Creating a child custody agreement through mediation is designed to be a more collaborative experience that keeps parents out of the courtroom and allows them to create an agreement that works best for the whole family. When you need child custody mediation in Raleigh, we can help you come to an agreement that will be ideal for your family.
Understanding Child Custody Mediation in North Carolina
There are two types of custody mediation: private mediation and the Wake County Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program. Private mediation involves working with an attorney you hire to sit down with both parties and guide the discussion to create a resolution. The Wake County Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program is a public service that is legally required in all cases involving contested custody and visitation issues.
In both cases, mediation is designed to help both parties identify and discuss concerns in a respectful manner while exploring an arrangement that addresses the needs of the children and the concerns of the parents. The mediator is not there to make decisions, but simply to keep the discussion moving forward and facilitate agreements.
Below is a chart that compares the two methods so you can determine the best way to address your particular situation:
|Issue||Private Mediation||Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program|
|Cost of mediation||The parties are responsible for one half of the mediator’s fees, which can range from $125 an hour to more than $250 an hour depending on the mediator selected||There is no cost to the parties|
|Is a lawsuit required to be filed?||No, the parties can agree to pursue mediation without having filed an action for child custody||Yes. This program available only to parties with a pending child custody action. Unless someone seeks this requirement to be waived by the Court, all parties with a child custody matter being are required to participate in this program.|
|What kind of experience will my mediator have?||Since you may hire any mediator you like, you may have a mediator who is themselves a family law attorney or former judge. You can also select someone not licensed to practice law, but may have significant psychological training as well as mediation training.||You are assigned a mediator through the program without input by either party. Mediators hired to work for the program have at least a Master’s Degree in one of the counseling fields and extensive training in family mediation.|
|Will I have to be in the same room as the opposing party?||Not necessarily. Most private mediations are done with each party in a separate room and the mediator takes offers to the different room to facilitate the discussion without the parties being in the same room.||In most cases the parties are in the same room with the mediator.|
|Can my attorney be present during the mediation process?||Yes||No|
|Can we mediation other issues related to child custody, such as child support?||Yes, if both parties agree to do so.||No, but your attorney will be provided a copy of any draft parenting agreement so you and your attorney can review it and discuss any possible changes that should be made.|
How Should I Prepare for Child Custody Mediation?
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your custody mediation meeting is make a list of what your goals and concerns are regarding child custody and visitation. In addition to listing your goals and concerns, note what you feel the other party's goals and concerns may be so you have a better understanding of where they are coming from and where you can form a starting point. These goals may not just be related to physical custody and where the child will be living or visitation schedules, you can also note legal custody issues related to making decisions regarding your child's health care, education, and religious upbringing.
Choosing Child Custody Mediation
At its core, mediation is about fostering communication and collaboration between two parents in order to create a positive co-parenting relationship moving forward. During the mediation, both parties will discuss physical custody, legal custody, and how communication will take place.
Creating a Physical Custody Schedule
Regarding the physical custody and visitation schedule, you should be sure to know what school schedule your child operates under currently as well as how that may possibly change in the future. Consider these factors when mapping out an arrangement:
- How realistic is it that both parties can timely get the minor children to school on time under a proposed custody schedule?
- How will extracurricular activities of the minor children be addressed when the events overlap onto each party’s custodial time?
- What holidays are important to you as well as the opposing party?
- How will child care be arranged when one parent is not available for a particular period of time when it is their custodial time?
Legal Custody Mediation in NC
As we mentioned, custody isn't just about living and visitation schedules, it's also about making decisions on behalf of the child. While physical custody may lean more heavily in favor of one parent, legal custody is often split evenly, meaning both parents have equal say in their child's education, religious upbringing, and health care. However, if two parents simply can't reach an agreement, the custodial parent often has final say.
During child custody mediation, both parties can come to an agreement in a collaborative manner in issues regarding your child's wellbeing, minimizing the likelihood of disagreements in the future.
Communication Moving Forward
Communication is important to having a positive co-parenting relationship. Having boundaries in place in your custody agreement or consent order can ensure that communication is done in an effective manner. Examples of including communication in an agreement include:
- All communication is limited to addressing issues related to the children;
- Communication must be cordial and respectful;
- Communication will only be done in writing, such as through email or text;
- Both parties are expected to respond to requests within a set time period;
Is Child Custody Mediation Right for My Family?
Sadly, mediation is not a good fit for every situation. In cases where it is simply not possible for both parents to sit down and communicate in a positive, respectful manner or where you know there is simply no way you can come to an agreement between the two of you, it may be better to be settled by the court. Also, if you have serious concerns for your safety or the safety of your children or there are issues of substance abuse or mental health issues, mediation will probably not be the right option and custody should be left to a judge.
The Primary Goal of Custody is the Wellbeing of Your Children
Overall, never lose sight of the goal that child custody is not about who "wins;" it is about what is in the best interest of your children. Creating a safe, positive environment for your children to thrive and grow should be the primary goal of both parties, and know that regardless of what happened between the adults, your children love each of you. Raleigh mediation provides an opportunity for you and the other party to make these decisions directly affecting your children yourselves versus having the decision being made by the Court.
Schedule a Consultation with a Child Custody Attorney in Raleigh Today
If you would like to explore private custody mediation in North Carolina, we can help. Our team of family attorneys in Raleigh are here to guide you through the process and ensure your parental rights are upheld. Contact our legal team by phone at (919) 301-8843 or by completing the form below.