Child custody mediation during divorce proceedings is an attempt at coming to a resolution of differences regarding the custody and time sharing of your child/children together, with both parents working out an agreement that is acceptable to both. Left unresolved at this stage your only option will be a court based child custody evaluation, which will bring in a number of external factors that could go against you and may not be in your control.
Given the importance of this mediation process, if you’re hoping to come to a favorable agreement during child custody mediation, there are some areas to watch out for. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make during child custody mediation.
Not having your facts straight
During early interactions with the mediator, you will need to share information about your case. This might include an in-depth discussion on things like your relationship, how it began, when the troubles began, how many separations there have been, dates of the most recent separation and family history as well. If you are unclear or unsure on dates and details, you will come across as disinterested and disconnected from your family and the situation, a red flag for most mediators.
Not being completely honest
As part of the process, the child custody mediator will ask you some tough questions. It may not be easy having to own up to cases of drug or alcohol addiction, physical or mental abuse. If domestic abuse has reared its head, you will most definitely be asked about it. As the offending party, listening to all this can be difficult at the very least and it can be tempting to gloss over or try to justify your actions. Whatever your line of defense, always be honest. Clarify but do not justify. Accept and show repentance in your words and actions.
Pinning the blame on your partner
A marriage is a two way street and trying to paint your spouse as the wrong-doer and showing yourself up as the wronged party may not go down well. Accept your fair share of the blame and be mature about the situation. While being dismissive of the past is not good, nor is dwelling on it too much.
Being too rigid about your stance
It is important to know what you want out of the child custody mediation process, but at the same time, it is crucial that you come across as flexible. When you are open to listening to the other side and their needs, it will help you understand the overall situation better and will enable a joint decision that works out better for the kids too. Know that there will always be some things you or your spouse may not know that the other does. This mediation is an opportunity for you to learn and understand so you can build a stronger relationship with your children as they grow up.
Not picking what battles to fight
If you have a certain outcome you want from the process, the worst thing you could do is stand steadfastly by it even when things that don’t matter as much come up for negotiation. Be prepared to give in on some counts so that you can get what you want in other areas.
Stay positive and always remember that ultimately this is about your children, and both you and your estranged spouse want the same thing for them – the best life possible given the circumstances they are faced with.
Gerald A. Maggio is a trained Orange County divorce mediator who has amicably resolved cases many cases out of court, as well as an experienced divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Maggio founded California Divorce Mediators in 2012 with the belief that although “not every marriage can be saved, every family can” and a mission to save families from the financial and emotional distress associated with traditional divorce litigation. California Divorce Mediators is located in Irvine, California, and serves the Orange County area and other counties in California offering divorce mediation, child custody mediation and mediation of other family law matters.