To alleviate some of the painful effects of difficult child custody disputes, courts are advising parents of alternative resolutions. This typically happens when a parent fights joint custody. Mediation is one such method where couples meet without a judge to settle their issues with an unbiased third party.
Because this happens outside of the courtroom setting, many people make the critical mistake of not preparing for it. Remember: the results of your mediation process can determine the outcomes of your child custody arrangements. Thus, it is vital to prepare for the discussion that will take place. You must gather evidence and information to support your cause, outline all your issues and set absolute objectives. This helps you achieve the joint custody child support outcomes that you desire.
The first step towards preparation is understanding mediation. In comprehending the mediation process in your jurisdiction, you can best prepare for the process. This process is where both parents meet a third party unbiased mediator who discusses issues related to child custody. This meeting is voluntary and confidential. However, any agreement or statements that stem from these meetings can be eventually used by the mediator to make recommendations. Allegations of neglect and abuse do not remain confidential.
For instance, if you initially agree to joint custody or state that he or she is a good parent, you may have difficulty later winning full custody. The court also gives the mediator power to report on a parent’s conduct and behavior. Lack of participation, physical threats, or predisposition towards violence will be reported. The judge assigned to your case will learn of the issues discussed during your mediation. He will then use these details to evaluate the merits of your case if it reaches their courtroom.
Preparing for the Mediation Process
Never engage in a mediation process blindly because any agreements that you conclude will influence the custody of your child. To be successful, gather pertinent information before you attend the meeting. It is critical to ask questions beforehand, so you will see the full picture. Be comfortable and prepared to share details positive and negative.
For example, if the other parent has had referrals to the children’s protective agency, the last thing you will agree to is that this person is a good parent. Do not make assumptions that the agency which investigated the referral will notify you. Many times these agencies only contact the offending party and the person who reported the neglect or abuse. It is vital to be aware of everything before documenting anything in writing during your mediation process.
Outline Issues and Concerns
Another way to ensure the success of your mediation process is to outline the issues and concerns in advance of the meeting. The general rule is that you arrive at the meeting with more than just the statement of “I want custody.” You have to be able to explain how you can support and nurture the children and why you are the better parent to receive primary custody.
Qualifications may vary, depending on a case to case basis. Some things to consider are the following:
- Is the parent living with an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Does your child have special needs, which the other party cannot meet?
- Is the other parent dependent on drugs or alcohol?
- Where is the neighborhood of a parent and is it safe?
- Does the other party have mental issues?
- Can the other parent’s job to provide for the needs of the child?
These are some considerations to mentally take note of and prepare for before the actual meeting. Not an extensive list, but these are potential issues that you will need to prepare yourself for when preparing for your battle. Outlining these issues and bringing pertinent evidence, such as documents to support your concerns, will give your mediator a chance to guide your discussion process more effectively.
Collaborating with Your Attorney
Knowing what you want and informing your attorney of your demands is one of the most crucial parts of your preparation process. It is critical to collaborate with a trusted attorney because you do not want your representative entering the meeting claiming you want visitation rights when you prefer full custody. It is important to meet with your attorney to discuss things beforehand so you can be on the same page during the mediation process. For instance,being aware of the Child Support policies in Long Island, New York will provide a benchmark of how much alimony to demand from the other parent.
You and your attorney are a team, so you must develop a plan and even a contingency plan in case things become a challenge. Plan for details such as negotiating for more frequent visitation rights that is within your state law. Your lawyer will outline an agreement demanding that the other parent must notify you in case of important events or notices coming from school.
Your attorney can also set up time for phone visitations on the days wherein you don’t have actual visitation. It is important to remember that the courts want and encourage parents to work together so that a child will have meaningful access to the non-custodial parent. All of these details will come into play during your mediation. So, it is crucial to discuss these things with your lawyer.
Custody Recommendations to the Court
If two parties cannot come to an amenable solution regarding child custody arrangements, the mediator will make recommendations to the court regarding the results of the custody discussions. The mediator will give examples and reasons for their conclusions, along with their detailed recommendations that may include an outline of time sharing details, like which parent should have the child on what holidays or important occasions.
The court places a lot of value on a mediator’s recommendations, and usually, they adopt the mediator’s plans without making amendments. As you can see, mediation is critical and can have a huge outcome on your case, so it is essential to come to these mediation meetings prepared.