Find Mediators Near You:

Custody Mediation – Before or During Litigation?

Parents can try both litigation and mediation to determine parenting arrangements after they split. But should you go to mediation before or during your court case?

Ideally, go as soon as you can, and keep trying until you reach an agreement (as long as mediation suits your situation).

Going to custody mediation could shorten the litigation process or save you from going to court at all. 

Going to mediation before litigation

You can go to mediation before starting a court case.

If mediation is successful, you will avoid fighting in court, though you may still need to turn in your agreement and pay a filing fee. You could potentially save thousands in court fees and lawyers’ bills. 

If mediation is unsuccessful, you may be exempted from any court requirements to attend mediation later. Plus, you may leave with fewer disagreements and spend less time in court as a result.

Going to mediation during litigation

After you start a case, you can go to mediation to try to avoid a trial.

Family courts with mediation programs often require parents to attend before getting a trial date. If your court doesn’t have a program, you can still ask the court to stay (pause) proceedings so you can go to private mediation.

With the court’s approval, the agreement you reach will become a court order, concluding your case.

If you don’t reach an agreement, you’ll continue through the legal process.

Going to mediation after litigation

Life will change as your child gets older. If you need to modify your court order or agreement before your child becomes an adult, you can go to mediation to figure out a new arrangement you can hand in to the court. This applies even if you’ve never been to mediation before.

You can also go to mediation to resolve differences that don’t affect your court order. For example, if you’re supposed to make decisions together and can’t agree where the child should attend school, you can take the matter to mediation rather than leave it up to the judge.

The best time to go to custody mediation

As soon as you decide to split up with your child’s other parent, start preparing for custody mediation. The sooner you reach an agreement, the better — for everyone involved.


Zarira Love

In her three years of researching and writing for Custody X Change, Zarira Love has distilled the topics of child custody and parenting to make vital information accessible to all parents. She earned a BA in Creative Writing from SUNY Purchase College and currently resides in New York City. MORE

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


NeuroAnatomist Jill Bolte Taylor Narrates Her Own Stroke and Finds Nirvana

It's Sunday . . . and since I inadvertently celebrated my own little Brain Week here, I thought I'd give you something extraordinary to watch . . . it has...

By Victoria Pynchon

VP Joe Biden: Honoring A Solemn Duty To Provide Access To Justice By Supporting Foreclosure Mediation

From the Just Court ADR blogOn Friday, United States Vice President Joe Biden announced fresh support for foreclosure mediation programs. The official plan flows from recent work of the Department...

By Heather Scheiwe Kulp

Marriage Closure Therapy: Tips for Family Mediators

  Marriage Closure Therapy is slowly gaining attention and recognition.  Having an understanding of this process will help family mediators in their practice and in making appropriate referrals. Tips for mediators...

By Susan Bulfinch