Would you ask a stranger you only knew for a few minutes to decide who should have custody of your children or how often you should see them or what holidays you should have with them? If you are involved in a custody dispute, and your answer to this is “no” (and it should be) then you will want to attend family court mediation.
Mediation has become more and more popular as a way to resolve divorce cases. When your divorce case involves child custody, mediation is mandatory. Absent a compelling reason, most family court judges will order the parties in a custody dispute to attend mediation so the parties can resolve their differences rather than leaving it to a judge.
You may be asking “if I’m in court, why cant the judge just make a decision about child custody?” Remember our first question – do you really want a stranger, the judge, making decisions about your kids? You know your children. You know what is in their best interests. You know what visitation schedule will work and what holidays are important. If you leave these decisions to a judge, you are asking a stranger to tell you and your spouse how to raise your kids.
Judges order mediation because they assume, as the parents, you and your spouse are capable of reaching agreements on custody, visitation, holiday schedules, vacation, communication, transportation and other custody issues without the court intervening. It is only when you and your spouse have tried to resolve these issues and can’t that the judge will get involved.
We have put together this article on family mediation to offer some basic guidelines about the mediation process in child custody cases.
Everything that occurs during mediation is fully confidential. The mediator will not tell the judge that your spouse was unreasonable or that you wanted every other week but your spouse only wanted you to have visitation on Tuesdays. Because of this confidentiality, the mediator may not be brought into court. Also, you cannot use any proposals made in mediation as evidence against your spouse in Court. The fact that mediation is confidential should allow you and your spouse the opportunity to discuss openly and honestly a custodial arrangement that will work for your children without the fear it will be used against you in Court.
The mediator does not represent either party and will not take sides on any particular issue. The mediator is there to make sure the process is fair and that both parties are heard. A good mediator will be able to take the information you provide and offer suggestions or alternatives in an effort to get an agreement that works for everyone. Both parties should feel comfortable with any agreement reached.
Honesty and Truthfulness
Mediation only works if both parties are honest and truthful about the case. If you are only asking for primary custody because you want the other side to pay child support, mediation will not work for you. It is unlikely the other side will agree and chances are you are not being honest about the other parties’ parenting and relationship with your children. If a mediator believes that you are not being honest, the mediator may decide to terminate the mediation.
Typically the mediator will try to ensure that both parents have frequent and continuing regular contact with their children. The mediator will also want to maintain a positive environment for the children in which both parents are flexible and foster a relationship with the other parent. It is important that both parents are respectful of the other and that they never make negative remarks about the other parent.
Commitment to Success
In order for mediation to succeed, spouses must be committed to working towards an out-of-court resolution. The parties must cooperate and focus on reaching resolution rather than personally attacking each other. The parties must be respectful, listen to each other, and not interrupt one another.
For more information about family court mediation or to discuss your case in more detail, call our office at (702)433-2889 or fill out our on-line form for more information.