One of the hardest-fought battles during a divorce is often over child custody, or as the state of Florida now prefers to call it: primary residential parent and time-sharing parent. Both parents love their children and want to remain an integral part of their lives, yet can find it difficult—if not impossible—to agree to a time-sharing plan. Unfortunately, when parents in the State of Florida are unable to come to an agreement on their own, regarding shared parental responsibilities, a Judge may make those decisions for them. Rather than ending up with a Parenting Plan nobody is happy with, you and your spouse may want to consider mediation.
A mediator is a neutral third party who will work with both parents in order to create a plan that is fair to all those involved. The attorneys at The Law Place take the time to fully understand your desires regarding parenting issues in order to develop a strategy which will allow you to obtain your goals. We will work hard to ensure you retain control of the important parenting decisions rather than turning them over to a judge. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators and have the experience and abilities necessary to present a strong case for you in court should you be unable to reach a mediated settlement.
Reasons to Use a Mediator
The cost of hiring an unbiased mediator to help you and your spouse reach a mutually acceptable time-sharing plan will likely cost you less in the long run, as well as preventing more negative feelings between the two of you. Mediation allows parents the opportunity to build a positive future and move forward. Mediation also allows you to stay in control of the important decisions related to your children, and can be easier on all those involved.
Litigation is adversarial and may require the children to take sides, while mediation reaches a much more peaceful agreement. Everything you say in your mediation sessions is confidential; should the mediation be unsuccessful and you are forced to go before a judge, anything said during mediation may not be used in the courtroom. In short, mediation focuses on the best interests of everyone involved, plus your mediator will assist you in completing all the required paperwork necessary to file with the Florida court.
How to Prepare for Mediation in Florida
Mediation between parents over child custody disputes is normally voluntary, although a Judge may order the parents to attend mediation in an attempt to work out a situation which seems as though it may never be resolved. It is a good idea to discuss your upcoming mediation with your family law attorney in order to avoid any potential pitfalls. Before you go to your first mediation session, you can do the following to make the session go more smoothly:
• Make a detailed daily schedule of your normal activities, the activities of your children, and how the two intersect.
• Make notes of what type of time-sharing you are hoping for.
• Gather all the relevant records related to your children, including medical records, school reports, and anything else you think could help the mediator get a comprehensive picture of your children’s lives.
• Make a notation of the parenting arrangements which have been in place during the divorce.
• Make a detailed list that shows which of the children’s relatives are an integral part of their lives, what contact the children have with extended family, what your current work situation is, and what your educational history and living situation consist of. If you have a history of drug and alcohol abuse, poor physical health or any other issue which will likely come out during mediation, present it yourself and show how you have made changes in your life to benefit your children.
• Prepare a sample Parenting Plan which will show the mediator how willing you are to share parental responsibilities as well as how you intend to co-parent with the other parent. This Parenting Plan will show that you will put your children’s best interests ahead of your own wishes. Make sure you take into consideration the developmental stage of each child when preparing your Sample Parenting Plan.
• Make a list of your concerns regarding the children’s other parent, then consider what the other parent could do to allay those concerns.
• Detail why you believe your home is the best place for the children and why you should be the primary residential parent. If your home includes a room for each child, let the mediator know this.
The mediator in your case will identify and categorize all issues between you and your spouse, and may want to start on the lesser issues in order to get them out of the way as well as gently leading you and your children’s other parent into the art of give and take. If you and the other parent are able to hammer out a mutually acceptable agreement with the help of a mediator, the mediator will assist you in preparing an agreement to present to the court. Your attorney needs to examine this agreement prior to its submission. Any issues not settled in mediation will be settled by the judge in your case. Your attorney from The Law Place will fight for your family, delivering the best legal knowledge, support and information to you from the beginning of your case through to the end. We are experienced in all forms of dispute resolution, including mediation, and can help you through the process.