If you and your spouse have decided to part ways, few things are likely to be as contentious as the custody arrangements for your child or children. Working with a divorce attorney who is trained in mediating custody agreements can help you work through your custody disputes and try to keep your case out of court.
Here are some steps to take when working with a divorce attorney to mediate a custody agreement:
The Right Attorney
When a divorce proceeding goes to court, the price, both financially and emotionally, is likely to be very high. The best family attorneys are skilled at mediating disputes to minimize your legal fees and make the experience less traumatic for everyone involved.
- Research: look for an attorney who is experienced in mediating custody agreements and has a good reputation in the community. Reaching out to a pastor at a local church and/or contacting the Bar Association can put you in contact with professionals who have seen divorce proceedings of every stripe.
- Joint Consultation: most divorce attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case and determine whether they are a good fit for you. If possible, encourage your partner to attend the consultation to get a better idea of whether the attorney is agreeable to both parties.
The mediation process is likely to take time. This will allow both parties to feel heard, while also giving the mediator time to generate acceptable compromises.
- Parenting Plan: before you attempt to mediate your custody dispute, create a parenting plan. This covers everything from general decisions about health care and educational decisions to potential custody-sharing schedules. If attempting this process with your former spouse and things become too tense, complete the parenting plan independently or with the help of your divorce attorney. You can present your parenting plan(s) to the divorce attorney when you meet for your mediation sessions to begin mediating points of disagreement.
- Mediation: mediation typically involves a series of meetings with the divorce attorney and your spouse, where you will work together to come to an agreement on custody arrangements. The divorce attorney will facilitate the discussions and help you reach a compromise that is in the best interests of your children.
By working with a divorce attorney to mediate a custody agreement, you can avoid the stress and expense of going to court and come to an arrangement that works for you and your family.