6 Tips Preparing for Child Custody Mediation with Your Attorney

Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues during the divorce process. Even when both parents want to collaborate and develop solutions that will protect children from harm and meet each other’s scheduling needs, issues can erupt that can complicate the process and lead to heated discussions or, even worse, litigation.

If you and your spouse work together to create your own parenting plan without court intervention, you can save money and time, shield your children from a dispiriting court battle and reduce legal fees and the overall cost of divorce. Mediation can help you to achieve these goals.

Below, we’ve compiled six tested tips to prepare for your child custody mediation and remove some stress from the experience.

6 Strategies to Help with Your Child Custody Mediation Concerns

1. Find Out Exactly How the Process Works.

The clearer you understand mediation – especially what’s expected from you and what the timeframe will be, the better you’ll be able to set expectations. For example, will your attorney be with you at mediation? Can you meet alone with the mediator? How many sessions will there be? When and how will you interact with the other parent? What should you do if you get emotional or if the other parent makes an unusual request or offer?

2. Make a List of Questions and Concerns.

Write down all questions you have that are relevant to the negotiation. List the specific issues you expect to resolve and any obstacles you expect that may prevent resolution in your favor. For instance, you may need to travel every month for work out of state. How might that impact custody? Or your ex may have a history of drug use or alcoholism. Although you’re okay with the idea (in theory) of sharing custody in some fashion with him, what kinds of protections can be put in place to shield the children from negative consequences of his addiction? How can you verify such protections? Express these concerns clearly and in depth at this stage in the process.

3. Know What You Want.

Be specific. Write out your ideal parenting plan, including a proposed visitation schedule. Note your children’s school schedules, including their extra-curricular activities. Include how you want to handle school vacations and holidays. Remember that this is a starting place for negotiation, not the final plan. Frame your requests in positive ways. Rather than constraining the other parent just because you’re mad or frustrated by the separation, imagine solutions that would make life better for you, for your children and (yes) for the other parent. Mediation is all about embracing diverse and creative options – “expanding the pie.”

4. Understand the Powers and Limits of Negotiation.

You likely will not get everything you want. Let your attorney know what issues you are firm on and where you are willing to compromise. Consider establishing benchmarks, such as a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Arrangement (BATNA) with your lawyer, for what you need from mediation.

5. Keep Focused on the Children.

Focus on what’s in your children’s true best interest. If you have concerns about any issues of possible or documented domestic abuse, discuss with your attorney. If your children’s grades are suffering, and you think too much back-and-forth between you and the other parent will be detrimental, propose a reasonable solution.

6. Provide Your Attorney with Relevant Documents.

In order to support your claims and suggestions, your attorney needs to see documentation. For example, bring school records including the calendar, police reports, medical statements if applicable and any other relevant paperwork.

Preparing for Child Custody Mediation with an Attorney

Contact a family law attorney from the law firm of Select Law Partners. We would be happy to sit down with you to discuss your case and advise you. You can be confident we will do everything possible to help you get your child custody mediation resolved.

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Matt Kurylo

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