Addressing the Best Interests of the Child in the Mediation Process
When devising solutions to parenting issues like custody and visitation, courts are guided by a variety of considerations, all under the heading of “best interests of the child.”
In this excellent blog posting, Sandy Balick writes that the courts approach the best-interests analysis seriously and struggle to do the right thing in a given situation. Yet, in reality, the child is a stranger to the court. A child’s personality must be conveyed through parental testimony and/or through the child’s own attorney. Divorcing spouses may have a limited ability to shape the ultimate parenting plan if the dispute resolution is left to the court’s efforts.
Disagreements over parenting arrangements are routine subjects for mediation, and except in the most entrenched cases, parents discover that their differences may be worked out in a variety of ways. The willingness of the parties to listen to one another and to engage in a way that is open to practical considerations allows these seemingly intractable issues get worked out. It is facilitated by the mediator’s skill in, among other things, breaking down the issues into component parts that are much easier to discuss and resolve.