How to Prepare for Your Child Custody Mediation

When emotions are involved, a mediator can serve as a neutral party to tackle serious issues in a divorce. Child custody is often the most serious issue, especially in regard to how time is split between the parents and children. The first tip in regard to preparing for your child custody mediation is to know exactly what you want. In the mediation itself, you may become overwhelmed with emotion or nervous, and that’s why it’s imperative to have a plan written down before going in. The plan should include what you expect for custody, visitation, and your core concerns as a parent with regard to custody. Be sure to research with your court system to see if you can bring in extraneous documents, because in some legal systems, it’s not allowed. If this is the case, have your list of concerns and priorities at the forefront of your mind by going over what is important to you before the mediation.

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just incredibly emotional about the mediation, and especially child custody, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Not everyone can afford a therapist or counselor to guide them through this process, but if you can, think about it. Also, call your insurance company to see if it covers mental health and start researching for a therapist. Some counselors and therapists have years of experience in helping people prepare for divorce proceedings, custody hearings, and mediation; therefore, it is recommended to choose one who has this knowledge. Going into mediation with feelings sorted out, a clear head, and in a calm state will make a significant difference in how the mediation process is handled.

If there is any possibility you can discuss custody with your spouse before the mediation, then do it. However, you have to make sure your emotions are under control, as well as hers/his. If your spouse is someone you can really talk to—despite the ongoing divorce process—it may help you in the mediation. This way, both you and your spouse know exactly what is important to both of you. For example, your spouse’s top concern may be securing one weeknight every week to maintain close contact with her/his children, as well as having custody every other weekend. And perhaps you didn’t know this was her/his top concern and you are willing to accommodate this request. If you can speak calmly and reasonably to your spouse, it can help with a smoother mediation.

Lastly, your voice should be heard. Whether you write down your top concerns and priorities or have them in your head, you should have a voice in mediation. Do not allow your spouse to control or dominate the proceedings—the mediator shouldn’t allow this either. Instead, have a strong, logical
voice in which you verbally tell your spouse and mediator clearly what you want and what you expect.

At Fields and Dennis, attorney Jonathan E. Fields has almost 25 years of experience in divorce mediation. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America ® 2015 edition in the field of Family Law. He is also an Executive Board Member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and a Panel Member of the Children and Family Law Trial Committee for Public Counsel Services. Please contact him today if you are looking for a trusted and experienced Boston divorce mediation lawyer.

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