One of the most difficult issues for families where the parents have decided to end the relationship between them is child custody. The problems between the parents make it hard to agree on anything, but both of them love their children and want to remain an important part of their lives.
Regardless of the circumstances behind the divorce or other separation mechanisms, child custody mediation can often help families arrive at a fair custody arrangement without a lengthy, acrimonious court battle.
What is child custody mediation?
In the mediation process, a neutral third party called a mediator sits down with both parents in a non-threatening, neutral environment—without the audience of a courtroom—to discuss child custody issues and formulate a plan using input from both sides. The mediation process can take time, depending on the complexity of the issues and the parents’ level of willingness to cooperate.
While mediation is not a trial, it’s still best for parents who are undergoing this process to consult an attorney for legal guidance, and insurance that the final arrangements for custody will be carried out as agreed.
Preparing for the mediation process
Before child custody mediation begins, there are some things you can do to prepare for the process. These include:
- Draft preliminary, written custody and visitation proposals that include what you believe are fair conditions for sharing custody, and detail circumstances like holidays, birthdays, and transportation arrangements
- Prepare daily schedules for yourself and your child(ren) that will support the feasibility of your custody requests
- Gather your child(ren)’s relevant records, including reports cards, communications with teachers or medical professionals, and anything that may have a bearing on custody arrangements
Be sure to consult with your lawyer and go over these materials prior to mediation.
How the mediation process works
In general, child custody mediation is a voluntary process, though in some states mediation may be required before a case can go to trial. The steps involved in the process are:
- Initial meeting with the appointed mediator
- Identification and categorization of custody issues
- Discussion of solutions between both parties
- Preparation of the final custody agreement
At the initial meeting, it’s important to arrive with an open mind and concentrate on the best interests of your child(ren). The neutral mediator will talk to both parents about what will be involved in the process, and ensure that everyone is clear on the goals of mediation.
Once the extent of the child custody issues has been explored and organized, the discussion phase of child custody mediation begins. This step can be difficult for parents who are in the process of separating, as it requires a willingness to listen to the other side and make concessions.
When the issues have been discussed and resolved, the mediator will help you prepare a child custody agreement that records what’s been worked out during the mediation process. At this point, you should consult your attorney and have the agreement examined to ensure that your understanding of the custody arrangement is reflected by the agreement—which is then submitted to the court for approval.
With successful child custody mediation, parents who are divorcing or separating can come to a fair agreement with regard to their children, and avoid the strain of battling for custody in court.
Any parent who makes fair demands and maintains excellent relations with both the child and the ex-spouse should have no trouble using their child’s visitation rights. Child visitation is usually granted to the spouse who does not have physical custody of the child. These rights, however, can be revoked if a proof is presented indicating that it is in the best interests of the child not to see the spouse. Excessive alcohol usage, and physical or verbal abuse, are only a few examples of causes for losing child visitation rights. The final agreement specifies the quantity and timetable of visiting.
When one parent is granted custody of the child, the other parent is granted visitation rights with the child. Unless ruled not in “a child’s best interest,” visitation plays a component in practically all custody arrangements. It is critical for the child to retain a positive relationship with both parents, but only if the relationship is healthy.
To avoid future misunderstandings, visitation guidelines should be agreed upon as soon as possible. Both parents are responsible for creating an appropriate visitation schedule. Failure to do so in a timely manner, or failure to respect child visitation rights, will result in the court taking entire control of the issue. Both parents should approach this discussion with an open mind in order to adequately address the concerns of child visitation, such as when, where, and for how long visitation will occur.
Parental visitation rights are just as important as child visiting rights. It is critical to remember that the child has the right to retain an ongoing relationship with both parents. Once plans have been set, they should not be purposely disrupted or ignored.
The custodial parent is responsible for preparing the youngster for the first visit. The visits are usually unsupervised and take place at the residence of the non-custodial parent. Visitation patterns that emerge during and after the final divorce usually mirror the pre-divorce partnership. However, temporary visitation plans created prior to the final divorce decree are not usually implemented after the divorce.
To comply with child visitation rights, visiting arrangements should be both broad and generous. It is the parent’s responsibility to establish reasonable visitation. It is nearly difficult to anticipate ahead of time what hours and arrangements will work best for both parents and children. As a result, it is critical that both parents collaborate and remain flexible.
In rare cases, one parent may use visitation to punish the other parent. Even the smallest aspect, such as transportation, can be used as a weapon of manipulation. Unfortunately, the child is the one who suffers the most in the end.
A detailed visitation schedule may not be formally drafted as long as the judge judges there is true cooperation between the two parents and no kid visiting rights will be violated. However, because it is hard to forecast what obstacles the future may bring, it is in everyone’s best interests to make as precise a schedule as possible. An expert divorce attorney can assist you in addressing any potential difficulties or complications with child visitation rights.