When you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are in the midst of getting divorced, you may choose to construct your child custody agreement through mediation rather than traditional court hearings. By doing so, you will not only be able to discuss crucial elements and concerns you may have in a more informal setting, but also give yourself greater control over the decision-making process and final outcome. Yet before you enter your first mediation session, it is critical you go into it well-prepared. To do so, you should have spent significant time with your attorney discussing strategy and what terms may be negotiable during the process. But along with this, you should also have a checklist in your mind and on paper as to questions or other matters that may arise along the way. If you need help with this, here is a Top 10 List for your child custody mediation session.
Check Your Emotions and Ego at the Door
At the top of your checklist should be to check your emotions and ego at the door upon beginning mediation. Rather than looking at it as a confrontation, view it instead as a chance to have an in-depth discussion about what will be best for your kids.
Which Parent Will Have Physical Custody?
This may come down to such factors as who has the better living arrangement, enough money to provide for the children, and other matters. Again, keep the best interests of your kids in mind when negotiating this part of the agreement.
What Will be the Plan for Picking Up and Dropping Off the Kids?
Since the non-custodial parent will likely have the kids on weekends, make sure you have a clear plan in the agreement as to how and when kids will be picked up and dropped off.
How Will Holidays, Birthdays, and Other Special Times be Handled?
Always a sticking point in many child custody agreements, it is crucial you and your spouse work out a detailed plan regarding who will have the kids on holidays and birthdays. Again, come to an agreement that is fair for parents and kids.
Who Will Have Legal Custody?
A critical area, this will determine which parent will be responsible for decision-making regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and other important matters.
What Decision-Making Process Will be Used for Medical Care and Discipline?
While one parent may have legal custody, it is nevertheless important the non-custodial parent be involved to some extent when decisions involving medical care or discipline need to be made.
What Happens if One Parent Decides to Move Away?
Whether you have physical or legal custody of your child or are the non-custodial parent, always discuss in mediation what happens if one parent decides to move away from the area, since this can impact visitations, living arrangements, education, and other matters.
How Will Disputes be Handled?
Even if you have negotiated an excellent custody agreement, disputes are bound to happen at some point. Because of this, always know how these will be handled.
How Often Will the Custody Agreement be Reexamined?
Once a custody agreement is in place, always make sure you have the option to reexamine it, especially if circumstances change for you or your ex-spouse.
Always Have Your Attorney With You
Finally, your Top 10 mediation checklist should always include having your attorney present with you during all mediation sessions. By doing so, you can not only ask their advice on various matters along the way, but also ensure you don’t agree to anything that may be detrimental to your child custody arrangement in the short or long-term.