Tragic stories about child custody disputes are frequently in the news cycle. Whether it’s parental kidnapping or even more extreme incidents, the volatility of child custody cases is evident.
Mediation has become a highly-touted alternative to custody court. More and more courts are instituting mandatory mediation, and many parents are opting to mediate rather than litigate. Mediation stands as a line of defense against court and the battles it brings.
Parent v. Parent
The “v” between parents’ names on court paperwork sends the message that parents must work against one another rather than together. It’s not uncommon for litigants to employ dirty tricks to win custody. The fear of losing their relationship with their child is enough to make any parent go mad — some to an extreme degree.
Even after the verdict, parents who have no interest in working together will likely struggle to follow court orders. They may deny visits out of spite, quit their job to pay less child support and more. All these actions ultimately hurt the children.
Mediation prioritizes cooperation over competition. Parents are encouraged to work together by talking through issues they have with one another and finding common ground through what is best for their child. This often leads to parents staying loyal to their agreed-upon parenting plan as they both had a hand in its creation.
Judge biases v. facts
While judges are bound by the law, their personal beliefs may still color their decisions. Their biases may result in them ruling against the facts of the case. A common example is gender bias based on the view that raising children is a woman’s duty.
There can be gender bias against mothers as well. Mothers are often mischaracterized as trying to inhibit their child’s relationship with the other parent. In the worst cases, such as those involving domestic violence, the victim trying to protect their child is vilified and punished.
Mediators are not above having biases or acting unprofessionally. However, mediation gives parents the power to choose their mediator, and the final decision in mediation is ultimately up to parents.
There is a marked difference in how parents feel after litigating versus mediating. In a study comparing the outcomes of mediated and litigated custody cases, parents who mediated their cases felt more in control and that they got a fairer outcome than those who litigated.
Everything ultimately boils down to the individual details of a case. Mediation can suit many situations, but some cases are best litigated in court for the protection of those involved.
Mediation isn’t perfect, and it isn’t always successful. But it is a viable way to avoid an all-out custody battle.
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