What Happens During Mediation for Child Custody?

What Happens During Mediation for Child Custody?There may come a time when parents cannot come to a determination on custody issues. The court will then order mediation to reach a settlement between the two parties. It will be led by an experienced mediator who will urge the two parties to set their personal feelings to the side and find the best solution for the child(ren). If a settlement cannot be reached, the case moves into the court process, where a judge will make the final child custody decision based on the evidence presented by each parent.

Mediation can help parents come to an agreement when other options are exhausted. There are two ways parents can go to mediation: they can choose to go on their own volition, or the judge will order it.

The process of mediation in Tennessee

A mediator will often split the two parties up into different rooms. They will then go back and forth, communicating what the other party requests. Essentially, a mediation session allows both parents to voice their opinions on what a resolution will look like. They can discuss child custody and parenting time issues since these often go hand in hand. There will be a lot of back and forth during these sessions until a temporary or permanent parenting plan is drafted. For a partial agreement, it must be outlined what has and has not been agreed upon. This preparation will help make the settlement conference smoother.

Tennessee courts will order parents to attend mediation before their first court hearing. However, parents can also choose to schedule a mediation session at any point. Even after the first court session, mediation can still be an option.

Each session is usually about two hours long. If the mediator sees the parents are making progress, they can schedule another session or extend the time. Parents are required to pay for these sessions, so it is in everyone’s best interest to compromise.

Who attends mediation?

A mediator will lead mediation sessions, but both parents must attend. Failure to attend will negatively impact the judge’s final ruling. A person who does not attend a scheduled mediation can be charged with contempt of court. If one party cannot participate in mediation, they must file a motion to waive mediation if there is a valid reason for your inability to attend. Aside from the parents and mediator, lawyers and advocates can also participate in these sessions. When applicable, the guardian ad litem will also join in.

What is the role of the mediator?

A mediator does not give legal child custody advice to either party. Your Franklin child custody attorney is the only party who can advise you on your legal options. The mediator will communicate between the two parties and attempt to reach an agreement. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will then draft a document with the terms of the agreement. The parents and their legal counsel will review the terms and formalize them.

Keep in mind the mediator is allowed to share information with the other party, and if you desire something to stay confidential, you must inform your lawyer ahead of time. The mediator does not make the final decision; they are only there to facilitate communication. Reaching an agreement will be up to the parents.

What you can do to prepare for child custody mediation in Franklin

Parents are not required to bring any particular documentation, but it can help. You should have a proposed parenting plan. This plan will show the mediator your ideal arrangement and is a basis for which to start. You should also provide:

  • Family schedules for you and the children
  • Proof of income
  • Your current arrangement or a calendar showing when you have the children
  • Expenses regarding childcare
  • Parenting journal, if applicable

While these documents are not essential, they can help you get better results. The more information you can provide during mediation, the better your outcome.

How do child custody agreements work?

We mentioned that the mediator would draft the settlement once both parents agreed. A partial agreement can be filed, but there must be notes for the judge on the issues that could not reach a resolution. Your attorney can also write up the parenting plan, but an unbiased party should do so. Once a parenting plan is in place, it is legally binding, and both parents must adhere to the guidelines.

Following the parenting plan should not be difficult since both parties agree to the terms, but what should be easy and what IS easy aren’t always the same. Failure to follow the plan can result in legal action against either party. If something changes after the parenting plan is put in place as part of the custody agreement, you may need to petition to modify it. Our Franklin child custody attorneys can help you through this process.

Do I need a Franklin custody attorney if I’m going through mediation?

Yes, you likely will need a Franklin child custody attorney when you go into mediation. Mediation agreements can be enforceable. Your attorney will review the agreement and will give you legal advice. An attorney will advise you not to sign any agreement that does not work for you or is one-sided. Your lawyer can also provide evidence regarding your specific concerns.

Mediation is a useful tool when it comes to child custody, but remember that a mediator is not your lawyer; you should have representation on your side. Call the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates at 615-977-9370, or complete our contact form to discuss your child custody issues today. Proudly serving Franklin, Brentwood, Columbia, and all of Middle Tennessee.