Divorcing parents, understandably, often disagree about child custody issues. Emotions run high and can affect the decision-making process.
If parents are unable to come to a mutual agreement, the court steps in and makes the decision for them. However, using mediation can help the parents agree without the expense and stress of a court battle.
In mediation, a mediator, who is a neutral third-party, guides discussions between the two parents and helps resolve conflicts as they come up. According to FindLaw, arriving to the mediation sessions prepared makes the most efficient use of time. Before the first session, the parents should think about what they want and list any questions or issues they have.
Parents should also consider which areas they are willing to negotiate and which they feel strongly about. If there are issues, such as academic troubles or past abuse, the parent should bring evidence to the session.
It often helps if each parent prepares a custody schedule example, outlining school schedules as well as holiday and vacation time. These drafts are starting points that the parents can discuss and modify as their conversations develop.
Best interest considerations
If parents are struggling to come up with an agreement, the best thing they can do is consider what is best for the child. The courts use the best interests standard when making custody decisions, and the Child Welfare Information Gateway outlines what these best interests considerations are.
Parents, with the help of the mediator, should consider the current relationship the child has with each parent. They should also consider the health of each parent and the ability of each to provide for the child. The age of the child and his or her physical and mental needs are also considerations.
When parents put the needs and health of the child ahead of their own, it is usually easier to agree on a parenting plan.