If you are about to undergo divorce or separation proceedings, and you have children, then you may want to consider attending a series of expertly guided mediator sessions before the court process even begins.
Why would you want to do that?
Well quite simply, the more differences you can resolve between yourself and your partner prior going to court, the less time the court needs spend sorting them out for you. Obviously, divorce proceedings will include child custody decisions and, as time spent in court is more costly than time spent in mediation sessions, it makes sound financial sense to seriously consider this option.
So, what happens in mediation for child custody? – Part one – The first step:
If you agree to begin the process, you will be assigned to a highly trained and neutral mediator whose goal is to assess any issues you both have related to your children’s custody and welfare.
You should remember that:
- The mediator will always put your child’s welfare above all else.
- The mediator is completely neutral during the process and is not there to reconcile your marriage.
- If your children are old enough, you will likely be asked to consider that they are involved in the meetings. This could be a wise move as you will be discussing their welfare and you may want to hear their opinions too.
- The main aim of your meetings is to produce a mutually agreeable parenting plan which allows for both of you to spend time with your children, but that is also most importantly, in the best interests of those children.
- The mediator will also attempt to counsel you in anger management and help you to overcome any feelings of resentment you may have to each other or the children.
- Either of you is free to cancel the process at any time.
Once you begin, you will need to attend a series of sessions, each one usually lasting between one and two hours.
First meetings can be on an individual basis if you both prefer. During that initial meeting you can then both decide whether you want the following sessions to be face to face, where all three of you get together, or whether you continue to meet separately to one another. of course, the whole process will be faster and more straightforward if you both attend the sessions together.
What happens in mediation for child custody? – Part two – What to expect:
To begin with you both need to be prepared to sign a statement fully detailing both of your financial situations. This is necessary for the process to be successful.
Anything discussed during your meetings is purely confidential except for the following:
- Your financial information
- Any information that is revealed regarding possible harm to either partner or to any children.
You need to be aware that aggressive behavior such as shouting, swearing, and repeated interruptions will not be tolerated. If necessary, you will both be assigned to separate rooms and the mediator will conduct the sessions by going from room to room, speaking to each partner individually. What happens in mediation for child custody is that you should both try to keep a “what’s best for the kids” attitude and remember that they are the reason you are both there.
The mediator is there to help you both work out the most practical and cost effective solution for you whilst maintaining your children’s best interests as a priority. This does cover your future financial positions, including any mortgage requirements you both may have. After all, your children will need somewhere to live.
What happens in mediation for child custody? – Part three – The outcome:
You should know that mediation is not successful for everyone but if it works for you then you will save yourselves a fair amount of money in court costs. More importantly perhaps is that you will both be assured that your children have come through the process with the best deal possible for them.
At the end of the process, you will receive an agreement known as a “Memorandum of Understanding” or “Statement of Outcome.”
You should take this to your solicitors and have it reviewed before you both sign it. Your solicitors should then also both sign the document to make the whole thing legally binding. If you have failed to both come to an agreement on all issues raised during your meetings, the mediator will highlight any outstanding points and the courts will make the final decisions for you.