5 Ways to Prepare for Mediation
In contested custody cases where there are no allegations of physical or sexual abuse, the court will order the parties to attend mediation if both parties are represented, or, if both parties are unrepresented. However, if one party is represented by counsel and the other is not, mediation will not be ordered. The benefits of mediation are great. Parties can work together to craft a parenting agreement that meets the unique needs in their children's lives. A trained professional, the mediator, serves as a neutral facilitator of the communications between the parties. Often times, there is a breakdown in communication between parents. Mediators help each side understand where the other is coming from, without giving personal input on how the matter should be resolved. Rather, the mediator allows the parties to explore creative and varied solutions to their legal matter. Here are five ways one can prepare for mediation:
1) Have a timeline of the matters that led to the dispute at hand. This gives the mediator valuable background information. Be clear and concise and highlight only the major events that lead to the filing of the current proceeding.
2) List your concerns and note the main objectives you want to achieve during mediation. For example, if you want your children to have peaceful transitions between homes, state so. The mediator can help you and the opposing party explore ways to achieve that objective.
3) Review a sample parenting agreement ahead of time to be aware of the common issues addressed in such agreements, such as, provisions relating to visitation schedules, holiday schedules, legal custody, physical custody, health insurance, child support, and a myriad of other important custody-related topics. This helps ensure that the conversation is on-task, comprehensive and productive. You may want to also research child-sharing schedules that work best for your family type and come up with 2 or 3 proposed schedules.
4) Be calm! Mediation is an opportunities to discuss the “why” behind people's feelings, actions, positions and emotions. As such, it may expose a party to upsetting emotions as sensitive topics are brought up. Prepare for this. Know this in advance. Go in prepared to say what you have to say, but practice saying it out loud to yourself first, staying mindful of keeping your composure and a steady tone of voice. This will help you clearly present the topics at mediation.
5) Consult with an attorney! Although mediation is confidential, there are matters that you do and do not want to disclose during the session. Speaking with an attorney can help you better know your rights and an attorney can advise you on how to best present your concerns.