In bitter custody disputes, divorcing parents go to court to argue over both large and small child-related issues. While the court process certainly results in an eventual resolution, it can have a tremendous amount of collateral damage. Specifically, you, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse and your children may experience substantial emotional harm from a drawn-out court battle.

You want to look out for your kids’ leading interests. The same is true for both your spouse and the commonwealth. Fortunately, you have some options for resolving your custody matter without turning it into an all-out war. One of these, mediation, involves working with a third party to reach an acceptable agreement. If you choose this option, you can expect to go through three steps:

  1. Attend an initial meeting

When you agree to mediate a custody matter, you and your spouse typically attend a meeting with a trained mediator. You may choose to have an attorney with you to help you better understand your options and manage your position. Regardless, you should prepare as much as possible for your first meeting. After all, the initial meeting sets the tone for the rest of the mediation.

  1. Identify and settle important issues

A well-written custody agreement provides the framework for future parenting. This is especially true if you and your partner end up co-parenting your kids. Therefore, you must identify and settle important child-related issues. These may include any of the following:

  • Custody
  • Communication
  • Visitation, holidays, travel and vacations
  • Education and extracurricular activities
  • Religious practices
  • Medical care
  • Custody disagreements and violations
  1. Draft the custody agreement

After you and your spouse have found solutions to as many custody issues as possible, you are ready to write the custody agreement. Carefully review the agreement to be certain it reflects the compromises and solutions you have reached through mediation.

Sometimes, mediation resolves a custody matter in only a single session. You may, however, need to go through several meetings to reach an acceptable agreement. Either way, understanding what to expect is critical for getting the most out of your family’s mediation.