Nothing can cause more anxiety or concern for a parent than a battle over the custody of a child. During and even after a divorce, you may have concerns about who’s raising your children, when and if you can see them, and what the future has in store. You’re about to learn how to prepare for a child custody dispute and how the mediation process might be the best path for you to take.

In almost every area of the law, judges and attorneys are seeking alternatives to costly, lengthy, and emotionally-draining courtroom battles. Mediation is one of those alternatives. In the state of Indiana, mediation is frequently the choice for resolving divorces, custody battles, and other family law disputes. Mediation is almost always less costly and stressful than a courtroom trial.

In a child custody mediation, both parents and their attorneys confer with a neutral mediator regarding the custody of the child. No judge participates or is even present at the mediation sessions, although a judge will be asked to “sign off” on any agreement that the parents reach. If no agreement is achieved in mediation, a full custody trial may be required.

WHAT MUST PARENTS DO TO PREPARE FOR A CHILD CUSTODY MEDIATION?

It’s imperative to be well-prepared for a child custody mediation. For some parents, preparation will be the key to winning custody of your child. If mediation fails, your preparation has not been wasted, because it puts you in a good position for going to trial.

To be as well-prepared as possible for a child custody mediation:

– Take the time to compile all of the pertinent information and evidence that you need.
– Outline and understand the issues in the dispute.
– Establish your goals and be proactive in achieving them.

As a parent seeking custody of your child, it is essential to have all of the information that you need. Here in Indiana, an experienced Lake County child custody attorney can file discovery motions, request subpoenas, and conduct depositions under oath to help a parent gather the information and evidence that may be needed in the course of the mediation process.

HOW DOES THE DISCOVERY PROCESS WORK?

Your attorney may file a motion for disclosure to begin the discovery procedure. A motion for disclosure requires the disclosure of information such as the names of persons who have knowledge of relevant facts in the case and the names of any expert witnesses the other side intends to question. Your attorney can also request documents, such as income tax returns, that may be pertinent to your case.

Written discovery motions and “interrogatories” – written questions that must be answered in writing and under oath – are the least costly way to compile evidence in the discovery phase of a child custody contest. Due to the high cost of a deposition – a face-to-face interrogation conducted under oath and transcribed by a court reporter – depositions are not usually conducted in the discovery phase of a child custody case.

As you gather information to prepare for the child custody mediation sessions, begin to clarify the issues that you want to discuss during mediation, and make certain that you understand those issues. Don’t hesitate to organize your thoughts on paper or to discuss the issues that are important to you with your attorney.

WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO EXPLAIN IN THE MEDIATION SESSIONS?

During the mediation sessions, you need to be able to explain, diplomatically, why you should have custody of your child and your child’s other parent should not.

There might be any number of reasons why one parent should have custody and the other should not, so no list can be exhaustive, but some of the specific reasons why parents seek custody include:

– Your child has special needs that are being overlooked.
– Your neighborhood has less crime and/or better schools.
– Your child’s other parent cohabits with an abusive partner.
– Your child’s other parent has mental health or substance abuse issues.

HOW CAN A CHILD CUSTODY ATTORNEY HELP YOU WITH MEDIATION?

Overall, the most important preparation for a child custody mediation is knowing your goals and objectives and discussing them thoroughly with your attorney. Let’s say that your primary goal is the sole custody of your child. If your primary goal begins to look impossible, have a Plan B – maybe physical custody of your child in a joint legal custody arrangement, for example – and even a Plan C.

Be certain that you and your attorney are on the same page and are pursuing the same strategy and tactics throughout the mediation process. Your family law attorney must be someone that you like and someone that you are entirely comfortable working with and trusting. In Gary, Lake County, and northwest Indiana, parents in any child custody dispute will need to be advised and represented by an experienced Lake County child custody attorney.

As a general rule of thumb, family courts in Indiana usually want a child to have healthy relationships with both parents and to spend time with both parents. Courts and mediators encourage divorced, divorcing, or never-married parents to work together on matters like custody, visitation details, and child support. Mediation facilitates such agreements and works to reduce the level of acrimony and stress that typically accompany courtroom custody battles.

Parents entering into child custody mediation should understand that if they cannot reach a custody agreement through the mediation process, the mediator will probably make his or her own recommendation to the judge based on what transpired in the mediation sessions. In most cases where mediation fails, an Indiana family court will accept the mediator’s recommendation regarding the custody of the child.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT A CHILD CUSTODY MEDIATION REQUIRES?

When parents agree to mediation, both should be willing to cooperate and to make some compromises. What mediation requires is a cooperative attitude. When a divorce was or is acrimonious, or when the parents actively distrust or express antagonism to one another, mediation probably is not the right path for those parents.

You wouldn’t trade your relationship and your future with your child for any amount of money. If a child custody dispute arises, an experienced Lake County child custody attorney can help. For many families in Indiana, mediation will be the best possible way to resolve a child custody dispute.

However, the mediation process only works if both parents bring a spirit of cooperation to the mediation sessions – and if they come well-prepared. If you know your goals and how you want to reach those goals in a child custody dispute, contact a family law attorney at once to learn more about mediation.