Walking into custody mediation can feel intimidating. You’ll have to speak openly about what you believe is best for your child in front of your ex and a mediator whom you’ve only recently met. Bringing someone with you can give you the confidence you’ll need to actively participate.
The following are some of the people you may bring to custody mediation for support if your mediator allows it.
If you hire a lawyer, they’ll help you throughout the custody mediation process.
Your lawyer will make sure you’re prepared and know what to expect. Once mediation begins, they may ask you how much you’d like them to take part. Some lawyers sit outside of the mediation room and only get involved when their client needs guidance. Others take a more active approach and speak on their client’s behalf.
If mediation results in an agreement with the other parent, your lawyer can review it to ensure the terms are fair and write it up into a court-ready document.
A licensed legal paraprofessional
Legal paraprofessionals are non-lawyers who work in law. In some places, licensed legal paraprofessionals can represent clients in custody mediation. They’ll help you understand what’s going on and answer legal questions you have.
An attorney ad litem
Attorneys ad litem work for people who can’t represent themselves, like adults with disabilities and children. In some places, they may attend custody mediation to help shape the agreement. They’ll make sure the terms are in the child’s best interest and work for your unique situation.
A guardian ad litem
If a guardian ad litem (GAL) is part of your custody case, they may attend the mediation to represent the child. They’ll make sure the child’s best interest is at the forefront of custody discussions. Plus, they’ll have a say in the terms of the agreement and can oppose it if they don’t think it will benefit the child.
A friend or relative
Mediation can be emotionally taxing. The presence of a friend or relative who understands what you’ve gone through makes the process more manageable. The friend or relative can’t participate in the discussions, but they may speak to you during breaks, help you keep documents organized, etc. You should not bring romantic partners or children with you to mediation.
Mediation shouldn’t be scary
Don’t let the intimidating aspects of mediation distract you from the many benefits. Lean on friends, family and professionals for support if you’re feeling uneasy. Even the mediator can be a helpful figure. It’s their job is to be impartial and try to make the process comfortable for all participants. They can help if you have questions or concerns.
If your situation is appropriate for mediation, give it a try before counting yourself out.
University of California, Davis, Professor Donna Shestowsky and I recently had the pleasure of conducting the first neutral evaluation of any family law court online dispute resolution (ODR) program in the United...By Jennifer Shack