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Mediation in child custody cases

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2023 | Child custody, Divorce, Family Law

Child custody disputes can be challenging to solve and complicated to deal with. In Arkansas, the court encourages parents to solve custody disagreements through mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process that promotes communication and cooperation between two or more people, intending to reach an agreement that all parties are willing to accept.

This process allows the people involved to work together to come up with solutions, with the help of a mediator, that can ultimately become part of a legally binding agreement. Ideally, child custody mediation centers around the best interests of the child.

How does mediation work?

In Arkansas, parents can select a mediator from a list the court provides or choose a private mediator. The mediator must be a trained professional with the requirements established by the court.

Initial meeting

The mediator will schedule an initial meeting with both parents. During this session, the mediator will explain the mediation process, establish ground rules and clarify the goal of reaching a mutually agreeable custody arrangement.

Identifying issues

The mediator helps the parents identify their underlying issues and allows them to communicate their concerns and priorities productively and efficiently. Usually, the mediator helps the parties stay on track and keeps them from getting off-topic.

Mediation styles

Depending on the parties and their level of communication, the mediator may decide that a shuttle or caucus mediation is appropriate versus a session in which everyone is in the same room. A shuttle, or caucus mediation, is one where the parties sit in separate rooms, and the mediator goes back and forth, communicating with the parties.

Facilitating communication and negotiation

The mediator facilitates constructive dialogue between the parents, encouraging them to express their viewpoints and listen to each other. The mediator always remains neutral, ensuring a fair and balanced process.

Developing a parenting plan

The mediator helps the parents put together a plan that works for both and prioritizes the child’s best interests. This plan can include visitation schedules, education decisions, healthcare arrangements, and other relevant factors.

Agreement documentation

If the parents reach an agreement, the mediator helps draft a written agreement outlining the parenting plan’s details. Both parents can review this document and ask their attorneys to review it if they so choose. If the parents agree, they can sign the agreement, which can become legally binding.

The benefits of mediation are especially evident in child custody cases, where parents sometimes struggle to reach an agreement, and a mediator can help facilitate a productive conversation that considers all sides, especially the child’s best interests.

If parents are willing to have a productive conversation that can lead to an agreement on child custody, mediation can be the ideal tool for settling child custody matters.