Child Custody Mediation: An Alternative to Trials

Alternative Ways to decide Child Custody in TX

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.

Child Custody – Putting Your Children First

A recent article I read discusses proposed changes to child custody legislation in Texas. Apparently, a committee is being formed to consider whether “shared parenting may be the best custodial situation for all children of divorcing parents.

After evaluating the vast array of different lifestyles and family dynamics that have emerged in recent decades, I believe that shared parenting is typically the most beneficial approach for divorced parents. This is based on my own personal experiences as well as those of countless others who have adopted this model. However, it is important to acknowledge that every situation is unique and should not be judged according to a universal standard. Therefore, I strongly discourage any attempts to legislate custody arrangements – the best outcomes will always occur when thoughtful, compassionate parents come together with the singular goal of providing for their children in the most positive way possible.

All too often, parents fall into the trap of viewing child custody arrangements as a competition, rather than a cooperative endeavor. This adversarial approach to custodial decision-making can be extremely damaging for the entire family, creating tension between separating parents and placing undue stress on any children involved. When contentiousness takes center stage in custodial decisions, it essentially places power in the hands of legislators and courtrooms.

Ultimately, this cedes authority away from parents and undermines the delicate stability of a family unit in transition. It’s important that disputes over custody are dealt with in a healthy manner, to ensure that everybody gets an opportunity to have their needs met without compromising the health and welfare of the family, now and in the future.

There is another way. When you create a child-centered divorce, your children win – on every level. Parents who make a concerted effort to sit down with each other and discuss the future well-being of their kids together, keep their perspective where it really belongs – on the children. To do this, they must take into account and ask themselves some very serious questions:

  • How can we make life better for our children after the divorce than it was before?
  • How can we best support our children through this difficult time?
  • How can each of us best contribute our assets – physical, emotional, and spiritual – to create harmony, goodwill, and peace within the changed family structure?
  • Who can provide the least traumatic home environment for the children – and for what percent of each day, week, month, and year?
  • What’s best for our children today, tomorrow, and in the years to come?
  • What can we do to boost their sense of security, self-esteem, and well-being during the transitions ahead?
  • How can we minimize the physical, emotional, and spiritual damage inflicted upon our children as a result of our pending divorce?
  • How will our children look back at this divorce a year, five years, ten years, and more from now? Will they understand?
  • How can we show your love and compassion for them as they move through challenges they did not ask for — or create?

Making decisions about the custody of your children can be a difficult process. Fortunately, there are several people who have the knowledge, experience, and insight to provide guidance in such matters. Mediators, attorneys, therapists, counselors, life coaches, and clergy members all have the tools necessary to help you come to an agreement that will benefit your children’s well-being while simultaneously minimizing the negative impacts of divorce.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to honest communication between two mature and responsible adults. When both parties make their children’s best interests their highest priority, they stand the best chance of finding a resolution that works for everyone. With this in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance in navigating the complex waters of child-custody negotiations.

As tough as this process may appear, wouldn’t you prefer to make these decisions together, before you approach the court – and lawyers – rather than having them made for you?

When parents let the negative emotions they’re feeling toward their spouses – hatred, hurt, disappointment, guilt, shame, anxiety, frustration, mistrust, and more – influence their decisions about child-custody issues, they are sabotaging their children. It is selfish, insensitive, and extremely unproductive to let your personal vendetta determine the relationship your children have with their other parents. You are allowing personal satisfaction to get in the way of your parental responsibilities toward your kids. And the cost – to them as well as to you – will be high. (Many children, as they grow, come to resent a parent who keeps them from having a positive relationship with their other parent, leading to alienation and other negative outcomes.)

Visitation Agreements

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 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.

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