Mistakes to Avoid in Custody Mediation

Divorce is messy, custody mediation is equally emotional. Here are mistakes to avoid.

April 5, 2021

Reaching a child custody agreement can be one of the most combative elements of divorce proceedings. Any Orange County child custody attorney can bear witness to this fact.

Both parents are fighting for their rights–where the children will live and who will be responsible for the decisions that affect their lives forever.

What Is Custody Mediation?

During custody mediation, parents and a neutral third-party facilitator come together to develop a parenting plan and reach the custodial decisions regarding the children.

The facilitator, or mediator, does not help with the decision-making process but creates a safe, nonconfrontational space for communication to occur between the spouses.

While a mediator may point out options that the parents have not considered or address issues as they relate to the law, the parents are the ones that reach an agreement together.

Should an agreement not be reached, the custody decisions will be placed into the hands of the court system and a judge will make the determinations.

What Are the Custody Agreements That Need to Be Addressed in Mediation?

There are several types of custody agreements. Physical custody refers to where the child spends their time and who they spend their time with.

If a child lives with one parent most of the time, this parent is referred to as the custodial parent. The other parent is then, in most cases and when abuse is not present, awarded visitation rights.

Legal custody refers to the parent or parents, that are given the authority to make the important decisions about their children’s lives. These decisions include healthcare, education, and overall wellbeing.

Joint custody means that both parents share the responsibilities of caring for their children, whether physical or legal custody or both. Sole custody means that only one parent has one or both of these custodial rights.

In mediation, spouses will need to come up with a parenting plan which includes when the children live with each parent, and who they will spend holidays, vacations, and school breaks with.

Additional considerations cover how parents can communicate with their children when they are away, and how to address proposed changes in the schedule.

The more detailed the parenting plan—the less confusion and conflict will occur post-divorce. A certified mediator and child support lawyer Orange County can provide the safe space needed to help parents make these vital decisions.  

What Are the Common Mistakes Parents Make in Custody Mediation?

1. Confront Instead of Cooperate

By its nature, mediation is a cooperative process that involves compromise and civil discussions. If one of the parents enters into the sessions with the intent to minimize the other parent or get their way, mediation will be challenging at best and futile at worse.

While litigation is adversarial by nature, mediation is collaborative and offers parents the opportunity to come to agreeable terms that are in their best interests and more importantly, the children’s best interests.

Walk into the session with an open mind and be prepared to listen. Should the other parent become unreasonable, a skilled mediator who is also an Orange County child custody attorney can get them back on track and defuse escalating tension.

Don’t be that parent. Be the one that doesn’t let their emotions get the better of them and maintains a clear and direct approach to the decisions that need to be resolved.

2. Forget What’s Best for the Children

Unfortunately, a child support lawyer Orange County often sees parents that have forgotten what truly matters. Feuding parents have let their fears, anger, and sense of betrayal cloud their judgment. In these cases, children may be used as a weapon to get back at the offending parent.

Divorce is hard on children and it can have long-term detrimental effects. Research has shown that co-operative parenting can lead to well-adjusted children, while long drawn out battles and litigation can have diverse effects on behavior, academics, self-esteem, and their developing view on marriage and relationships.  

Arrive at the sessions with the intent to do what is best for the children. Keep focused on this one resolution, and the mediation will go much smoother. Before arriving, consider what you believe to be in the children’s best interest and why.

3. Come to the Mediation Unprepared

For parents who are unsure where to start with a parenting plan and what is really in the best interests of the children, a skilled mediator will address the decisions that need to be made.

The Superior Court of California, County of Orange Family Court Services has also developed  helpful Parenting Plan Guidelines. This guide includes suggestions specific to a child’s age and recommendations based on their needs.

Reading the guideline beforehand can help a parent consider what custody schedules have proven beneficial to children over the years. Every family is, of course, different, and what has worked for one certainly does not work for all families.

When parents come organized, informed, confident, and ready to discuss the issues, custody mediation can lead to a structured custody settlement that all agree with.

4. Blame Your Spouse

Unfortunately, almost every Orange County child custody attorney has seen custody battles deteriorate to screaming matches. Blame becomes the name of the game with each spouse trying to outdo the other. In these cases, litigation may be the only answer.

Because litigation is adversarial by nature, with each lawyer fighting for their client and defining the battle lines, collaboration diminishes and any communication dissolves between the two parents.

This process is bad for the parents and terrible for the children. With professional guidance from a skilled mediator, even the most combative parents can find another way.

This solution focuses on what’s best for everyone concerned and is much less stressful, costly, and time-consuming than litigation.

Choose the Right Orange County Child Custody Attorney

We can help you find a better way that benefits both children and parents. As certified mediators and family law attorneys with over 18 years of experience, we’re committed to doing what’s best for the children.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!

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