Child custody disputes can be difficult to resolve; they’re deeply personal, the stakes are enormous, and tensions are often already high between parties. For the divorcing couple, at the heart of the matter is the well-being of their child.
Divorce can be a strenuous experience for a young person with long-term psychological ramifications. The added wrinkle of a heated child custody battle can make the process that much more excruciating.
From the parents’ perspective, it’s difficult to find a balance between protecting their interests while safe-guarding the personal and emotional well-being of the child. The dramatic, expensive, and draining experience of settling a child custody dispute in court leaves some parents in search of an alternative.
A less stressful way of resolving disputes
For many divorcing couples, mediation is a more efficient and less stressful way to resolve a child custody dispute and find a parenting plan that works for both parties.
The mediation process is relatively straightforward. The parents agree to meet with a mediator who has experience resolving child custody disputes. The mediator’s job isn’t to come up with a parenting plan – that’s up to the parents – the mediator is only there to facilitate negotiations and help the parties find common terms. Once a parenting plan is agreed to, the mediator reduces the plan to a written contract that is sent to the judge for approval.
Benefits of mediation in child custody disputes
Although it may not be for everyone, mediation has certain benefits that may be appealing.
Firstly, it’s less adversarial. Rather than arguing their case before a court, the parties discuss their positions with a mediator who looks for common ground. The parties can be in the same room during mediation or separate rooms.
Secondly, it’s more flexible. Although it may be mandated by a court, the mediation process is entirely voluntary; in no instance are terms imposed on the parties. They can have as many mediation sessions as they see necessary to find a resolution.
Thirdly, mediation is often more efficient. Not only is a hostile court battle unpleasant, it’s also time consuming. A mediator is trained in dispute resolution and has experience helping even the most confrontational parties come to terms. Many couples find that a less antagonistic environment helps lubricate negotiations. It can also help set the groundwork for a cordial working relationship as the parents continue to coordinate with drop-offs, pickups and all the other logistics of parenting. And, perhaps most importantly, a more collaborative atmosphere between the parents is better for a child than an angry atmosphere.
During any child custody dispute, it’s always important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. They can provide a thorough defense of your positions while ensuring your interests, and those of your child, are protected.