In Pennsylvania child custody cases, parents or guardians must typically try and work things out through mediation before taking their case before a judge. The family law attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices can help you prepare and provide counsel on what to say and what not to say in child custody mediation.
What Is Custody Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method that is often employed in civil matters like divorce, child custody, and business disputes. It is a useful tool that can help you reach a mutual agreement and avoid the expense and stress of court hearings.
In a mediation session, parties typically meet with a trained mediator in an office or conference room. A mediator acts as a guide, helping parents or guardians navigate issues that need to be settled. Although a mediator is a trained professional, they are not a judge or arbitrator and do not make decisions or rulings. You should always bring your child custody lawyer to mediation with you, but in the end, it’s up to you and your co-parent to come to a compromise everyone can live with.
What Not to Do During Child Custody Mediation
You should be civil and respectful at all times in child custody mediation, just like you would in any other professional setting. Some of the don’ts to keep in mind include:
- Don’t arrive unprepared. Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork in order and spend time preparing with your family lawyer. Write out any issues you want to address and what you believe would be a fair child custody arrangement to discuss with your lawyer ahead of time.
- Don’t be late. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time when attending mediation. First impressions matter, and tardiness is not a good look on anyone.
- Don’t interrupt or be argumentative. Attempting to intimidate or place blame on the other parent is a huge red flag to mediators and judges and will likely backfire. It’s OK to point out issues that may be concerning, but it’s better to frame them in a context that is centered on the well-being of your child, not just criticism of your co-parent.
- Don’t go on about “your rights.” The mediator is concerned with your children’s best interests, not yours. Keep in mind that the mediator is required to write a report and provide it to the judge, so you want to show that you are reasonable and that your main goal is to come to an agreement that’s best for your children.
- Don’t refer to the kids as “my children.” Fostering a good relationship between your children and their other parent is a factor that weighs heavily in child custody cases. When speaking about your kids, say “our children” instead.
- Don’t bring other issues into custody mediation. This process is about child custody, not your divorce, child or spousal support, property division, or any personal issues unrelated to your kids. It’s understandable that you want to be heard but keep your cool and discuss them at the proper time and place.
- Don’t dress too casually or sloppily. Think business casual when getting dressed for child custody mediation. You’re not heading to the beach, a night out on the town, or the gym. Make sure your hygiene is good and your appearance is tidy.
- Don’t sign anything without consulting your family law attorney. Once a child custody agreement is signed, changing it or adding provisions is challenging.
Be Flexible in Child Custody Mediation
Do keep an open mind. Mediation is about compromise, not necessarily about trying to “win” child custody mediation. Remember that it’s likely you’re not going to get every single thing you want. Try to understand where your co-parent is coming from. Stay calm and attempt to meet in the middle instead of immediately agreeing or disagreeing. You may find that the mediator offers practical suggestions and solutions that benefit everyone involved.
Contact an Eastern PA Family Law Attorney
At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad Law Offices, our family law team provides the quality legal representation and personalized attention you deserve. We’re dedicated to helping families throughout the Pocono Mountains region and the Lehigh Valley resolve child custody issues while keeping the interests of children at the forefront. Contact us online or call us at 610-867-2900 to schedule a consultation.