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Preparing for child custody mediation

Divorcing spouses in California sometimes have difficulty sorting out details such as child custody and property division issues. When a couple cannot come to an agreement on custody issues, the courts often refer the parents to child custody mediation. In mediation, a trained mediator acts as a neutral third party, offering assistance in developing a plan that ensures the best interest of the child. Preparing for mediation is an important step in ensuring its success.

Before meeting with the mediator, it is important for the parents to develop an understanding of what child custody mediation is about. It is not about determining child support, financial challenges or other divorce issues. The focus is entirely on determining a plan for the well-being of the couple's children after the divorce is completed. Despite the emotional stress that both parents may be experiencing, it is important for each of them to put their other concerns aside while discussing custody issues with the mediator. Parents who maintain their sense of humor and a willingness to be flexible about parenting time may find that mediation goes more smoothly.

Parents may contribute to the success of mediation by bringing written information to the first meeting with the mediator. This information might include a school calendar and a list of the current year's holidays. Parents should also write up their own proposals for parenting time. This allows each parent to refer to their proposal as needed, keeping the meeting on track.

Parents who are considering divorce may wish to consider talking to an experienced family law attorney. In some cases, such an attorney may be able to negotiate a parenting time agreement and eliminate the need for divorce mediation. The attorney may also be able to advise on other issues, such as property division, military benefits and retirement accounts.

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