Divorce Mediation and Child Custody Tips

Mediation can be a time and cost-saving method of resolving divorce disputes, but it can also be tricky, especially when children are involved. If you and your partner have children and are considering divorce mediation, here are ten tips for making your child custody mediation be as successful as possible.

1. Bring Your Schedules 

First thing’s first, come to mediation prepared. This means having a handle on not only your schedule, but your child’s as well, including school dates, extracurricular activities, holidays, and any other information that might go into scheduling decisions. Knowing these dates in advance will make your time in mediation more productive, helping you arrive at a conclusion more swiftly and efficiently. 

2. Have a Proposed Time-Share 

As far as schedules are concerned, it’s not just your current calendar that’s important, but your future endeavors as well. That being said, it’s a good idea to come prepared with a proposed custody plan and visitation schedule already organized. It’s highly unlikely your plan will automatically be approved by your spouse, so be prepared to make changes. Even still, having at least a basic outline will give the mediator a good starting place from which to work. 

There are many online tools and apps available to help you with this process, and with the combined aid of these resources—along with your trusty family law attorney—coming up with a plausible solution does not have to be overwhelming as it might sound. 

3. Know Your Alternatives

A good plan always has a good backup. When constructing your timeshare schedule, think carefully about all the elements involved, and prioritize your requests accordingly. Know what you’re willing to give up, and what you’re not. Don’t budge on something if you’re truly not comfortable with it, but also be ready with alternative scenarios, in the event your first option gets shot down. Successful negotiations favor the prepared, and having a thoroughly vetted list of preferred alternates at the ready can go a long way toward helping you be happy with the eventual outcome.  

4. Listen to Your Mediator’s Suggestions

Despite all your careful planning, the fact is, your mediator will have much more experience than you in dealing with these types of situations, and throughout the day, they will likely bring up ideas for you to consider. Ultimately, some of these suggestions might not end up working out for you. However, listening to them with an open mind can not only help broaden your perspective but also help you avoid common pitfalls of other couples who have come before you.  

5. Communicate Firmly, but Respectfully

During mediation, it’s important to be clear about what you want, but try to keep your emotions in check, and to communicate respectfully. Some people find it helpful to view mediation as a business meeting. As most of us already know, in work situations, it doesn’t usually pay to treat people—even the rude ones—with disrespect. The same mentality applies here. Communicate your desires and concerns firmly, but with respect, even if you are being treated poorly. Experienced mediators can usually see through the antics, and know when a request is being made in good faith. 

6. Be Willing to Compromise

All that about being firm aside, it’s important to recognize that the mark of a good compromise is when neither party leaves completely satisfied. In “mediation speak,” that means it’s pretty much guaranteed that you won’t leave with everything you want. And that’s okay. You’re in co-parenting territory now, where sharing is even more critical to success than it was during your marriage. Be honest about your own shortcomings, and enter the proceedings mentally prepared to make realistic compromises.  

7. It’s About Them, Not You

During the divorce process, pride can often cloud good judgment, making it easy for parents to confuse their own desires with what’s best for their child. Try to leave your ego and personal needs at the door as much as possible. Instead, be honest about what your child needs, and focus on making every decision in their best interest—even if it means not getting what you want, personally. In the end, you and your spouse know your child better than anyone, and whatever agreement you can reach as loving parents is far more likely to meet your child’s individual needs than if a stranger has to make those decisions for you.

8. “Ours,” Not “Mine” 

Listen. We know it’s hard not to take cheap shots at your spouse whenever possible, especially when you’re hurting. But it’s important to remember that your child is not just yours. That child belongs to both of you. And chances are, if your spouse is fighting you on custody, then they probably love that child as much as you do. During mediation, try not to be petty. Avoid referring to your child as “mine,” but rather “ours,” and do your best to empathize with your spouse. Doing so can help make it easier to accept decisions that will be mutually beneficial to the whole family, even if they wouldn’t be your first choice.   

9. You Don’t Have to Agree

Sometimes, despite everyone’s best efforts, an agreement can’t be reached through mediation. And you know what? That’s okay. Take the pressure off yourself to agree. If you’re not comfortable with the proposed solution, it’s okay to let the court handle things. Even though a judge might not know your child as well as you, they do have the benefit of looking into the relationships with an unbiased perspective, and sometimes that might be exactly what your situation needs. 

10. Avoid Social Media

Regardless of whether or not you come to an agreement during divorce mediation, resist the urge to talk about what happened on social media at all costs. Actually, this wisdom can be applied to the entire divorce process. Despite how secure you think your profiles are, they’re never ironclad. And the things people post on social media can—and often do—get used against them when courts make custody decisions. Err on the side of caution. Be classy. Take the high road. And avoid spilling these details into the internet void. In the end, you’ll be glad you did. 

Divorce Mediation Attorneys in California

Even if your divorce is amicable, the process of splitting a joint life can be incredibly complicated. Especially when children are involved. If you or a loved one have questions about divorce mediation, and how to prepare for a child custody dispute, our California family law attorneys can help. Call us at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online to schedule your consultation today. Together, we can help your divorce mediation run more smoothly, and ensure the best possible custody arrangement for your child.