Do’s And Don’ts Of Custody Mediation

Custody mediation is a process in which professionals work with parents who are divorcing or who live apart to help them develop a parenting plan. While an attorney is not required for mediation, to protect your rights and gain the most from the process, it is very helpful to work with an attorney who can prepare you for the custody mediation process. With over 300 years of collective experience helping families develop the right parenting plan, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, has seen many examples of what to do and what to avoid when it comes to custody mediation. Each situation will come with its own unique challenges, but here are some general factors to keep in mind.

Do Understand the Role of the Mediator

While a mediator may be an attorney, the role of a mediator is neutral, and they do not represent either parent in custody proceedings. They may explain the law, but they cannot give advice. Traditionally, a mediator works to help two parties resolve disagreements but does not have authority to make a decision in the case the way that a judge does. However, in some counties, mediators have been transformed into “Child Custody Recommending Counselors.” Instead of just working with the parties to the dispute, the Recommending Counselor mediator will issue a report to the judge with a recommendation. So, it is important to understand whether the mediation proceeding you will be participating in will involve traditional mediation or Recommending Counseling. One difference concerns confidentiality. In traditional mediation, everything discussed is kept off the record unless an agreement is reached, and in that case, the terms of the agreement are the only factors disclosed from the session. In a county with Recommending Counseling, anything you say could be included in the report made to the judge. Therefore, you need to take great care to understand how your statements could be interpreted—or misinterpreted. Working with your attorney ahead of time can be a tremendous help.

Do Focus on Your Child’s Needs

As parents, it is only natural to want the chance to be a part of your child’s life to the greatest extent possible. However, custody determinations are supposed to focus on what is in the child’s best interests rather than what parents want. Your rights as a parent are not the focus. Instead, frame all suggestions by describing how they serve the child’s best interests.

Do Avoid Accusations by Using “I” Statements

Although it may seem selfish to make statements that start with “I feel,” doing so is a safe way to avoid accusing the other parent in a way that can easily escalate conflict. For instance, instead of saying to the mediator, “he never has time for the children after work,” it sounds much better to say “I feel that when he gets home from work he is tired and needs to rest and take care of himself rather than caring for others,” or “I have noticed that he is very tired after work and he may appreciate some time to himself.” Or instead of saying, “she drinks too much to care for the kids,” it sounds better to say that “I am concerned that her use of alcohol interferes with her ability to focus on the kids.”

What to Avoid in Mediation

The list of “don’ts” can be a little intimidating, but if you keep the “dos” in mind, avoiding the “don’ts” should be a matter of common sense:
  • Don’t refer to the children as “my kids.” You share parental rights, so try to say “our kids” or “the kids”
  • Don’t interrupt, no matter how difficult it may be. You will come across as looking unreasonable.
  • Don’t talk about your rights as a parent. The focus is on the children.
  • Don’t lean forward, stare, or engage in other behaviors that could be viewed as an attempt to intimidate. This is not that type of negotiation.
  • Don’t mention the percentage of “timeshare” that you want. This makes it seem like you’re more concerned with child support than time with your child.
In addition, it is not a good idea to sign any agreement without consulting your attorney. Once you sign an agreement, it can be very difficult to change your recommendation later if you forgot an important provision.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC Can Help You Make the Most of Mediation

Mediation can offer a terrific opportunity to develop a custom parenting plan that suits the needs of everyone involved. However, you need to be prepared in order to get the best outcome. The Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC can help you understand how to gain your objectives in custody mediation. Schedule a confidential consultation with our team to learn more about the ways we can assist.