How to mediate custody and visitation disputes

Formal mediation of child custody and visitation is popular, and in some state jurisdictions, mandatory. First, let’s discuss exactly what mediation involves.

What is mediation?

A trained mediator has a background in counseling, psychology, social work, family law or all three. This person doesn’t take the side of either spouse. He or she is there to help a couple define disputes, often because they are so blinded by bitterness or overwhelming emotions that they cannot think clearly. The mediator will help the two arrive at conclusions that they can then take to each of their lawyers to become a court order via separation agreement.

Mediation takes place in an emotionally safe place. Most quarreling spouses calm down a little in the presence of a third party, at a meeting held in a neutral location. Often, mediation involves attending educational seminars or parental counseling. Each parent pays toward the cost of these divorce mediation sessions.

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The process of mediation is to facilitate cooperation and reduce antagonism. If you’ve already received unsettling letters from your estranged spouse or their attorney, you know exactly how this can feel. And where does this get the two of you, and your children? Usually, nowhere. Going to mediation allows parents to make their own decisions regarding their own children. Whilst the courts aim to act in the best interest of the kids, let’s be honest: No one has more understanding of the needs of the children than their parents. Furthermore, mediation is much less expensive than dueling it out through divorce lawyers courts. However, while these are all good reasons to move forward with mediation, there are a few reasons to opt out of it.

Times when mediation may not be useful

Where there has been abuse, passive-aggressive behavior, manipulation or child abuse, or eve an addiction that could impair judgment, mediation may not be of any use. If you’re the victim of domestic abuse, you can often choose a waiver so as not to have to meet with an abusive spouse. Sadly, some courts do not recognize psychological abuse and manipulation and you should speak to a counselor or advisor regarding your options.


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