As difficult as a divorce can be for a married couple, it can be just as upsetting and confusing for a child. Parents tend to want what is best for their children and are apprehensive about the effects a potentially long, drawn out court battle can have on the family. One alternative to divorce that some families find success with is divorce mediation. Through mediation, you can often talk through each aspect of your divorce agreement without needing to take things to court or work with multiple lawyers.
While it is not a fit for every family and situation, divorce mediation can help the process of divorce go smoothly and painlessly. Mediation gives you and your spouse the opportunity to set an example for your children that you can reconcile your differences in a healthy and mature manner.
Deciding Child Custody Through Mediation
When it comes to deciding the specifics of custody and how each parent will spend time with their children, there are two options. The first is going to court and letting a judge ultimately decide what is best for the children. The second option is through mediation and coming to a decision with your spouse about what is best for your kids. If you can put aside your differences for the sake of your children, you will be able to come to an agreement on custody on your own. There are advantages to both of these methods, and if the couple cannot come to a mutual decision, the court’s top priority is always the best interest of the child.
Mediation is a Neutral Ground
Some couples fear that the court system is adversarial, and that litigating a divorce can end up pitting one parent against the other to the detriment of the child’s wellbeing. In a court divorce, the judge ultimately makes the decisions, and some couples are apprehensive about a lack of control over the many of the decisions that need to be made in a divorce. After all, they know their child best, and are concerned about a third party being the one to make decisions.
Of course, there are cases and situations where it is best for the courts to get involved, and for a judge to make a decision after considering all factors. However, if you and your spouse are willing to work together for the sake of your child, you can likely come to an agreement in mediation that you both agree is in the best interest of your child.
Past Mistakes vs. Future Wellbeing
One of the concerns about a court divorce is that it will make you shine a light on past parenting mistakes of you or your spouse, which can lead to anger or resentment. In mediation, the goal is not to place blame for past wrongs, but rather for both parties to focus their energy on working to raise their children in the future. However, either way the end result is the same: a desire to make positive decisions about your child’s care moving forward.
Will My Child Have to Make Custody Decisions?
Many parents are apprehensive about causing undue stress on their child, and want to know if the child will have to make decisions about which parent they want to live with. One of the appeals of mediation is that parents can work together to come to those decisions themselves, without having to involve the child in the decision making process. As to whether the court can make the child decide which parent they want to live with in a divorce, that depends on the state you live in, the age of the child, and a number of other factors. In the end, the judge will make the decision with the child’s best interest in mind.
Is Divorce Mediation Faster than Litigated Divorce?
Any divorce can have a negative effect on the mental health of your child, but once the divorce is finalized, it is easier for them to acclimate to the new situation. Litigated divorce can take many months, or even years in some cases, to be decided. By comparison, divorce mediation can be a much faster process for two spouses who are willing and able to come to an amicable agreement on major issues. However, mediation is not a fit for every situation, and ultimately there are steps parents can take to make divorce easier on their children no matter which route they take.
Consider Your Children at Every Step
You should consider your child at every step during divorce. After all, this doesn’t just affect you and your spouse, but the whole family. The dynamic will surely change, but that doesn’t mean your child can’t still have a happy and healthy childhood in spite of the divorce.
Casey Wagner is a copywriter for A Better Solution: NJ Divorce/Separation Mediation by Steven B. Menack, ESQ., APM. Steven B. Menack is a highly experienced, fully accredited NJ divorce mediator and divorce attorney that specializes in divorce mediation and legal separation in NJ.