There is a no more contentious topic on the face of the Earth than children, particularly as their parents struggle with custody decisions.
In an effort to find some sense of resolution, courts frequently require divorcing or separating parents to attend child custody mediation. Mediation can be useful, particularly if you are able to follow these important tips, says Dr. Philip M. Stahl in Parenting After Divorce
Do not focus solely on your own needs. Sure, your heart may be breaking, but it is ultimately the needs of your child that are most important during this process.
Do not discuss child support or property as you attempt to resolve your parenting plan. Custody is a separate issue and relates only to what is best for your child.
Do not assume that there is a standard plan that the mediator can roll out, a one-size-fits-all. Acknowledge the special needs of your child according to age, temperament, and development.
Do not bad-mouth the other parent. Take a deep breath and acknowledge the other parent’s strengths, bringing up only valid concerns about the other parent’s ability to care for your child. Bad-mouthing does nothing to move things along.
Do not punish the other parent by withholding your child. No matter how he or she treated you in the marriage, be mindful and civil. Acknowledge that your child needs time with both of you. Underscore how important you believe a safe environment is for your child.
Do not go into mediation unprepared. Bring with you a proposal for custody and a time-sharing plan, a calendar identifying school holidays, your work schedule, and your child’s activities.
List your concerns and organize your thoughts. Focus on positive outcomes, not just fears. Imagine a best case scenario for the outcome, and then work backwards from this vision.
Gather your evidence. If you have relevant documents, such as a police report to support fears that your soon-to-be-ex is abusive, bring them with you.
Consult with your attorney. Some courts require an attorney to be present, while others do not. Whether your attorney will attend mediation with you or not, take time to speak with him or her prior to attendance.
Be Zen. As confrontational as your ex may become – and as heated as you may feel – you (and your case) will not be served well if you lose control in front of the mediator.
Take care of yourself before and after the mediation.