As a parent, you are faced with a number of concerns and questions relating to your children the moment you decide to end the relationship with your partner or spouse. When will each parent have custody of the children? Will they remain in the same school? Where will the children spend their holidays and vacations?
In order to appreciate the benefits of mediating your custody case, it is helpful to understand what happens when parents cannot agree on a resolution, such that the custody matter is litigated through the court system.
The litigation process begins with the filing of a Custody Complaint, which prompts the court to schedule a Master’s Hearing. This is an informal, preliminary hearing that is often listed four to six weeks from the filing date. In many cases, each parent hires his or her own attorney, resulting in two separate, costly retainer payments. At this point, “battle lines” are drawn. If the parties do not reach an agreement at the Master’s Hearing, the case is then listed for a formal hearing before a Judge. This further delays the resolution of your case, as the matter will again be scheduled a number of weeks, if not months, in the future. In addition, each parent will continue to spend more money on attorney’s fees, as the custody hearing will involve extensive preparation. Depending on the complexity of your case, you may be required to call witnesses or experts to testify on your behalf, and the hearing could take place over several days. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge will consider the evidence presented and issue a custody order. In most cases, neither parent is happy with the result and the parties wind up back in court, necessitating a whole new round of delays and fees.
The mediation process, in contrast, begins with an agreement by the parents to cooperate and commit to developing a mutually agreeable parenting plan, with the best interests of the children in mind. With SnapDivorce® Mediation, the parties pay one affordable, fixed fee, which will be disclosed upfront, before the process even begins. The fee covers all mediation sessions and the drafting of a detailed parenting plan that will become the court-approved custody order. Each mediation session is conducted by an experienced attorney-mediator, and is structured to facilitate an efficient resolution that best addresses the specific needs of each case. The mediation process allows for parents to craft creative, custom-made parenting plans, which is often unavailable to parents who litigate their dispute in court. In fact, custody mediation studies reveal that mediation leads to more detailed parenting plans and higher rates of compliance, as both parents are fully invested and involved in drafting the plan. At the conclusion of the mediation process, the parents have successfully resolved their custody dispute with the creation of a comprehensive parenting plan. They have avoided a costly and lengthy court battle. They have saved time, money, and their own sanity.