Mediation as a solution for child custody and visitation
Separation and divorce can be a very emotionally traumatic time for both parents and children. There are so many different issues that can occur following separation and divorce that parents are sometimes overwhelmed by the process and can retreat into inaction. High profile media divorce and separation cases have shown very vividly the harm that can occur from an approach that does not consider mediation.
What is clear is that an active, rather than a passive, approach is essential to divorce and separation. It is important that you are clear about your aims, priorities and what you want to achieve through the separation and divorce process. Court, or legal avenues, should not be your first form of action when considering how to proceed. Mediation is often overlooked by parents, but it can provide a most sensible and cost-effective method of proceeding. In fact, to qualify for legal aid you most often have to have shown that you have been through a period of mediation. Perhaps the biggest advantage of mediation is that it is much less costly than other forms of legal action, but that is by no means the only plus point. Experience has shown that mediation can be a very powerful method of healing disputes between partners and can actually achieve a result which is most beneficial to the needs of the child.
Mediation involves a series of structured sessions with a trained mediator. These sessions cover a variety of issues including finance, custody and visitation. Whilst mediation is not a substitute for a formally constituted divorce, mediation processes can help parents undergoing divorce think about, and resolve, issues without expensive legal bills. Mediation is child-centred and involves putting the needs of the child first. This approach helps couples to consider what is most important to them through making the child’s requirements paramount. If children are older, it may even be possible to involve them in the mediation procedure.
Mediation does require both parties to approach the process with a degree of honesty. In particular, full financial disclosure is necessary if mediation is to be successful. Having said this, mediation is an open-ended process which either party is free to leave at any point to seek legal, or other, forms of advice. Mediation is a cost-effective method of resolving problems. It may also be possible to be eligible for legal aid when applying for mediation.
Practically, mediation involves consultation between you and your ex-partner. This is usually in the same room but it is not unknown for mediators to go from room to room if partners can not agree to be in the same place. Mediation covers issues such as financial issues and also contact orders. It is not always possible for partners to agree to such things straight away, but mediation initiates the conversation and it is often possible for partners to find a mutual space where consensus is possible.
A Memorandum of Understanding, or alternatively a Statement of Outcome can result from mediation. After agreeing on such a document you will probably need to seek legal advice so that the document can become binding.
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