Divorce is a stressful process, but when children are involved it can become even more adversarial. It can be difficult for parents to keep their emotions from interfering in decisions about what is best for their children. That can lead to lengthy and costly litigation over child custody, which can breed further animosity. A better approach is for parents to come to their own solution using mediation which should result in better co-parenting for the children in the future.
Divorce mediation is a voluntary settlement process whereby the parties work with a neutral third-party mediator to negotiate a settlement. The mediator does not take sides, impose his/her judgment on the parties or force them into a settlement. The mediator is an expert in helping the spouses’ have a meaningful and full discussion and assisting them to better understand and communicate their interests, so they can explore options and achieve an agreement that benefits their family. This is especially important where decisions must be made regarding where children will live, when and how often they will see their children, and how to resolve disagreements regarding children’s education, religion, healthcare and other areas. Oftentimes spouses worry that their legal rights will not be considered in the context of mediation and therefore they will not get a “fair deal.” However, a mediator who is a practicing family lawyer can provide them with legal information so that they are well informed. Further, mediation does not prevent the spouses from having their own consulting attorneys who can advise them as to their legal rights.
The many benefits of mediation in child custody cases include:
- Less expensive. In litigation, both parties have attorney’s fees as well as court costs and other litigation-related expenses. With mediation, parties pay for the mediator and avoid or limit many of the other costs.
- Takes less time. Litigation can take years, while mediation often only takes months.
- More flexible process. Parties can share ideas and evaluate possible solutions without being tied to the black letter of the law. They can also decide how long they want sessions to last and when they want mediation to end.
- Improves communication. Mediators are trained to help parties discuss their issues in a respectful way, encouraging the parties to cooperate instead of arguing.
- Control over decisions. When parties litigate, the ultimate decision is in the hands of a judge. Mediation allows parents to decide what works best for their family.
- Facilitates a better relationship for the future. Because the parties reach their own settlement, they tend to be more satisfied with the result. The process also helps them to learn how to cooperate and compromise which can improve how they deal with each other as they move forward.
- More protective of children. Prolonged conflict hurts children emotionally. Mediation provides a faster, more collaborative resolution of child custody issues so parents can turn to helping their children successfully cope with the changes in their lives.
Effective mediation requires choosing a qualified, trained and experienced mediator. To discuss whether mediation is the right solution for your family, contact us for a consultation.