When it comes to addressing difficult topics during a divorce or family law matter, there are options available that allow for a solution beyond litigation. When it comes to parenting time, visitation, and custody arrangements, many parents prefer to use a method of alternative dispute resolution known as mediation. With mediation, it’s possible to come to terms about the future of a child, or children, without leaving decisions entirely in the hands of the court. Additionally, because mediation is naturally less combative than litigation in most cases, it can allow for some semblance of a relationship to be preserved between the parents in a case.
Though I work as a divorce attorney and child custody lawyer for my clients here in New York and Long Island, I can also offer them alternative options for dispute resolution in the form of mediation and collaborative law. When my clients choose to engage in mediation, the first thing I like to tell them is that there aren’t necessarily any hard and fast rules about how mediations need to proceed. Instead, each mediation session is adjusted according to the needs of the couples, individuals, and families in question. Subsequently, the dynamics of the mediation will also be unique. Often, I’ll start by asking whether the couple have already discussed the issue of parenting time and custody, and whether they have any ideas on how an agreement should look.
Coming to Decisions about Custody and Parenting Time
My experience as a divorce lawyer and child custody attorney gives me a lot of background knowledge to work with when it comes to working through parenting time and custody mediations. If the couple that seeks my assistance don’t already have a complete idea in mind of what they’d like to achieve through parenting time and custody agreements, then I can go on to explain the different types of custody and parenting time arrangements typically available. For instance, I could give an insight into shared and joint residential or legal custody, residential custody to one parent with joint legal custody between both, sole custody, and joint legal custody with spheres of influence. In some cases, the agreement made will be for sole custody, but many of the elements of the agreement are spelled out in such a way to indicate some level of joint legal custody. For instance, we may say that the custodial parent needs to consult with the other parent regarding crucial issues on healthcare, education, social welfare, and religion.
For my clients, mediation is all about finding a solution that both parents can live with, and that the court is also likely to agree with when the agreement is taken to be made into an order. After all, the court retains the ultimate say into who should be given what kind of custody and parenting rights according to the best interests of the child. Fortunately, my experience as a child custody attorney and divorce lawyer means that I have a relatively good idea of what might be accepted by the courts as in the best interests of the child when it comes to making agreements. It’s my duty to help the couple that are undergoing mediation under my care to come to an agreement that suits both them and will be approved by the court, this means that I’ll speak with the people I work with to help them understand the opportunities available to them.
Addressing the Options in Mediation
There are several things that I can talk about with a couple when it comes to addressing the choices available in child custody and parenting time through mediation. For instance, we’ll often discuss the different examples of parenting time schedule available for the regular school and work week, as well as the holidays, special occasions, vacations, and weekends. Where possible, I will ensure that each side in the mediation will have the opportunity to be heard completely on the topics they most want to talk about. For instance, if the wife begins to speak on her ideas about what custody and parenting time should look like the husband will then receive an equal chance to be heard. Everyone will be able to speak without interruption, and other ground rules might occur as needed to keep the conversation flowing as well as possible. For instance, if the couple seeking mediation begins to argue, then I might suggest that each parent speak to me, rather than shouting across the table at each other.
I often find my experience as a divorce attorney and child custody lawyer helpful when we reach sticking points in mediation. Couples usually find it helpful to hear how certain courts might make decisions about specific issues. While mediation will ultimately act under the shadow of the law, it’s worth noting that a Judge will have to approve and sign a parenting and custody order for that order to be binding. This means that I can share, at times, how courts may choose to decide on an issue. For instance, if there’s a disagreement about joint or sole custody, I might point out to them that if a court had to decide the issue, one parent will generally get full custody, and the other will receive parenting time, as if the parents don’t agree to make a decision together, the court will typically refuse to order joint legal custody. This means that the parents need to be able to agree on decisions that are made for their children.
In some circumstances, we may try to compromise on different issues to get a consensus, or explore why someone has chosen to take a certain position. Getting to the why someone wants what they are advocating for might allow us to find out whether there may be another way to satisfy a rationale for a position. In some specific situations, I may try caucusing, which involves meeting with the individual sides of the couple alone, or suggest involving a psychological professional, such as a child specialist,who can help to work through the parenting and custody issues from a different perspective. Eventually, some couples find that the best solution is to simply take a break and come back to the issue at a later time, to allow for some cooling off, tackling of other issues perhaps, or just gaining some perspective around sensitive topics. Consulting with a review attorney, which is always recommended for couples that choose mediation, can be a helpful step that might help get through sticking points.
To learn more about making decisions about child custody and parenting time through mediation, please feel free to call me, Mr. Darren M. Shapiro on 516-333-6555 to discuss your free thirty-minute consultation. Alternatively, you can reach out to us using our online contact form.