A paternity action is one that involves the support and custody arrangement relative to a child born out of wedlock. Often with paternity actions, both parties acknowledge that they are together the biological parents of a child, but need assistance working out an arrangement relative to the support of that child, financially and otherwise. Paternity mediation is the process by which these parents come together, with the assistance of a mediator to first formerly acknowledge the paternity of the father and to then work out a plan for a myriad of the child’s needs. Participants in paternity mediation may address one or all of the following:
- Custody of the child at issue; where will he live and with whom? When will he visit the other parent?
- Child support; who will pay what toward the care, support and maintenance of the child?
- Health Insurance; who will provide health insurance? Will the other party contribute toward that cost or the cost of uninsured medical expenses?
- Life Insurance; does it make sense for one or both of the parents to obtain life insurance on his or her life for the benefit of that child?
- College Education; should there be a plan in place for the future college expenses of the child or should that be left for a later date?
In paternity mediation, the agenda is very specific to the people involved and the issues pertinent to them and their child. During mediation sessions, a mediator guides the involved parties through some or all of those above listed issues. Unlike an attorney who advocates for one person, a paternity mediator stands in the middle and never takes sides, focusing instead on bringing all matters to a mutually agreeable understanding. Although the mediator cannot represent either party, she can draft an Agreement that will ultimately become the crux of the paternity judgment.
Who Can Participate in Paternity Mediation?
Any two people who have never been married to one another but who share a child. All that is required for participation in paternity mediation is a mutual willingness to work collaboratively with the intention of resolving a paternity action in the most private, dignified, and cost efficient way. In the event that, despite best efforts, individuals are not able to reach a full agreement via paternity mediation, the work in progress can still be invaluable, providing a basis from which the parties’ individual counsel can work.
What are the Benefits of Paternity Mediation?
With paternity mediation, the financial and emotional costs typically associated with litigated paternity actions are substantially reduced!
With standard litigated actions, both parties typically retain individual counsel for what is often a belabored, arduous, and expensive process. Mediation, on the other hand, is voluntary processes by which two people meet in a more relaxed environment, with an impartial third party, at days and times that are convenient to them rather than according to the Court’s dictates and limitations. The pace is set by the participants who are spared the frustration associated with court delays or imposed deadlines. Perhaps most importantly, paternity mediation occurs in the privacy of a mediator’s office, opposed to having issues disposed of in open court for all to see and hear.
In paternity mediation, parties retain control over their own lives and the life of their child and actively participate in creating an agreement that is specific to only them, versus relinquishing control to a stranger and allowing a Judge to make the most personal decisions on their behalf. In mediation, unlike in court, there are no surprises.