Mediation is a method of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) that has become a mainstay in the world of divorce. When it comes to child custody, mediation is designed to help divorcing or unmarried parents reach an agreement on legal and physical custody of their children without the pain and expense of a traditional court contest.
In a mediation session, spouses meet with a trained mediator, usually in an informal setting (such as the mediator’s office), or sometimes online. Think of the mediator as a guide, navigating the couple through the maze of marital issues they disagree on. (Sometimes the spouses work with a mediator and otherwise handle the case themselves; other times, they each have an attorney who might help them prepare for mediation, provide coaching for the negotiation process, and prepare or review any resulting agreement.)
Paying For Mediation
In most cases, a mediator will charge an hourly rate. This rate will cover the entire session and can be divided between both parents as they see fit. In many cases, courts will order mediation for divorcing couples with children in order to ensure the child’s best interests are being advocated for in a healthy and unbiased manner. If you are interested in learning more about how mediation can help you tackle some of the major difficulties divorcing parents face, such as child support and child custody, reach out to Renken Law Firm in Houston.
5 Tips for Your Child Custody Mediation Sessions
Even if both spouses come with the best intentions, mediation can hit rough patches. When that happens it’s important to take a breath and refocus your energy on what’s best for the children.
Here are some more tips to achieve a successful mediation:
- Don’t bring up marital issues unrelated to the children. Remember that this isn’t a general divorce mediation, so don’t muddy the waters by bringing up anything not specifically related to custody and parenting time. Reciting a laundry list of things you don’t like about the other parent is a prime example of what not to say in child custody mediation.
- Be thoughtful with your language. When you reference your children, talk about “our” kids, not “my” kids. It’s more inclusive and less confrontational. And try to couch your remarks in terms of what you as parents can jointly do to make the situation as positive and painless for your children as possible.
- Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Expect that—despite everyone’s best efforts—there will be times when your discussion can become heated. Don’t use that as an excuse to unload on the other parent, which will only undo progress that’s been made up to that point. Mediators are adept at calming the waters, but if you feel your emotions are getting away from you, ask to take a short break.
- Don’t subject yourself to abuse. If you’re a victim of ongoing domestic violence, emotional abuse, or bullying, mediation might not be appropriate. If there was past abuse in your relationship, you might consider mediation but with separate sessions for you and the other parent. It might end up costing more, but at least it allows you to use mediation while, hopefully, leveling the playing field by offsetting the imbalance of power that frequently exists in abusive relationships. A successful outcome is worth the additional cost, which is still likely to be considerably less than heading to court. Separate sessions, or virtual mediation sessions, are also best if the degree of hostility between you and the other parent is so high that you can’t be in the same room. (Some states have special protections in cases involving abuse when the couples have been ordered to custody mediation.)
- Remember, you always have options. In the event mediation doesn’t work, you can still turn to the courts. Even in that case, your mediation sessions will probably have highlighted the issues you can’t agree on, which will show you what you need to focus on going forward.
Best Mediation Lawyer in Houston
Our team proudly serves the Greater Houston area, including but not limited to Brazos County, Cypress, Fort Bend County, Galveston, Houston Heights, Houston, Humble, Katy, Kingwood, Memorial Houston, Montgomery County, Montrose, Richmond, Rosenberg, Spring, The Woodlands. All marriages are different, making each divorce equally unique with its own set of needs that must be addressed. Contact our law office to explore your options moving forward, and find out how we can help you.