Divorce is an emotionally draining process when you only need to divide assets with your partner. When children are involved, the tension between partners can increase, causing previously cordial partners to become hostile. Most parents in Texas will be required to attend mediation to attempt to reach a custody arrangement before going to court. A divorce mediation lawyer will support you during mediation and help your family create a fair custody arrangement.
Ask a Divorce Mediation Lawyer: How Does Mediation Affect Child Custody?
For partners involved in child custody disputes, mediation offers a chance to craft an agreement regarding their child’s custody without the wait and cost of a traditional court trial. Mediation affects child custody by allowing parents to develop a custody plan that works for their family and not be given a generic agreement by the court.
While some couples can reach a fair custody agreement without mediation or a court trial, many cannot and benefit from mediation services and the opinion of an objective third party. The mediator will be trained in conflict resolution and management and serve as a guide in leading you and your partner through the challenging terrain of establishing a child custody agreement.
Before you begin the mediation process, you’ll want to discuss your situation with a divorce mediation lawyer in Sugar Land, TX. They will explain the process, lay out your options, and advise you on difficult areas that trip up many couples.
Choosing to begin mediation without talking to a lawyer could result in you ending up with a custody arrangement that doesn’t serve your child’s best interests. Some spouses prefer to meet with their mediators without legal representation, while others feel more comfortable having lawyers present during the session.
Even the Playing Field
Having a mediation lawyer present during your mediation session can benefit you in various ways. For example, if your partner is aggressive and steamrolls over you during negotiations, any benefits you could get from the session are eliminated.
You’ll want your lawyer present to keep the conversation on track and intervene if your partner gets out of hand. When one party is running the session, the purpose of mediation is negated. Your lawyer can maintain the session’s effectiveness by advocating for your rights and ensuring you understand the custody arrangement you agree to sign.
If your spouse does not agree to allow legal representation during a shared session, that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the prospective custody arrangement with your lawyer. Don’t agree to anything until you have time for your attorney to review the agreement. If your spouse is pressuring you to sign in the session, you’ll want to request that your agreement is contingent on a consultation with your lawyer.
Preparing for Mediation
When you talk with your lawyer before your mediation session, you’ll need to let them know your concerns about the upcoming meeting. If you know your spouse is planning on trying to paint you as an unfit parent or they have a tendency to dominate interactions to get their way, your lawyer needs to be informed so that they can prepare an effective response. You’ll want a parenting plan and possession schedule ready for the session.
These documents prove you have a reasonable plan for providing the best arrangement for your child. Creating more than one plan is wise; if your spouse objects to one idea, you have alternatives they may prefer. This preparedness also demonstrates how seriously you take your parental responsibilities. If you aren’t sure how to prepare the documentation you need, your divorce mediation lawyer will be able to help you.
The Mediation Process
If you and your partner can agree on a mediator, you will typically be able to select who you work with together. However, the court will assign you one if you can’t reach an agreement. Some mediations have you in one room and your spouse in another. The mediator will meet with you and travel back and forth, explaining your options until both parties approve a plan.
The other method is for your spouse and you to meet in the same room. The mediator will facilitate discussion and help you and your partner work toward a reasonable solution. Remember that mediators cannot choose a parenting plan for you or grant custody to either parent.
If you and your partner agree on a parenting plan, the mediator will inform the court, and the agreement will be considered a draft order. As long as the plan looks reasonable to the judge, it will be signed and put into effect. However, if you cannot agree on a plan, the mediator will let the court know, and your case will proceed to trial.
Child custody mediation can enable you to develop a care plan that provides your child with the opportunity to have both parents actively involved in their life. Working with an experienced lawyer during mediation increases the likelihood of reaching a compromise that benefits your whole family.