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How Does Mediation Work In Child Custody?


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Learn the fundamentals of this conflict resolution tool for divorcing couples and get guidance on addressing your own child custody mediation meetings.

Divorce is naturally difficult and can be even more difficult when there are children involved. Squabbling about child custody matters in court can increase the pain for everyone involved—let alone the cost.

Luckily, opposing couples are able to get assistance working towards a solution for their family in a place other than the courts. This type mediation is there strictly so parents that can’t seem to come to an agreement won’t have to take on the monetary costs and emotional damage of court battles.

Explanation of Child Custody Mediation

Mediation is a technique of alternative-dispute-resolution that has turned into a mainstay in the universe of divorce. Regarding child custody, mediation is intended to enable divorcing or un-married parents to come to an agreement on legal and/or physical custody of their children devoid of the anguish and cost of a conventional court contest.

In mediation meetings, spouses meet with a knowledgeable mediator, typically in an informal environment (like the mediator’s office), or occasionally online. Imagine the mediator as like an advisor, navigating the couple through the labyrinth of marital matters that they disagreements on. (Occasionally the spouses work alongside a mediator and apart from that, deal with the case on their own; other times they each have attorneys that assists them through the mediation process.)

Different from a judge, the mediator won’t make decisions on the contested issues. Instead, mediators utilize their knowledge and skill to try and facilitate compromises that each of the spouses may live with. In divorce cases, a successful mediation is normally going to lead to the planning of a written settlement agreement.

Although a lot of matters in divorces might be quarrelsome, child custody and parenting time are usually the tensest and challenging time for families to come to an agreement.

Child Custody Summary

Child custody isn’t the inflexible proposal it’s often considered to be—one parent gets the children, the other one doesn’t, that’s it. It’s been well accepted children fare better when each of their parents are an essential part of their lives, and that is the objective the courts aim for in custody cases.

At its center, child custody includes 2 primary concepts: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is in relation to who is going to make the decisions in regard to the important issues in a child’s life, like schooling, spiritual upbringing, and non-emergency medical treatments. Except for a parent being unfit for some reason, courts have a preference to have parents share legal custody.

Physical custody is in reference to where a child is going to primarily live. To a larger degree, establishing physical custody is subject to where each of the parent’s lives. The goal being to offer an arrangement that best suits the needs of the child.

In all custody cases, doing what’s in the best interest of the child(ren) is the court’s benchmark.

Child Custody Mediation Fundamentals

Even though a lot of issues in divorces can be combative, child custody and parenting time are usually the tensest and challenging time for families to come to an agreement upon. Child custody mediation is designed to assist in toning down the animosity, in the interest of each of the parents and their children.

Court-Ordered Mediation vs. Private

Mediation for child custody may be private, where parents willingly participate, or court-ordered, depending on state laws. Court-ordered mediation is usually free, while private mediation offers more control and is often more successful despite the initial cost. Although private mediation involves expenses upfront, it can ultimately save parents money by avoiding prolonged legal battles.

Child custody mediation is generally more cost-effective than going to court, as you pay for a mediator rather than attorneys’ hourly rates. Private mediation allows you to schedule sessions at your convenience, a luxury rarely found in the court system. State divorce laws often mandate custody mediation when parents can’t agree on a parenting plan, even if they hadn’t sought mediation before filing for divorce. Understanding how to navigate mediation is crucial in such situations.

Locating a Qualified Mediator

Mediation has turned into such a popular method of settling legal matter that there’s no lack of competent mediators. Your state court’s administration office should have a list of qualified mediators. There are also mediation associations that is going to provide lists of mediators alongside their training and experience.

When searching, make sure to pay specific attention to each of the mediator’s qualifications. You’ll want one that has taken mediation courses particularly geared for divorce cases, including custody and/or parenting time. Additionally, be mindful that a child custody mediator isn’t required to be a lawyer. A lot of skilled child custody mediators are licensed therapists, MFTs, or caseworkers that have experience in child custody matters in their state.

Obviously, first-hand knowledge and “through the grapevine” referrals are always useful. Referrals from friends or family members that have been through custody mediation are usually the best recommendations you can find.


  1. Joseph Pandolfi, R. J. (2021, May 26). Child custody mediation: How it works and tips for success.

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