Five Tips for Child Custody Mediation
Child custody mediation usually occurs during a divorce, but unmarried parents can choose to resolve their custody issues through mediation, and divorced parents can go back to mediation when substantial changes to their circumstances require them to review and revamp their parenting plan. Whatever the circumstances of your child custody mediation, you can benefit from these five pointers:
- Listen to the mediator — You are not paying the mediator to enforce your wishes; you are paying for guidance based on knowledge and experience. Listen to what the mediator is saying and consider it before responding. Try not to take any suggestions that seem contrary to your wishes personally. Your willingness to listen to the mediator may also encourage the other party to do likewise, so the process can keep moving forward to a successful conclusion.
- Come prepared with options — Flexibility is the key to a successful mediation. A rigid adherence to a single alternative can bring the process to a screeching halt. There are certainly moments when you must stand your ground, but no one wins a war with a strategy to die on every hill.
- Be willing to start at square one — You may have had discussions with the other parent previously, and you may even believe you’ve reached agreement on some points. Then everything changes when you sit down at the conference table. Let it go. If the other parent has had a change of heart on an issue, you have to deal with where they are now, not where they were two weeks ago.
- Don’t fixate on the other parent’s shortcomings — There is no such thing as a perfect parent. If you have serious misgivings about the other parent’s fitness to the point where you believe your child might be disadvantaged or endangered, you belong in court, not at mediation. Be willing to concede the other parent’s strong points, and you create room to discuss their areas of weakness. A balanced discussion is much more likely to result in a reasonable parenting plan that serves your child’s best interests.
- Remember you’re doing this for your children — Mediation keeps your children out of court and protects them from potential emotional trauma. In that respect, you are going through the turmoil so they won’t have to. That’s an act of love. It’s also pragmatic for you to understand that the guiding principle for the court is “the best interests of the child,” which most often requires frequent, meaningful contact with both parents.
Creating your parenting plan through mediation is cost effective, but it can also help promote cooperation between parents, which is so important to implementing the plan once you’ve reached agreement.
If you are considering mediation for a child custody dispute, Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. can help. Call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.