Generally, it is better when divorcing spouses can settle their issues between them rather than leaving decisions in the hands of the court. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to come to an agreement, particularly when the issue being decided is custody of your children. Child custody mediation provides a means to resolve this critical issue outside of the courtroom.
The spouses hire a mediator — a neutral third party — whose job is to help them discuss the custody of their children and to try to hammer out an agreement. As child custody is often the most highly contested, emotionally charged issue in a divorce, the presence of a neutral mediator can help keep the discussion moving along more smoothly toward the goal of reaching an agreement. A mediator has no authority to decide the issue. He or she is simply there to facilitate an agreement.
In many cases, child custody mediators are also practicing family law attorneys with special training in the processes in mediation. If you and your spouse can agree on child custody, your mediator can help you draft an agreement. Once the agreement is signed and other major issues are resolved, your divorce can move forward.
Preparing for Child Custody Mediation
If you have arranged for child custody mediation, it is a good idea to arrive prepared. Speak with a family law attorney ahead of time to get a grasp of your rights and responsibilities in this area. Put a detailed daily schedule for you and your child in writing.
Prepare a child custody and visitation proposal to discuss with your spouse. Be sure to include birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions in your proposal, along with drop off, pick up, and exchange location details.
Child Custody Mediation Process
Mediation is a voluntary process that can be effective if both parties are willing to communicate. There are four basic steps in the mediation process:
- Initial meeting with the mediator: Come to the meeting ready to listen, work with your spouse, and compromise if necessary. The mediator will explain the ground rules, including the confidential nature of what occurs in mediation.
- Identifying and organizing the issues: The mediator will help you identify the child custody issues and list them in order of priority.
- Discussing solutions: Each spouse needs to communicate openly about what he or she thinks is fair and also be willing to listen to the other spouse’s viewpoint. The guiding principle in the discussion should be the best interests of the child.
- Preparing and signing a custody agreement: When you and your spouse have reached an agreement, the mediator will help you put it in writing in a legally binding agreement. Before you sign it, be certain that it accurately reflects the agreement you reached with your spouse, as you understand it.
Our Virginia mediation lawyers at Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC are experienced family law attorneys, trained in facilitating communication. We can help you resolve the issue of child custody and reach an agreement with your spouse out of court. Contact us to learn more about our child custody mediation services.