Unlike other issues in family law, child support orders are typically very straightforward.
However, over time, circumstances change, and child support needs may have to be altered. In this article, we will explain the difference between mediation and litigation. After reading, you will have a better understanding of whether litigation is your only option, or if mediation could be an option for you.
What is Litigation?
Litigation refers to a situation where you and your spouse cannot agree upon certain terms or issues in your child custody case, and you need to go to court to have a judge make determinations on your case. Litigation is the process of taking your child custody case to court. The judge will hear all of the relevant issues and facts. When you and your attorney present your case, this is known as the litigation phase.
What are the Pros of Litigation?
If your child custody case is going to be contested by either party, litigation is the road to take. Litigation may also be needed in some cases where the parties are too contentious and cannot deal with each other civilly. Pros of litigation include:
- If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your child custody case, you can appeal it
- Litigation may be a more favorable option if physical or emotional abuse is involved
To further understand the pros of litigation and determine what is right for you, consider contacting an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.
What are the Cons of Litigation?
There are some cons that come with litigating a child custody case. Some of these cons are:
- Litigating a child custody case can become extremely expensive
- Litigation can last for several months and potentially even years
- Litigating a child custody case can cause further strain and resentment on relationships
To further understand the cons of litigation and determine what is right for you, consider contacting an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative way to settle a dispute. When you’re mediating your child custody case, a mediator will meet with the two parties to help them determine the best outcome for all involved. A mediator is a confidential, neutral, third-party person who is trained in conflict resolution and helps two sides reach an agreement.
When it comes to child custody, mediation can be a way for parents to come to an agreement without creating any added stress for the children involved. A mediator does not have the legal power to force a result on you or your spouse, but they can assist you in creating your own agreement.
What Kinds of Child Custody Issues can be Resolved by Mediation?
Several types of child custody issues and concerns can be resolved through mediation. These include:
- Decisions about types of custody (for example, shared vs. joint custody, sole custody, and legal custody matters);
- Determining whether one parent will be the primary custodial parent;
- Determining which parent has legal custody of the child (determining which parent will be authorized to make legal decisions on behalf of their child)
- Proposing changes or modifications to an already existing child custody order.
What are the Pros of Mediation?
Mediation may be a better option than litigation depending on the exact needs of the two parties. The pros of mediation are:
- It’s less costly
- There is usually less involvement by lawyers or expert witnesses
- It’s less emotionally draining on both spouses and children
- Mediation moves more quickly than litigation. A child custody arrangement is usually made after five to ten hours of mediation.
- You have more control over the outcome of your case
- Mediation allows for enhanced communication between the two parties
- Even once a mediation agreement is set by the court, it can be changed depending on the situation of the parents. If the child’s needs change, or if the parent’s circumstances change, like one parent has to move further away for a job, then the agreement can be changed again.
To further understand the pros of mediation and determine what is right for you, consider contacting an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.
What are the Cons of Mediation?
The cons of mediation include:
- Both parties must find a way to agree to all terms and conditions
- The final outcome of mediation may not be legally binding
- In some cases, such as modifying an already existing child custody or visitation order, the final agreement may still need approval from the court before the changes can begin.
- Even once an agreement is set by the court, it can be changed depending on the situation of the parents. If the child’s needs change, or if the parent’s circumstances change, like one parent has to move further away for a job, then the agreement can be changed again.
- If both parties cannot reach an agreement, they will have to go back through litigation
To further understand the cons of mediation and determine what is right for you, consider contacting an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.
Is Mediation Possible Even if My Ex-Spouse and I Can’t Work Together?
Professional mediators are trained and very skilled at getting combative parents to cooperate. Mediators are also skilled at getting the parents to recognize how their own cooperation is good for the children. From there, the mediator can help the parties move towards reaching a workable agreement.
However, parents can make the process easier and faster if they go in with the right mindset. Instead of being so focused on hurting each other, they must remember that the purpose of child custody mediation is to make the separation/divorce easier on the child. By approaching the mediation in a peaceful and cooperative manner, as much as possible, then they can help their child go through this difficult time.
What Happens After a Mediation?
If you’re able to resolve your child custody dispute through mediation, you will create a settlement agreement with your spouse. If you’re unable to resolve your matter through mediation, you will go back to the court system through litigation – however, everything you discussed during the mediation process will remain confidential. Discussions had during mediation cannot go to court and cannot be presented or used against you in any way.
What if there is a History of Abuse Between the Two Parents?
If there is a history of abuse between parents, or the parents simply can’t stand each other, then a mediator can act as a messenger. A mediator might assist in relaying messages to parents in separate rooms until an agreement can be reached.
In more serious cases where abuse is an immediate concern or the safety of a parent is threatened, police or other authorities should be notified. In some cases, a parent who is in danger of harm may obtain a temporary or emergency restraining order. This can help to provide protection for the parent and the child until more permanent arrangements are made.
A court cannot ignore any history of domestic violence. Any history of domestic violence will be considered when deciding on child custody. If you have been the victim of abuse by your spouse, it is important to document it and report it to the police so the abuse can be officially recorded and used as evidence.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Assistance with My Child Custody Case?
If you are interested in creating or modifying a child custody or visitation arrangement, it would be wise to consult with a child custody lawyer in your area. An experienced lawyer who has dealt with the court system and mediators can help serve your interests and protect your relationship with your child.