Saturday, October 21, 2006

More Differences Between Mandatory Court-Based Custody Mediation and Private Mediation of Domestic Issues

I wrote about the differences between court-sponsored custody mediation and private family mediation in a prior post here. Based on some negative comments I hear about court-based custody mediation, I wanted to highlight some additional differences.

The comments I typically hear about court-based, mandatory custody mediation are: 1) it is not effective; 2) the mediator was not neutral and favored the other party; 3) the parties felt pressured; 4) the results were not fair; and 5) it was a terrible experience.

As I have explained previously, private, voluntary family mediation is much different from court-based mandatory custody mediation. The mediator's backgrounds are different and the court mediators are part of the court system and are charged with very specific and narrow goals to accomplish within a very limited time frame. Court mediators are not permitted to discuss "extraneous" issues that may be incredibly important to the parties and intertwined with all the other divorce issues. Mandatory custody mediation is just one step to solve one piece of the larger puzzle. It can be effective, but is just a start.

In private mediation, the parties and the mediator create an agenda of all issues that need to be discussed and resolved. Often the issues that are discussed in mediation, which the parties have identified as being important issues, are things the family courts would not consider in making its determinations. In private mediation, all issues can be resolved whether they pertain to child custody, creating a workable co-parenting plan, extended families' visitation, child support, property division, pensions, "custody" of the family pets, spousal support, home mortgages, etc. The list is as short or as long as needed for the particular parties to the mediation.

Private family law or divorce mediation is a much more comprehensive process and is intended to allow the parties to explore concerns, emotions, finances, alternative solutions and anything else they need to discuss. This allows the parties to feel more satisfied with the agreements they worked to create than they might feel from the court's mandatory custody mediation.

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