Divorcing or separated parents often disagree about parenting styles. The issues that resulted in the break-up of the relationship frequently overflow into the long-term cooperation required for shared parenting.
Common or not, child custody disputes are stressful, emotional and expensive for parents, and they can be traumatic for children. Is there an amicable path to resolution of a disagreement about child custody or visitation? For many people, the answer is yes – and more and more parents are taking advantage of family law mediation to help them walk that path.
Mediation can be a better process for many
Family law mediation can be used in child custody disputes involving either divorce or paternity to help parents meet a shared goal of continually seeking the best interests of their children. The secret is not better lawyers or more insightful parents, say advocates. The secret is using a better process.
Nevertheless, most parents desperately want to avoid a stressful, expensive child custody battle. Most simply want to get through the existing difficulties in their relationships, learn how to work in a shared parenting arrangement, and promote the best interests of the children.
Changing the dynamics of a child custody dispute
In Georgia, mediation is mandatory in child custody cases. But how does it work?
Mediation is a type of negotiation moderated by a neutral third party. The parents can be represented by lawyers, but instead of a judge there is a mediator who will not rule on any issues. The mediator’s job is to help the parties negotiate their own resolution on their own terms. Importantly, if the parents cannot resolve their dispute through mediation, the discussions during the mediation cannot later be used against anyone in court.
The first step is for mom and dad to sit down and discuss what they see as their roles as parents, their goals, and their concerns. It doesn’t matter if those concerns would be admissible in court; the rules of evidence are relaxed. Experts such as child therapists and child custody experts can be brought in to help.
If the parents start veering off into nasty accusations or blame, the mediator’s job is to help them refocus on their real goal: the best interest of the children.
Mediation can help parents avoid bitter child custody battles
No one wants to go through a nasty child custody battle. Parents don’t want to put their kids in the middle of their problems. Sometimes, such as when there has been domestic abuse, litigation is necessary for the protection of everyone involved. Mediation can, however, help many people get past their anger and develop a child custody and visitation plan that works for them.