What Aspects of Custody and/or Support Are Usually Mediated?
Parents who cannot come to an agreement on the custody of their children are often ordered by the court to participate in child custody mediation. The judge assigned to the case will likely appoint a mediator to provide assistance to the parties in creating a parenting plan. The mediator may even suggest a parenting plan based on what he hears in the parties' presentations during the mediation and preliminary negotiations leading to the mediation session.
The Mediator's Role
The mediator is a trained professional who works for the court system. He or she can assist parents in creating a parenting plan that is good and beneficial for the couple's children. Mediators are sensitive to special issues facing separated couples, as well as to instances involving the dynamic of physical abuse. If a party is worried about his or her safety in the presence of the other spouse, the mediator often can arrange a separate session or at least a physical separation in different rooms during the mediation process (with the mediator functioning as a go-between).
Child Custody Mediation
Child custody mediation assists in the determination of topics such as which parent lives with the child, which parent or parents make important life decisions for the child on matters such as health care, education, religion, and similar issues, and what type of parenting plan will be developed. A mediator's goal in child custody mediation is to assist the parties in making a joint parenting plan that will accomplish these basic aims:
- protection of the parties
- protection of the parties’ children
- dictation of how parents will make decisions about the care of their children
- dictation of when the child will spend time and visit with each parent
- development of a safety plan for family
- suggestion of safe ways to conduct visits with the non-custodial parent and the handling of the exchange of the children before and after visits
- provision of assistance, information, and resources on related topics, such as housing, counseling, or financial issues.
Parenting Plan Modification
Mediation is likewise an appropriate alternative dispute resolution vehicle for use in instances when child custody or parenting time orders may require modification. Mediation is used to discuss and ferret out viable options, as well as to arrive at decisions on any changes. Mediation assists parents in voicing and listening to concerns that occur, which, in turn, may warrant an ultimate custody or parenting time modification. Yet, even if parties are not able to come to a final agreement on custody or parenting time modifications through the mediation process, the task of working through fundamental concerns provides parents with a deeper understanding on core parenting issues. That heightened sensitivity and enlightenment is particularly helpful in the context of joint parenting pursuant to whatever custody order currently exists.