Learn more about the child custody mediation process.
When parents divorce or separate, custody issues are usually the most difficult to resolve. Both parents love their children and want to be a part of their everyday lives, so it's often difficult for them to reach a visitation and custody agreement. For many parents, working with an experienced family law mediator can help.
What Is Mediation?
Many divorcing couples use mediation to help settle their divorce-related issues, such as support, property division, and child custody. In divorce mediation, spouses hire a neutral third party (the mediator) to help them discuss and resolve their disagreements. Most divorce mediators are experienced family law attorneys, who have completed specialized mediation training. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, a mediator doesn't make decisions, but rather helps couples reach their own agreements. For more information, see Divorce Mediation FAQ.
Preparing for Child Custody Mediation
There are several important steps you should take before you start child custody mediation:
- Write out detailed daily schedules for you and your child.
- Gather all relevant records regarding your child, including important medical records, report cards, and any letters from your child's therapist.
When preparing your custody proposal, be sure to consider any special circumstances like holidays and birthdays. Also, remember to plan for exchange locations and transportation details, such as which parent will drop off or pick up the child for scheduled visits.
Steps in the Mediation Process
Although child custody mediation is normally voluntary, in some states, parents must complete a mandatory mediation process before a judge will issue any court orders. In either case, the steps involved in the mediation process are the same:
- meet with the mediator
- identify and categorize the contested issues
- discuss solutions with a give-and-take attitude, and
- reach, draft, and sign a custody agreement
The amount of time you'll spend in mediation depends on several factors, including the number and complexity of the custody issues and the parents' willingness to reach an agreement.