How to Successfully Navigate Child Custody Mediation During a Divorce
A contested divorce can be a challenge. And when child custody issues exist, an already stressful situation may intensify. When the parties are not in agreement about child custody, you may participate in a custody evaluation during a divorce, also known as custody and parenting time mediation. During the mediation, the parties meet with a court appointed mediator, to try to come to an agreement about custody. Both parties are asked to comment on the lives, schedules and preferred custody of their children, to determine the optimal approach to maintaining the status quo and well-being of the children. It is important to consider how to successfully navigate the mediation.
Attending mediation may present a challenge. Although you want to be yourself, you also understand the need to present yourself favorably. This is expected, and it is also natural for you to be anxious about the meeting. You want the mediator to see that you are a good parent. However, you may be faced with a spouse who is ultimately looking for a different result than you seek. During the meeting, it is important to maintain your composure and not allow emotions to come into play. A mediator may misconstrue heart felt sentiment as aggressive. Further, you want to avoid appearing confrontational.
What You Want to Accomplish During Mediation
You should acknowledge both your strengths and your weaknesses as a parent during mediation. It is important to be honest when providing information about your history and current situation. Focus on questions asked, instead of using an inquiry as an opportunity to state your case. Wait until the correct opportunity to provide information you feel will be useful in assisting the mediator in making recommendations.
Welcome the opportunity to co-parent your children, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge the benefits to your children from maintaining positive relationships with both parents. Although you and your spouse are apart, you can work together to raise happy and healthy children. Further, you can express a willingness to consider various custody and visitation arrangements. And you should clearly explain once, not repetitively, why you prefer a specific arrangement rather than others.
Most importantly, focus on the well-being of your children. They are the heart of the issue, not what’s best for you or your spouse. Importantly, something that may seem like a pressing item today, may change for you in the future and be of little importance to you after the divorce is finalized.
Remember to provide any further requested information or material (e.g. children’s medical information or employment verification) promptly. This will help the mediator to evaluate the matter while the meeting is still fresh in his/her memory.
Behavior to Avoid During Mediation
During the meeting it is important to refrain from making negative comments about your spouse. Try to be evenhanded when navigating disputed issues. You may want to ask the mediator to provide advice about how to interact with your spouse or children regarding child-related issues in the divorce.
Don’t be late for mediation or miss appointments. If both parties are ready and able to discuss all issues at agreed upon times, the process is more effective. Never disregard or disobey custody orders in place while mediation is pending. Most important, do not attempt to manipulate the mediator. Although available material may suggest this route, it is unnecessarily adversarial. If you require the custody evaluation, you and your spouse are already in a highly polarized situation. Your children’s interests are best served by cooperation with the mediator, rather than skewing the facts to influence him/her. Consider that the mediator may assist you and your spouse in better comprehending the needs of your children and the best course of action for your family.
Contact Passaic County NJ Child Custody Attorneys
Consulting with your divorce attorney prior to mediation will help you understand what to expect from your spouse and the mediator. Contact the attorneys of The Montanari Law Group with offices in Little Falls, New Jersey, at 973.233.4396 for a cost-free consultation. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing parents in Passaic and Essex counties who are involved in divorces, including custody issues, and we will be happy to answer all of your questions.