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How does a child custody mediation work
Custody Mediation | North Carolina Judicial Branch
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Learn about how custody mediation works and how to get an appointment.
What is custody mediation?
Mediation is a conversation between parents that is guided by a neutral third party, or “mediator,” who works for the court. Parents meet together with the mediator to talk about child custody, share information and make decisions together to avoid having a trial. A custody case must be filed to participate in the courts’ Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program.
What are the advantages of custody mediation?
Mediators are trained to help parents work through their difficulties and find the best child custody solutions for their family. This allows parents to avoid the stress, anxiety, time, and expense of going to court, and ensures that decisions about the children’s lives are made by the adults who know them best and are responsible for raising them.
Is everyone required to go to mediation?
Yes, in general. The parents and anyone else making a legal claim for custody of the children are required to attend unless a judge “waives” mediation, meaning that the parties are legally excused from attending. Waiver does not happen automatically. If you want mediation to be waived, you must file a Motion and Order to Waive Custody Mediation, which can be found online or in person in the Custody Mediation Office. The judge will then decide whether to waive mediation in your case. Valid reasons to waive mediation include: you live more than fifty (50) miles from the court; the other party has abused you or the children; the other party suffers from alcoholism, drug addiction or severe psychiatric or psychological problems; or you have agreed to a private mediation.
How does custody mediation work?
After a custody case is filed, the parties are required to attend an orientation class. After that, there will be a mediation session of up to two hours. If you need additional time, another session can be scheduled at the mediator’s discretion if the parties agree. If you reach an agreement in mediation, the mediator will prepare a written Parenting Agreement, which will be signed by the parties and a judge.
How do I sign up for custody mediation?
This process varies by county. A custody case must be filed to participate in the courts’ Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program. You should ask about signing up when you file your case. If someone else files a case against you, you should receive information about your orientation class in the mail.
Do I have to pay for custody mediation?
No. The courts provide custody mediation free of charge.
What is orientation?
Orientation is a group class that prepares people for mediation. Orientation is usually scheduled within 30 days of the date the case is sent to the Custody Mediation Program. The other person or people involved in your case may be at the same orientation session, but you are not required to talk to each other or make decisions at orientation.
Can the mediator make decisions about my case?
No. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong and does not make any decisions about child custody. The mediator’s job is to guide the parents’ discussion of the children’s needs and the parents’ concerns, and to help the parents reach an agreement if possible.
Do I need to bring evidence to custody mediation?
No. Custody mediation is about agreeing on a solution for your case, not proving it, and you are not expected to agree about things that happened in the past. Having evidence to present to the court is important if you cannot resolve your case in mediation and your case has to be decided by a judge.
Do I need an attorney for mediation?
Attorneys do not attend mediation sessions through the Custody Mediation Program. However, it is recommended that anyone with a child custody or visitation case consult an attorney to learn about their legal rights and obligations, and to review the draft of the Parenting Agreement, even if the case does not go to trial.
Can we make decisions about child support in mediation?
No. Custody mediation helps parents make decisions only about child custody and visitation, not financial issues. You can file for child support through your county’s Child Support Enforcement office.
Will the mediator tell the judge what we said in mediation?
No. The discussions in mediation sessions are private. The mediator will not share information discussed in the session with others, including the judge or attorneys. This rule does not apply if the mediator has concerns about unreported child abuse, hears threats to harm someone, or witnesses a crime.
What happens if we reach an agreement in mediation?
The mediator will write a draft of the Parenting Agreement and send it for review to the parties, and to their attorneys, if they are represented. If possible, parents should meet with an attorney before signing a Parenting Agreement. After the parties sign the agreement, a judge will review and sign it.
Is a Parenting Agreement legally binding?
Yes. Once a judge signs it, your Parenting Agreement becomes a court order. The agreement then has the same legal effect as if the judge had decided the custody case after a trial. Once the order is signed, the parties cannot change it without additional court action. Parties can be held in contempt of court for violating the signed Parenting Agreement.
What if we don’t agree in mediation?
If there is no agreement in mediation, one of the parties will need to schedule the case for trial. If you have not yet hired an attorney, it is recommended that you do so. Attorneys are often able to negotiate a resolution before trial. Otherwise, a judge will hear and decide your case.
What if a custody case involves a nonparent?
In some situations, grandparents or other third parties may file a claim for child custody. All parties to the case, including nonparents, must attend mediation. It is especially important for anyone involved in a case with a nonparent to contact an attorney for more information about their rights and obligations.
How can I make a complaint about mediation?
