First Things First
When preparing for child custody mediation in California, the first thing you’ll do is pull together all of the details that define your child’s daily goings-on, you and your spouse’s (or former spouse) work schedules, business trips, any school holidays the children have, vacation plans, sporting events – anything that can affect visitation and custody.
It’s also not uncommon to meet with a child custody mediator or attorney to ensure they are a good fit. You want someone who’s listening more than they are talking. Of course, mediators and child custody attorneys are trained to be neutral and their ethics must be a priority. Remember, he or she is not interested in becoming anyone’s friend – their goal is to help a family successfully create a child custody and parenting plan that’s best for the children.
Write down any questions you might have, but keep in mind, questions like, “What if he pays child support late?” are questions best saved for a divorce attorney. Their objective is not focused on this element of custody and support.
Actions and Consequences
Your behaviors and reactions matter. You want to come prepared and remain respectful of everyone else in attendance. Remember, these mediations are designed to make your child’s life better. It’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to come to a new understanding – and that’s always a good thing. Your mediator will discuss any specific challenges and will help his or her clients through what’s almost always an emotional time.
Write down your perfect solution. Understand that your checklist won’t be completed, but it’s a great place to start. Your spouse will also have his or her own list and you both may be surprised to learn you’re not that far apart. If there are some especially difficult challenges, the child custody lawyer is going to help you both negotiate solutions that first, benefit your children and second, benefit your needs as a parent.
When it comes to visitation during holidays, the meeting can become emotional. It’s understandable – we want our children with us on Christmas morning or other important holidays and rites of passage. Compromise is where the answers are found and no one gets exactly what they want, save for the children; that really does happen only if both parents don’t show their disappointment. The good news is the scheduling around these events can be as detailed as needed. This can benefit both sides, as you work to find that middle ground.
Focus on the Priority
Work towards a comprehensive path that takes you past the pain and frustration and to your children who are looking to you as they create their own beliefs and thoughts and fears in anticipation of a new living arrangement they may have never asked for.
Keep an open mind and remember that no matter who did whom wrong, you’re both in child custody mediation because you share a desire for finding a fair solution for your parenting plans. Make no mistake: if it gets dirty, your children will see that to some degree (and likely to a great degree) and it will absolutely affect them the rest of their lives. Be sure that memory is one that includes, “It wasn’t easy for them, but they respected us enough to work together to provide for my siblings and myself.”