If you’re going through a divorce then you might be about to undergo child custody mediation. Separation and divorce can be a very difficult time and emotions often run high. With the future left uncertain, many clients find themselves asking about the process they are about the be involved in and how the decision-making process around children and finances is handled. Child custody mediation can be a very useful process but it is understandable that many people will be unfamiliar with how it works and wondering what to expect. Here’s what parents should know about child custody mediation and how it works.
What is it?
In Australia, it is generally encouraged that couples don’t use the courts when possible and instead try to work their issues out outside of court. It’s very often a requirement when making parenting order applications that parents show they have tried to reach an agreement outside of court but have not been able to. When parents can’t mutually agree on how to manage the care of their child, a family dispute resolution practitioner may be appointed to help with child custody mediation. This involves working with both parents to work out an agreement around a parenting plan or to seek consent orders from the court if needed. These professionals are unbiased and are not there to have an opinion, many parents are worried that they will take a side but that’s not what they’re there for. Their main role is to facilitate discussion and agreements in a calm environment and to get an agreement in place that is in the best interests of the child.
How do you go about doing child custody mediation?
The easiest and most affordable way to arrange child custody mediation is to go through public and community-based services in Australia like family relationship centres but private options also exist as well, although they will involve higher costs. The benefit of private child custody mediation is that you can get a solicitor to conduct it and they can help out with legal advice and expertise. Usually, the most costly and stressful option is to go to court.
When isn’t it the best option?
Child custody mediation isn’t always the most appropriate choice. If family violence is involved then it’s often not the best course of action and it’s better to manage separation processes through a lawyer to ensure that you are protected. If abuse is involved your lawyer is likely to recommend that you proceed to the courtroom to ensure that your interests are best protected.
Should I get legal advice?
Many people wonder if they should get legal advice before undergoing the facilitation process. The process is most effective when both parties have gotten legal advice prior to the process as this means that both parties are well prepared and understand what the consequences of different decisions and outcomes might be. It also ensures that they understand their options and what it would mean if the process fails and they need to proceed to court. If you want you can bring your lawyer along, this is a good idea if sessions are likely to become tense over key issues and you want to make sure your interests are properly protected.
How to approach the process
When going into the process you should ensure that you are well prepared and be ready to try and reach agreements. Combativeness is counterintuitive and will likely mean that you end up in court anyway. When it comes to your kids and reaching agreements you should be aware that the main goal is to look after the interests of your children.