Any complaints about mediation or a specific mediator should be in writing and can be mailed to the Chief District Court Judge of the judicial district where the mediation took place.
What is family court?
Family court is available in some districts / counties in North Carolina. A major goal of family court is to consolidate and assign a family's legal issues before a single district court judge or team of judges. Parent education programs also may be available. Together, the dedicated family court judges and staff implement policies that promote prompt and just resolution of family law issues. Learn more.
Family and Children
Justice for all
Child Custody Mediation: How It Works and Tips for Success
Learn the basics of this dispute resolution tool for divorcing spouses and get pointers on approaching your own child custody mediation sessions.
Divorce is an inherently painful process that can be all the more challenging when children are involved. Fighting over child custody issues in court can intensify the pain for all those involved—not to mention the expense.
Fortunately, disagreeing couples can get help working toward solutions for their family somewhere other than court. Child custody mediation exists precisely so that parents who just can't seem to agree don't have to take on the financial and emotional costs of court battles.
What Is Child Custody Mediation?
Mediation is a method of "alternative dispute resolution" (ADR) that has become a mainstay in the world of divorce. When it comes to child custody, mediation is designed to help divorcing or unmarried parents reach an agreement on legal and physical custody of their children without the pain and expense of a traditional court contest.
In a mediation session, spouses meet with a trained mediator, usually in an informal setting (such as the mediator's office), or sometimes online. Think of the mediator as a guide, navigating the couple through the maze of marital issues they disagree on. (Sometimes the spouses work with a mediator and otherwise handle the case themselves; other times, they each have an attorney who might help them prepare for mediation, provide coaching for the negotiation process, and prepare or review any resulting agreement.)
Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator doesn't make decisions on the disputed matters. Rather, mediators use their knowledge and skill to try to facilitate a compromise that both spouses can live with. In divorce cases, a successful mediation will normally lead to the preparation of a written settlement agreement.
Child Custody Overview
Child custody isn't the all-or-nothing proposition it's often thought to be—one parent gets the kids, the other doesn't, end of story. It's well established that children fare better when both parents are an integral part of their life, and that's the goal the courts strive for in custody cases.
At its core, child custody includes two basic concepts: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody relates to who will make the decisions regarding the important matters in a child's life, such as education, religious upbringing, and non-emergency medical treatment. Unless one parent is unqualified for some reason, courts prefer to have parents share legal custody.
Physical custody has to do with where a child will primarily reside. To a large degree, determining physical custody depends on where each parent lives, with the aim being to provide for an arrangement that best suits the child's needs.
In all custody matters, doing what's in the child's best interest is the court's guiding principle.
Child Custody Mediation Basics
Although many issues in a divorce can be contentious, child custody and parenting time are often the most emotionally charged and difficult for families to agree on. Child custody mediation is intended to help tone down the hostility, for the sake of both the parents and their children.
Child custody mediation is also typically more cost effective than going to court, because you're paying a mediator to help you come to an agreement, rather than asking your attorneys to battle it out in court with both charging you an hourly fee to do so. Also, you have a say in when the sessions will take place. That's a luxury that is practically nonexistent in the court system.
Divorce laws in most (if not all) states mandate custody mediation once the divorce process has begun if the parents can't come up with a parenting plan on their own. So even when couples who can't agree haven't opted to pursue mediation before filing for divorce, it's virtually certain they'll be ordered to participate at some point. In light of this, it's important to learn how to approach mediation.
How to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation
First and foremost, remember that custody in general, and mediation in particular, isn't primarily about the parents. It's about the children. You have to make a commitment to do whatever is best for them, and that starts with being prepared.
Here are some quick tips on getting ready for a mediation session:
Try to get plenty of sleep the night before. Mediation can be stressful, so be sure to take care of yourself. It's much easier to stay calm and think clearly when you're rested.
Resolve to keep an open mind. Remember, it's not about getting everything you want. Your spouse may have a different perspective on what's best for the children. Try to understand where your ex is coming from instead of immediately digging in. The mediator may also have suggestions for custody and parenting time that you haven't thought of.
Sketch something out. Write out a proposal of what you believe would be a fair custody and parenting time arrangement. Sketching out a plan can help organize your thoughts and provide a starting point for discussion. Include a checklist so you don't lose track of issues that are important to you. Remember to include things such as:
how to handle transitions, meaning picking up and dropping off the children when it's time for them to be with the other parent
how to share the cost involved in travel if that's a factor (such as when the parents live far away from each other)
how to divide holidays throughout the year (for example, whether the schedule will be the same each year or will alternate)
vacation sharing, for school breaks and summer
how to deal with minor changes to the agreed-upon schedules, like when a child or parent is sick
the best way for parents to communicate with each other (phone and/or email, for example), and
anything you feel could be a potential problem, such as a parent having substance abuse issues that need to be addressed.
