Mediation is becoming an increasingly favored way for parents in Virginia custody disputes to create a workable custody arrangement which will then be approved and enforced by a Virginia court. Why? Many reasons, not the least of which are that mediation can save time and money. But the essence of mediation is that it allows the parents to collaboratively work out a custody arrangement without having to argue matters in a court and have a custody order imposed by a judge.
Whether you and the other parent have decided to pursue custody mediation on your own, or a Virginia court has recommended that you enter mediation, there are several issues you will want to keep in mind as your prepare for your custody mediation.
Understand What Mediation and What It Isn’t
The mediator who conducts your mediation will be a trained professional whose job will be to help facilitate conversation and collaboration between you and the other parent regarding your custody issues. The mediator will have an understanding of Virginia custody law, but their job will not to act as a judge in deciding “who’s right” and “who’s wrong,” and their job is certainly not to decide what your custody arrangement will be, although the mediator can offer suggestions.
Thus, in preparing for your custody mediation, you should be less concerned about “winning” and the other party “losing” and instead be more focused on what you can do to reach a workable custody agreement with the other parent.
Determine What You Need to Accomplish in Your Custody Mediation
Likewise, even if you feel hurt, angry, and even vindictive towards the other parent, understand that the purpose of the mediation is not necessarily to air your grievances (as justified as they may be) but rather to accomplish certain goals central to your future custody arrangement.
First off, you’ll want to decide: 1) what issues are you and the other parent on agreement on; and 2) what issues pertinent to the custody arrangement do you still need to figure out in mediation? Such issues could include, among others:
- Whether there will be sole or shared custody
- What the custody schedule will look like week-to-week
- What terms of custody might apply (e.g. who else can reside in the home during custody)
- Whether there will be visitation and on what terms
- Who will make important decisions regarding medical needs, education, religion, etc. on behalf of the child
- Where the child will spend holidays
- Whether the child can travel out-of-state with either parent
Lay Out Your Goals and What You Are Willing to Concede
In thinking about the issues you will want to determine in your mediation, you will want to figure out ahead of time what your goals are on all of the issues, and what issues you are willing to make concessions on, as well as what those concessions might be.
You do not necessarily have to figure this out entirely beforehand, and much of the mediator’s work will be in helping you work through these questions, but it is better to have some sense of your goals and priorities ahead of time rather than be thinking them through for the first time in the mediation session.
Have Your Support Team in Place
With all of these questions, working with an experienced Virginia family law attorney dedicated to obtaining your best outcomes can be helpful in understanding how you should approach the mediation session, including before, during, and after the mediation.
Your attorney can attend the mediation with you and provide ongoing advice regarding your strategy and goals. In addition, many mediators allow parties to bring friends, family members, clergy members, and other support persons with them to the mediation.
Schedule a Consultation With a Virginia Family Law Attorney Today
At Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC in Fredericksburg, we will guide through all of your questions regarding all aspects of your custody dispute and help you work towards a favorable outcome in your family law matter. To schedule a consultation with one of our Virginia family law attorneys, contact Kurylo Gold & Josey, PLC at 540.642.1766.