So far, you may be relieved that your divorce is not as stressful as you imagined. If you and your spouse managed to reach a fair and equitable division of property, you may think everything will go along smoothly, and you can move forward with your new life with minimal drama. However, when you begin discussing your plans for child custody, the smooth road suddenly becomes very bumpy.
It is understandable that making decisions about custody and visitation issues can stir up strong emotions and defensive tendencies. Nevertheless, you may not want to drag the matter through a contentious court battle. Fortunately, another option exists.
How does mediation work?
Mediation is a way to address issues that you and your spouse cannot resolve on your own. Perhaps every time the topic of custody comes up between you, the discussion devolves into an argument. Perhaps you are unhappy with the way you and your spouse quickly turn the conversation personal and never get past the barriers between you. Mediation may be able to help. In fact, many couples find that going through mediation improves their post-divorce communication skills.
If you choose mediation, you should keep in mind the following:
- You and your spouse will come to a neutral place and meet with a trained mediator.
- You should expect the session to last about three hours.
- The mediator will explain the process and set you at ease.
- You and your spouse will each have time to speak and describe your goals for the session.
- It is good to prepare by having a list of issues you feel are important to discuss.
- You and your spouse will work through the issues with the mediator keeping the conversation civil and focused.
- If you and your spouse reach any agreements during the session, the mediator will help you compose them into a formal agreement.
Unless a judge orders you to go through mediation, your spouse does not have to agree to this process, in which case, you will probably have to prepare for litigation. However, your spouse's refusal to find a more cooperative way to resolve the custody questions may not present a positive image to the court. On the other hand, it may look favorable for you if the court sees your willingness to mediate before taking the matter to trial.
If you and your spouse do decide to try mediation to settle your custody matters, you will want to find a mediator who knows California family law and is experienced and credentialed in mediation. An initial consultation will allow you to see if the mediator is a comfortable fit and offer an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the process.