Keep in mind that software programs and smartphone apps can help parents coordinate all aspects of custody and parenting time, including communications.
5 Tips for Your Child Custody Mediation Sessions
Even if both spouses come with the best intentions, mediation can hit rough patches. When that happens it's important to take a breath and refocus your energy on what's best for the children.
Here are some more tips to achieve a successful mediation:
Don't bring up marital issues unrelated to the children. Remember that this isn't a general divorce mediation, so don't muddy the waters by bringing up anything not specifically related to custody and parenting time. Reciting a laundry list of things you don't like about the other parent is a prime example of what not to say in child custody mediation.
Be thoughtful with your language. When you reference your children, talk about "our" kids, not "my" kids. It's more inclusive and less confrontational. And try to couch your remarks in terms of what you as parents can jointly do to make the situation as positive and painless for your children as possible.
Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Expect that—despite everyone's best efforts—there will be times when your discussion can become heated. Don't use that as an excuse to unload on the other parent, which will only undo progress that's been made up to that point. Mediators are adept at calming the waters, but if you feel your emotions are getting away from you, ask to take a short break.
Don't subject yourself to abuse. If you're a victim of ongoing domestic violence, emotional abuse, or bullying, mediation might not be appropriate. If there was past abuse in your relationship, you might consider mediation but with separate sessions for you and the other parent. It might end up costing more, but at least it allows you to use mediation while, hopefully, leveling the playing field by offsetting the imbalance of power that frequently exists in abusive relationships. A successful outcome is worth the additional cost, which is still likely to be considerably less than heading to court. Separate sessions, or virtual mediation sessions, are also best if the degree of hostility between you and the other parent is so high that you can't be in the same room. (Some states have special protections in cases involving abuse when the couples have been ordered to custody mediation.)
Remember, you always have options. In the event mediation doesn't work, you can still turn to the courts. Even in that case, your mediation sessions will probably have highlighted the issues you can't agree on, which will show you what you need to focus on going forward.
Finding a Qualified Mediator
Mediation has become such a popular method of settling legal issues that there's no shortage of qualified mediators. Your state court's administration office may have a list of approved mediators. There are also mediation organizations that offer lists of mediators along with their training and experience.
When researching, be sure to pay particular attention to each mediator's qualifications. You want one who's taken mediation courses specifically geared to divorce cases, including custody and parenting time. Also, be aware that a child custody mediator doesn't necessarily have to be a lawyer—many trained child custody mediators are licensed psychologists, marriage and family therapists, or social workers who have experience in child custody issues in their state.
Of course, firsthand knowledge and word-of-mouth referrals are always helpful. Recommendations from friends or family members who've been through custody mediation are often the best referrals you can find.
To parents about mediation
To parents about mediation
“Conflicts between the family and the school
fall heavily on the child.
stand in solidarity with the not always fair accusations of the child by the school,
in order to rid themselves of the guardianship imposed by it on him. ”
Conflict is the engine of progress. With proper resolution and skillful behavior, the right conclusions will be drawn.
An educational institution is a living organism in which conflicts are inevitable. Parents, being direct participants in the educational process, also become participants in various school conflicts. What to do in order not to heat up the situation? It is worth paying attention to the mediation service existing in the educational institution. Mediation is a new approach to solving problems, where a third party (intermediary) comes to the rescue, organizing and conducting negotiations between the parties.
The experience of third party conflict management activities can be summarized in a certain algorithm - the system "17 steps" ( according to A. Ya. Antsupov ). The proposed sequence of actions can be refined based on the specifics of the situation.
1st step. Present a general picture of the conflict and determine its essence, based on the analysis of the information that you currently have. Assess the positions and hidden interests of both parties.
2nd step. Talk to one of the opponents, whose position at the moment seems more justified to you. Find out about his point of view on the causes of the conflict, what he wants to achieve and what he fears. Establish his opinion about the main interests and concerns of the second opponent.
3rd step. Be sure to talk to the second opponent.
4th step. Talk about the causes and nature of the conflict with the friends of the first opponent. They will give more objective information about the interests and concerns of their friend. In the future, they can also help in resolving the conflict.
5th step. Talk about the causes, nature and method of resolving the conflict with friends of the second opponent.
6th step. Discuss the causes, ways to resolve and prospects with the informal leaders of the team.
7th step. If necessary, discuss the problem with the leaders of both opponents.
