How Should I Prepare for a Child Custody Mediation Session?
Most child custody disputes arise during a divorce, but unmarried parents can also use mediation to settle custody issues, and parents who are already divorced can use mediation to adjust aspects of their parenting plan that aren’t working. But whatever circumstances you find yourself in, there are positive steps you can take to prepare yourself for your mediation sessions:
- Reflect on your goals — What is it you want for your children? If you want stability for them, what’s the best way to get that? Is it having them live in the home they know, or having them spend time with the other parent? If you want them to do well in school, what’s the best way to achieve that? Are there aspects of their upbringing you want to control? Are there areas where you fear the other parent’s influence? Do you have goals for your life outside of raising your children? Can you achieve those goals as a sole custodian of your children, or would sharing custody help?
- Objectively assess both parents’ strengths and weaknesses as custodians of your children — There are many different styles of parenting, and no parent is perfect. Try to honestly assess what aspects of parenting each of you is best and least suited for.
- Try to see the other parent as your children do — Unless there are serious problems, children tend to love their parents equally. Knowing what your children see can help you understand what the other parent contributes to their lives.
- Write out the parenting schedule you’re operating under now — You are already operating under some kind of parenting plan. What is it? How is it working? What should be kept intact, and what aspects need to be changed?
- List the ways each parent’s home/custodial care advances the best interests of your children — If you needed to litigate the issue, a court would decide child custody based on your children’s best interests. That should be a major part of your assessment, too.
- Prepare a sample parenting plan — Every party to a negotiation has to have an opening position. The more detailed and practical your plan is, the better basis you have for a constructive discussion.
When parties to mediation have a clear idea of their goals, discussions are more productive and the process moves much more quickly to a successful resolution.
If you are considering mediation for your child custody dispute, Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. can help. Call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.