they have to, but when divorce happens, there’s really no avoiding the problem of custody. But there are ways to help alleviate that problem; one of those is through child custody mediation.
The point of mediation is to have both parents work out mutually beneficial custody arrangements and parenting time schedules that are in the best interests of the children. Mediation is almost always required in child custody disputes in court, but can also be entered into voluntarily before a case is ever filed. Mediation is one of the best ways to come up with a plan that works for you, your spouse and most importantly, the little ones. After all, why endure the stress of fighting it out in court only to have a judge impose a schedule upon the parents and children, when you can do it yourselves, save money and end up with a schedule that is actually workable for everyone involved?
However, if parents are prone to arguing, or if one parent has a more dominant personality, mediation can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect. But don’t let fear of the unknown drive you away from mediation; even in contentious custody battles, mediation has a lot of benefits and can help reduce or relieve the stresses of fighting for your kids. Here are some tips to help you get ready for custody mediation:
- Choose a mediator who is a reputable family law attorney that has been doing mediation for at least a few years. There is no license to be a mediator, so anyone can put themselves out there as one. Always check qualifications, such as asking if the mediator has taken a 40 hour mediation course, and make sure they are family law mediators who have dealt with parent and child issues before. An experienced family law mediator can be effective and convincing about the reality of the situation if the other parent is being unreasonable.
Preparation Is Key
Whether you have a lawyer or are going on your own, come with your schedule and calendar that you need for your and the other parent’s work schedule. Know the dates that school starts, when holidays are, when spring, summer and winter break are and what you would like to do during those times (want to visit grandparents? Teach your kids to ski? Etc.)
- In addition to the calendar dates, have an idea of activities that you, the other parent and the children have on a daily basis. Does a child go to soccer after school? Piano lessons on Wednesday? Do you always have to stay late at work on Wednesday, but have flexibility on Fridays? Have tentative daily schedules and reminders written down so you can plan accordingly.
- Do you or the other parent have relatives or good friends that live nearby that want to be helpful with the children? A court cannot order grandma to pick up the kids and take them to swimming practice on Thursdays, but if grandma wants to be a part of it, you can put that in the mediated agreement. Can the kids, if they are old enough, stay at home alone after school if they check in with the neighbor who works from home? Speak to friends, neighbors and family beforehand to offer additional solutions to common parenting scheduling problems.
- Enter mediation with an open mind and a calm demeanor. Even if the other parent is being unreasonable, always stay calm and collected during mediation. Accept the fact that you cannot control what the other parent says or does in mediation; you can only control your reaction. Getting upset will never help your situation. If you do get upset, it’s okay, but ask for a 10-minute break and get some fresh air to help you calm down.
- Understand that it might take a few sessions to work out an agreement and plan. If you do not come to an agreement on the first session, know that you did not fail. Sometimes, people need time to reflect and may come back to another mediated session with some new insights into what really matters and what needs to be done. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 ”“ an unsuccessful first session helps both parties identify ways to move forward.
- Take the time to understand that when parents do not live together, neither parent is going to get as much time with the child(ren) as they would like. Think about the situation from the child’s point of view. It’s your job as a parent to do what is best for the kids, even if that means you might not get to see them as often as you’d like.
The Denver family law attorneys at Divorce Matters provide mediation services for divorcing couples in Colorado.