One of the most emotional issues in the world of family law has to do with child custody. Parents want what is best for their kids, and it can be incredibly stressful negotiating an agreement that you believe will give your children the best opportunity to continue to grow up healthy and happy.
Through child custody mediation, you and your children’s other parent can work through issues of contention and express concerns in a more laid-back and amicable setting compared to a courtroom. In this process, you and your former partner (along with your respective family law attorneys) meet with a certified mediator. This neutral third party is not there to make decisions, but rather to help couples come to mutually agreeable solutions.
The process usually works like this:
- Initial meeting: You and the other parent as well as your attorneys will meet with your mediator either together or separately, who will explain the process and the “ground rules” for upcoming discussions. You will be required to keep all or most of your discussions confidential, and you may not use anything said during mediation later on if your case ends up going to court.
- Identify the issues: The parties will determine the matters of contention, which will likely include the custody/visitation schedule, how the parents will communicate with each other, how you will manage holidays and vacations and issues like education, religious activities, healthcare and extracurricular activities.
- Discuss resolutions: Once you’ve identified the main issues, it’s time to discuss them and come up with amicable solutions. It’s best to approach this with an open mind and be willing to negotiate on certain details to get what you want in the end.
- Sign the agreement: If you are able to resolve all of your custody-related matters, the mediator will prepare a custody agreement for you and your former partner to sign. Be sure to have your attorney review this document before you sign anything.
Working through child custody issues can be extremely difficult, but mediation offers you the opportunity to avoid litigation, giving you greater control over the process. To learn more about your options, speak with an experienced Jacksonville child custody attorney.
Attorney Andrea Jevic contributed to this post.