Divorce is never easy, but it can be especially difficult if you and your spouse are engaged in a dispute about child custody. These disputes can sometimes turn ugly, and they may put children in difficult positions. Very often, courts and attorneys advise couples to engage in child custody mediation, which is a private negotiation with a third-party serving to facilitate the conversation and encourage a settlement. If you opt for mediation, it's important that you enter the process prepared. The more prepared you are, the more effective you will likely be at negotiating a favorable outcome. Below are three tips to help you prepare:
Create an agenda. A mediation session shouldn't be a free-flowing conversation. Ideally, you want it to have some structure so you can be certain that all of your important points will be addressed. Before the mediation, take some time to think about the most important issues to you. Those may be things like custody, visitation, holidays, vacations, and perhaps the other parent's behavior when the children are around.
Before the mediation, distribute the agenda to your attorney, the mediator, and your spouse's attorney. You will likely need to adjust your agenda to accommodate the other spouse's concerns, but at least you can be sure your points will be discussed.
Set your priorities. The key to any negotiation is knowing what you will and will not accept. When you know your desired outcome, it makes it easier to negotiate from a position of strength. Think about your optimal outcome, but also think about what outcomes you will accept and which outcomes are absolute deal breakers.
Remember that this is a negotiation, so you will likely have to give something to get something in return. Consider which items you're willing to give. For instance, you may be willing to let the kids go on summer vacation with your spouse and his or her family in exchange for getting to keep the kids over Christmas and New Years. Knowing these items in advance will make it easier to negotiate.
Contact all relevant parties. It's possible that there are outside parties who have information that is relevant to the proceedings. For example, perhaps child services has been called several times to check on your spouse and his or her behavior. Don't assume that the mediator will have information about their findings. You should be proactive to get any reports possible from police, child services agencies, doctors, and more if that information should influence negotiations.
A divorce and child custody lawyer can help you prepare for mediation and even represent you during the negotiations. Contact a company like Divorce Mediation Institute of Utah to learn more.