Child custody mediation for a smooth custody sharing transition.
Child custody mediation is an alternative to parents spending many hours and dollars fighting for what they consider their fair share of time with their child, not to mention greatly reducing the stress placed on the child when there is high conflict between divorcing parents. Some parents believe that fighting away from the child keeps the child from experiencing stress. This is probably divorce delusion number one. Children are smart and sensitive and they know when parents are angry at each other and fighting over them.
In child custody mediation an impartial mediator can advise parents as to the age appropriate custody arrangements that are the least harmful to the child and can then help divorcing parents negotiate time sharing until an agreement has been reached. There is more than one child custody plan so the plan parents decide on will be the plan that works best for both of them. Usually this involves some compromise from each parent but no parent feels that they have “lost.” Sometimes this is a difficult and painful process and the mediator needs to assure each parent that both parents are necessary to the healthy development of the child and that neither parent is going to be excluded from the process.
The court has no interest in telling parents how to share their child. However, in high conflict divorces where parents are using lawyers to fight for the most time with their child, the court will remand the parents to mediation where the expectation is that the parents will work out a plan with the help of a mediator. If that process breaks down, the court can assign the entire family to family evaluation, which is a costly evaluation of both parents and the child. The evaluator is a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist who evaluates the entire family and then makes a recommendation to the court. The court will make its decision based on the recommendations of the family evaluator. There are also times when the court doesn’t send the family to evaluation but relies on a report from the child custody mediator to make its decision. Once the court has made a decision, the decision is legally binding. When parents make the decision that decision is entered into the divorce agreement and is also legally binding.
When parents choose a mediator, without going through the court system, they are acknowledging to each other that they care more about the child than fighting with each other, and the likelihood of a positive outcome, within a relatively short time span, increases. Not all therapists are mediators but all therapists can mediate painful family situations and child custody is one of those situations. If the parents are familiar with a therapist they trust that therapist can help guide the parents through the process. If the parents don’t know a therapist they trust and are beginning with mediation, they can look for a therapist who is also a child custody mediator. The benefit of this, besides reducing the amount of fighting and stress between parents, is that the parents can return to the mediator/therapist of their choice whenever one or both of the parents feels like the custody plan needs to be “tweaked” or re-evaluated altogether. Parents can also utilize the therapist as a resource for parenting styles, parenting disputes, family rules, and the ages and stages of childhood development, particularly if the child is having an issue with the custody arrangement.
I worked as an independent contractor with the Solano County Family Court as a child custody mediator so I am a therapist and an experienced mediator.