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At an impasse, divorcing parents turn to child custody mediation

For parents with minor-aged children, matters related to child custody are among some of the most difficult and emotionally charged of all divorce issues. In some cases involving children under the age of 18, parents are able to agree upon child custody and visitation matters. In many cases, however, parents have strong differing opinions on what’s best for a child. When this happens, parents must turn to the courts to help determine child custody matters.

There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration when determining the terms of a child custody agreement. Through a process known as child custody mediation, both parents are required to meet with a court-appointed mediator who works with both parents to devise a workable and agreeable parenting plan. While a judge has the last say in finalizing a child custody agreement, he or she will rely heavily upon the mediator's recommendations and proposed parenting plan.

In every child custody mediation, the court-appointed mediator works to devise a parenting plan that serves to meet the best interests of the child. It's important, therefore, that a parent is prepared to voice his or her opinions and concerns related to the child's physical and emotional safety and wellbeing.

For most parents, issues related to child custody are highly emotional. It's wise, therefore, to write concerns down prior to the formal mediation and to clearly communicate one's opinions and concerns during mediation. Additionally, a parent may present the mediator with the names and contact information of so-called collateral contacts such as teachers, medical providers and counselors that may be able to provide additional information and insight about a child.

When possible, parents are also advised to reach out to an ex-spouse and attempt to work out certain issues prior to mediation. Being able to agree upon some issues prior to a child custody mediation helps bring peace of mind and, in many cases, sets a positive tone for the mediation process. Parents should not, however, feel pressured into signing any agreement with which they are not comfortable. Throughout the entire process, a divorce attorney can answer questions and provide advice.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation," Caroline Choi, May 23, 2014

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