Child Custody FAQ

Is mediation the best approach to solving disagreements about child custody?

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Is mediation the best approach to solving disagreements about child custody?

Mediation is a non-adversarial process where a neutral person (a mediator) meets with disputing persons to help them settle a dispute. The mediator does not have power to impose a solution on the parties, but assists them in creating an agreement of their own. (In some courts, however, the mediator may be asked by the court to make a recommendation if the parties cannot reach an agreement. If you're concerned about whether the mediation is confidential or whether the mediator will be reporting to the judge, find out how your court does things before you get started.)

There are several important reasons why mediation is a superior method to litigation for resolving custody and visitation disputes.

  • Mediation usually does not involve lawyers or expert witnesses (or their astronomical fees).
  • Mediation usually produces a settlement after five to ten hours of mediation over a week or two. (Child custody litigation can drag on for months or even years.)
  • Mediation enhances communication between the parents and makes it much more likely that they will be able to cooperate after the divorce or separation when it comes to raising their children. Experts who have studied the effects of divorce on children universally conclude that when divorcing or separating parents can cooperate, the children suffer far less.

Additional Resources

To find a family law mediator in your area, see the Association for Conflict Resolution website www.acrnet.org.

For more information on mediation, including how mediation or collaborative divorce can help you come to an agreement, see Divorce Without Court: A Guide to Mediation & Collaborative Divorce, by Katherine Stoner (Nolo).

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