The custody of any marital children can often be one of the most contentious areas when a couple is going through a divorce. Both parties may want primary physical custody, or one spouse may ask the courts to deny their soon-to-be ex-partner any rights to visitation. The result can be a drawn-out process where a judge makes the final decision instead of the parents. That, in turn, can create a situation where no one, either parent or the children, are happy with the outcome of the divorce proceedings. Divorce mediation is one of the easiest ways to avoid having the terms of custody in your divorce decided by a judge instead of by your family.
What is divorce mediation?
Divorce mediation is the process of meeting with a neutral third party and talking through both party's concerns, wishes, and priorities to find a mutually beneficial compromise that can work for everyone involved. Custody mediation focuses specifically on discussions revolving around the custody of minor children. Ideally, your mediator will have extensive knowledge of California family law and can bring his or her own experiences and insights to the table to help you and your former spouse find a solution that everyone can live with in the long term.
In a best case scenario, both you and your former spouse will attend with your own legal representation, and all parties will work to remain calm and cooperative during the mediation process. It can often take hours, or even several days, for a family experiencing a contentious divorce to find arrangements that satisfy the needs of all involved, but the process is certainly faster and smoother than if arguments are made in family court to be decided by a judge.
Why mediation makes sense for custody issues
Needing to go into a courtroom to testify about where they'd like to live and how their parents treat them can be emotionally and psychologically damaging for some children. That damage can be compounded if the children are also present when their parents are giving testimony about their experience of the marital union. Frankly, children should be shielded as much as possible from the interpersonal rancor that can develop between their parents during a divorce. Mediation ensures that they aren't forced to listen to the worst about their parents and, more importantly, they aren't expected to choose between one or the other.
Mediation can also allow both parents to speak their minds about the marriage and its dissolution without any of their feelings reflecting negatively on them in a court setting. Both parties may speak and, if both are committed to finding a solution, can usually work through the worst of their anger to find a mutually satisfying, if not ideal, custody arrangement. Having found a solution to one of the more complex issues presented in a divorce with minor children before going to court can reduce the amount of time divorcing parents have to spend in family court, saving them hours of productive time and the excessive attorney fees that can come from drawn-out custody battles.
If you are divorcing in California and are having trouble reaching an agreement with your former spouse about the custody of your children, arranging for professional mediation is one of the best ways to ensure a solution that everyone involved can tolerate.