Law Office Of William B Bennett, St. Petersburg, FL, Child Rearing Decisions Divorce

What is Mediation And How Can It Help With Making Child Rearing Decisions For Divorcing Parents?

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps the disputing parents have constructive discussions to resolve their conflicts around child rearing decisions when getting divorced. The role of a certified mediator is to facilitate communication and negotiation between the parties to help them find common ground.

The key benefits of mediation compared to litigation in court include:

  • Less Adversarial: Mediation aims for win-win solutions rather than winners and losers. There is more focus on reconciling differences through compromise.
  • Flexible Process: Mediation allows the parties to shape the process and solutions based on their interests. The outcomes are not limited to court judgments.
  • Improved Relationships: Mediation can help improve communication and preserve relationships between the parties, which is especially important for child custody cases.
  • Lower Costs: Mediation is typically much more affordable than litigation, which can incur high legal fees.
  • Greater Control: Parties have more control over mediation as they directly participate in the negotiations and crafting settlements.
  • Faster Resolution: Mediation can resolve conflicts much faster than court cases, which routinely drag on for months or years.
  • Private Process: Mediation is a confidential process, unlike litigation which is public.

Overall, mediation provides a more constructive and amicable approach to conflict resolution compared to adversarial court battles. The voluntary, flexible, and collaborative nature of mediation makes it well-suited for sorting out sensitive conflicts like disputes over child rearing decisions, which is better than getting Florida Law involved with making these decisions.

When to Use Mediation for Child Custody

Mediation can be used at several points during and after a divorce to help make child rearing decisions:

  • During divorce proceedings – Many couples use mediation to negotiate child custody and visitation arrangements as part of their divorce settlement. Mediation allows them to make these important decisions together, often resulting in arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. Using mediation during the divorce can also help reduce conflict between parents.
  • After a finalized divorce – Mediation is also an option for divorced parents who need to modify existing custody agreements due to changes in circumstances, such as one parent moving. Reopening negotiations on custody can lead to conflict, so mediation provides a constructive framework.
  • For modifying existing agreements – Even if custody is established, parents may need to modify the agreement later on issues like visitation schedules, holidays, school choice, medical care, etc. Mediation allows divorced parents to work through these decisions collaboratively when disputes arise.

Mediation Process for Child Custody

Mediation sessions for child custody typically involve both parents, the mediator, and sometimes the parent’s lawyers. The mediator guides the discussion and facilitates communication between the parents to help them reach an agreement.

The mediation process aims to find solutions that prioritize the children’s best interests. The mediator remains neutral and does not act as a judge or take sides. They focus on moving the discussion forward productively.

During the mediation, each parent has a chance to speak, express their wishes and suggest possible compromises. The mediator makes sure the session stays calm and constructive. They may meet with each parent separately at times to better understand their position.

The role of the lawyers in mediation is more limited than in court. They are present to advise and support their clients. The lawyers can raise issues and help craft proposals, but the mediator controls the process.

Mediation continues over multiple sessions until the parents reach a custody agreement or decide they cannot find common ground. If successful, the lawyers draft a written agreement reflecting the mediated compromise. This becomes a legally enforceable order if signed off by a judge.

With mediation’s flexibility and cooperative approach, parents are often able to find win-win solutions on child-rearing decisions. This creates a foundation for civil co-parenting after the divorce.

Child Rearing Decisions Mediation Can Address

Mediation can help divorcing parents make important child rearing decisions in a few key areas:

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines who has the right to make major decisions about a child’s health, education, and welfare. This can include decisions about medical care, education, religious upbringing, and more. Mediation allows parents to discuss these issues and agree on a joint legal custody arrangement or determine which parent will have sole legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody establishes where the child lives and which parent has physical care of the child most of the time. Mediation gives parents a chance to determine a physical custody schedule that works for everyone, like split custody, alternating weeks, or another arrangement.

Visitation Schedules

Mediation helps create a detailed visitation schedule so both parents can be involved in the child’s life. This covers when each parent will have parenting time with the child, such as weekends, holidays, summers, etc. The schedule can be as flexible or structured as needed.

Holiday Schedules

Holiday schedules are a major consideration for physical custody and visitation. Mediation allows parents to determine an equitable holiday schedule, ensuring fair division of time for holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.

Extracurricular Activities

Mediation enables discussion of extracurricular activities like sports, music, clubs and lessons. Parents can determine how to share costs, transportation and which activities the child will participate in. This eliminates arguments over scheduling and involvement.

Overall, mediation facilitates critical child rearing conversations between parents. It leads to mutually beneficial decisions in the child’s best interests.

Making Mediation Successful

When going through child custody mediation, it is important for parents to focus on what is best for the children. Though divorce and separation are difficult, parents should aim to minimize conflict and make joint decisions with the childrens’ well-being as the priority.

There are several things parents can do to help make mediation successful:

  • Focus on the children – Keep the discussion centered around the children’s needs. Listen to what they want and try to reach solutions with their best interests in mind. Avoid using them as bargaining chips.
  • Compromise where possible – Mediation involves give and take. Be willing to compromise on some things so you can find common ground. Don’t go into it with an inflexible position.
  • Listen respectfully – Let the other parent express their views without interrupting. Listen actively and control knee-jerk reactions. Seek to understand their perspective.
  • Be open to solutions – Go into mediation with an open mind. Don’t pre-decide what the solution should be. Carefully consider all options and proposals. Creative solutions can often satisfy both parents.

When going through a divorce, it is important to have a qualified and competent family law attorney by your side. If you or a loved one is going through a family law disagreement, contact the Law Office of William B. Bennett today at (727) 821-8000 for a complimentary consultation or contact us on our website here.

By focusing on cooperation and the children’s well-being, parents can overcome challenges and make joint decisions through productive mediation. With patience and empathy, you can reach agreements that work for everyone.

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Posted in: Child Custody