If you are going through a divorce, and you and your partner have children under the age of eighteen, then child custody is most likely one of the issues you are most concerned with. In California, custody mediation is required by most courts before a court order is made. However, this is positive because mediation has many advantages: it is less threatening, parties are usually willing to compromise more frequently, the mediator is an unbiased third-party, it is less expensive and finally it offers a quicker solution than going to court.
Prior to mediation you should take the following actions in order to be fully prepared:
Write out your current daily schedules for you and your child(ren). The daily schedules should be as detailed as possible.
Write out a custody and visitation proposal that you would like to present at the mediation session.
Put together a folder or binder of your child’s records. This would include everything such as medical records, report cards and letters from teachers and/ or therapists. If you have multiple children, make a specific folder or binder for each of them.
Consider getting professional legal advice from an attorney who can advise you on relative legal matters, like rights and responsibilities.
The child custody mediation process can be broken down into five steps. This five step process will take significantly less time depending on the intricacy of custody issues and the parents ability to reach an agreement.
Step 1: Meet With The Mediator - At this initial meeting, the mediator will cover the rules of the process and the confidentiality factors. It is important to listen and show respect to your ex-partner and the mediator.
Step 2: Identify and Organize Issues - After making a list of all issues that need to be covered through mediation, it is necessary to prioritize those issues with the mediator. Ones that need to be solved ASAP should be discussed first. For the following issues, it is recommended to start with the easier ones and work your way to the more difficult and sensitive ones. If you properly set the tone and are able to compromise at the beginning, it will be easier to discuss the more difficult issues later on. Below, are the issues and topics to discuss during mediation:
Custody and visitation schedule
Exceptions to schedule, such as holidays and vacations
How will you communicate with your ex-partner regarding your child? You may choose to only communicate face-to-face during drop-offs, or you can agree to text, email, call and/ or video chat.
Medical and/or healthcare
Future changes to the custody agreement
Step 3: Discuss Solutions to Issues
Each party should provide solutions to the issues at stake. It is essential to honestly discuss what you believe is fair and you must be willing to work in your child’s best interest. At this time, making concessions is necessary.
Step 4: Draft A Custody Agreement
After the issues are presented and solutions are provided, the mediator will prepare the custody agreement. It is advised you have your attorney review this agreement since it is a legally binding contract.
Step 5: Sign The Custody Agreement
If both parties approve the agreement, then now is the appropriate time to sign it.
Coming to a custody agreement through the mediation process will avoid the stressful and heart-wrenching child custody battle in court. In addition, it will save you from extra stress and expenses during this difficult time. Through all of this, it is most important to put your child(ren) first and give them the best childhood as possible.
If you would like more information about the steps in the child custody mediation process, please contact our office today at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 217-3520.
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