The process of going through family court for child custody disputes often creates severe distress for both the parents and the children. The option to resolve their disputes through mediation may work better for some families.
Mediation refers to a legally binding process involving a neutral third party who assists in negotiating differences outside of a courtroom setting. Many individuals going through mediation choose to use an attorney, but the process does not require a lawyer to be present.
Benefits of mediation for custody disputes
While mediation offers benefits for a variety of disputes, the approach may offer especially beneficial advantages to families going through a child custody dispute. These benefits may include:
- Parents may discuss issues in a private setting.
- Mediation offers more flexible schedules.
- Mediation typically costs less than court trials.
- Both parties must agree to outcomes.
- Families typically demonstrate a stronger adherence to the parenting plan developed in mediation than one developed in court.
- Control remains with the parents instead of a judge.
Steps in the mediation process
While mediation offers greater flexibility in custody disputes than trials do, mediation still follows certain steps. These stages of mediation improve the success of the process for both parties.
You should expect the following stages during mediation:
- Opening statements by the mediator
- Opening statements by both parents or their attorneys
- Period of discussion by both parents
- Private individual discussions with the mediator
- Joint negotiation by both parents and the mediator
- Signing of a written agreement by both parents
While mediation may save parents time and money, they must take the terms seriously. After both parties sign the mediation agreement, the agreement becomes legally binding. Failure to follow the mediation terms could result in contempt charges or even civil arrest.