8th step. Understand the main cause of the conflict and imagine that not these specific participants, but abstract people are involved in the conflict.
Now for the manager to analyze the data and develop specific actions. This may be the reconciliation of the parties, the presentation of recommendations that must be implemented, or simply the solution of issues that ensure the success of the interaction of opponents.
9th step. Identify subconscious motives hidden behind external causes. Accurately understand the hidden content of the conflict.
10th step. Determine what each of the opponents is right and what is wrong. Support where they are right and point out weaknesses in each position.
11th step. Assess the best, worst, and most likely scenarios. Determine whether it is possible for the parties to come to a compromise on their own.
12th step. Evaluate the possible hidden, delayed and long-term consequences of your intervention in the conflict. In order not to become the enemy of one of the opponents.
13th step. Think over and develop a maximum program. Prepare 3-4 options for proposals to opponents of joint actions to implement this program.
14th step. Think over and develop a minimum program. Prepare 3-4 options for proposals to opponents of joint actions to implement this program.
15th step. Discuss both programs with friends of each of the opponents, opinion leaders, if necessary - with leaders. Make adjustments to the general action plans.
16th step. Try to resolve the conflict by adjusting not only tactics, but also the strategy of action, taking into account the specific situation. Actively involve friends, informal leaders, if necessary - leaders. It is better to resolve the conflict with their hands.
17th step. Summarize positive and negative experiences gained as a result of intervention in this conflict.
Family center mediators help to improve relations in the family
When the conflict becomes protracted and painful, a mediator can help to hear each other and agree. Mediation services operate in the capital's family centers, which have received more than 200 appeals since the beginning of 2022. The mediator of the Family Center Vladimir Grafsky talks about the work of specialists.
Muscovite Sergei, the father of 11-year-old Masha, applied to the Family Center. The man said that his ex-wife does not allow him to see his daughter. « I tried to find out why Irina is against our meetings with Masha, but she does not get in touch. I would not like to go to court. It’s better, of course, to resolve the situation by calmly discussing everything ,” Sergey explains.
The mediator of the family center Vladimir Grafsky helped to sort out the situation. He discussed what was happening with Sergei, and then contacted his ex-wife and made an appointment.
Irina requested that a psychologist and a lawyer be present during the mediation procedure. It turned out that the woman did not allow Sergei to meet with the child because of accumulated grievances. The mediator managed to have a conversation with the former spouses.
As a result, the woman came to the conclusion that the father has the right to raise the child, and personal grievances should not interfere with the relationship between parents and children. The former spouses entered into a mediation agreement, which spelled out the schedule of meetings between Sergei and Masha. Now they see each other every weekend.
When you can't come to an agreement on your own
Disputes and conflicts happen in almost every family. But often people do not understand what is the root of the problem, and cannot find a way out on their own, maintain normal relations. In this case, a mediator can help.
Mediation is a negotiation procedure that allows you to come to a solution that suits all parties. A specialist from a neutral position helps to resolve contradictions that may seem insoluble. Most often, family center mediators help in disputes that relate to the division of property, the payment of alimony, and determining the order of meetings between a parent and children.
The mediator creates a safe and trusting environment for negotiations. He does not give advice and recommendations, does not make final decisions, as is done in court. The specialist helps to look at the situation from the outside, to understand the true motives and interests of each other. Also, in family mediation, special attention is paid to the needs of children. Most often, such work is carried out in a team with a psychologist.
How mediation works
Meetings with each party in turn. First, the mediator meets with the person who applied to him, finds out the essence of the conflict, wishes, talks about the rules of procedure. The same meeting takes place with the other side.
General meetings. All participants meet on the territory of the mediator, agree on the terms of the procedure, undertake to comply with them and conclude an agreement on the very fact of mediation. The document must specify what issues need to be resolved. Then the participants of the meeting alternately state their position. The mediator asks questions and determines the true needs of the participants, separating facts from emotions. Then the participants are offered options for solving the problem. Of these, choose those that suit both parties.
Concluding a mediation agreement. All decisions made are drawn up in the form of an agreement that can be certified by a notary. From this moment, the agreement between the parties comes into force.
On the basis of the capital's family centers, mediation services have been created that are ready to receive citizens on such controversial issues as child-parent relationships; interpersonal, family and marital conflict situations; problems associated with divorce proceedings. For an initial consultation, it is enough to ask a question on the My Family Center portal.
To support Moscow families, 28 city family and childhood support organizations operate: 25 My Family Centers, as well as the Crisis Center for Women and Children, the Vozrozhdeniye and Altufyevo social rehabilitation centers for minors.