Standing before a judge in a Washington family court to resolve disagreements regarding your children as part of a divorce is undoubtedly not an experience you would want to endure. It’s not uncommon, however, for a set of parents to disagree about numerous issues, including where their kids should live or go to school, or other important matters. Child custody proceedings do not necessarily have to involve a drawn-out, contentious legal battle. In fact, you can achieve an agreement through mediation, without stepping foot inside a courtroom.
Mediation is a lawful option for parents who want to avoid litigation. It is a process that takes place in a private setting, which is an added benefit for those who wish to keep the details of their divorce out of the public eye. To be successful, you and your ex must commit to certain efforts ahead of time, such as avoiding confrontation. You must also agree to be willing to cooperate and compromise to craft an agreement focused on your children’s best interests.
Child custody mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution
Even if you and your ex have differences of opinion regarding what’s best for your children, you must forge a child custody agreement to settle your divorce. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method. It enables you to meet with your ex in an informal setting, to sit down and openly discuss all issues that are relevant to your children, and to find common ground from which you can build an agreement.
Among numerous issues you will likely discuss during mediation sessions, legal and physical custody are top priorities. The latter refers to your children’s permanent residence following your divorce. Will they live with you full time, or will they travel back and forth between both households? Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to decision-making authority. Will you and your ex share this authority or will one of you have sole legal custody? Seeking legal counsel ahead of time ensures understanding of state laws, as well as your parental rights.
What if mediation attempts for a child custody agreement are unsuccessful?
The goal of child custody mediation is to enable you and your ex to meet in a private, informal setting, to work out terms of agreement regarding the care and financial provision of your children after divorce. It’s possible that, even with the best of intentions, you might reach a stalemate where you are unable to achieve an agreement. In such cases, you can end mediation sessions and seek the court’s intervention, which means you would initiate litigation and a judge would make custody decisions on your behalf.