Child Custody Mediation Checklist

Child Custody Mediation Checklist

The Changing Landscape of Child Custody

Decades ago, the landscape of child custody was quite different from what it is today. The prevailing belief was the “tender years doctrine,” which suggested that women were natural caregivers and should raise their kids until they were older. As a result, it was common for children to stay with their mothers after a divorce, and fathers often had limited involvement in their children’s lives. However, times have changed, and so have the dynamics of child custody arrangements.

Amicable Custody: A New Norm

Nowadays, it’s not unusual for parents to split custody amicably. The focus has shifted towards what is in the best interest of the child, rather than adhering to traditional gender roles. This shift has brought about more equal and balanced custody arrangements, allowing both parents to play an active role in their children’s lives after divorce.

The Role of Mediation in Child Custody

One significant development that has contributed to these positive changes is child custody mediation. When divorcing couples find it challenging to reach agreements on custody matters, mediation offers a constructive and less adversarial approach. During mediation, couples work with a trained third party—the mediator—to steer the conversation, promote active listening, and guide them towards mutually beneficial agreements.

What to Expect During Child Custody Mediation

Child custody mediation sessions can be emotionally charged, as parents grapple with the future well-being of their children. While mediation typically spans several hours, the discussions can be deep and impactful for the child’s future. The focus is on finding common ground and ensuring the best possible outcome for the children involved.

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Topics Covered in Mediation

  1. Physical Custody: Couples discuss where their children will live. Some opt for an uneven split, while others choose a 50/50 arrangement.
  2. Legal Custody: The decision-making authority for the child’s welfare, healthcare, and education is discussed. In some cases, one parent may have sole physical custody but share legal custody.
  3. Visitation Schedules: Specific visitation schedules are established to avoid conflicts during holidays, vacations, and special occasions.
  4. Supervision: For certain cases, especially those involving a history of substance abuse or violence, supervised visits may be implemented.
  5. Child Support: Financial arrangements for supporting the child are addressed, considering factors like the child’s needs and unique circumstances.
  6. Communication Methods: Clear plans are developed to ensure effective communication between parents, especially in the case of high-conflict relationships.

Preparing for Child Custody Mediation

Gather Important Documents

Before heading to the mediation session, it’s essential to gather relevant documents to support your case. While mediation doesn’t involve entering evidence into a legal record, having tangible evidence can strengthen your position. Here’s what you should consider bringing:

  1. Calendars: Document your current and future visitation schedules, including drop-off and pick-up times.
  2. Legal Documents: If there are court orders regarding supervised visits or other specific conditions, bring the relevant paperwork.
  3. Financial Records: If child support is a topic of discussion, bring supporting documents such as bills, bank statements, and proof of child-related expenses.
  4. Prior Agreements: If you’ve already settled some matters with your ex-spouse, bring written documentation to avoid rehashing old issues.

Preparing Emotionally

Child custody mediation can be emotionally taxing, so it’s crucial to prepare yourself mentally for the process:

  1. Focus on Your Child: Remember that the well-being of your child is the primary concern. Keep their best interests in mind throughout the mediation.
  2. Prepare for a Lengthy Process: Mediation discussions can be time-consuming, so ensure you are physically and mentally prepared for a potentially long day.
  3. Be Detailed in Your Plans: Consider various scenarios, outline your ideas on calendars, and be prepared to negotiate. Compromise may be necessary.
  4. Stay Calm: Develop coping strategies to stay calm during emotional discussions. Breathing exercises or calming rituals can be helpful.
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The Aftermath of Child Custody Mediation

At the end of a successful child custody mediation, you and your ex-spouse will have a parenting plan in place. This plan will outline the custody arrangements and other important decisions related to your child. It’s essential to have this plan officially documented and filed with the court as part of your divorce agreement.

Enforcement and Future Mediation

Remember that the parenting plan created during mediation is legally binding. If your ex-partner fails to adhere to the agreement, you have the option to return to court for enforcement. Additionally, some couples may find it helpful to return to mediation after the divorce to address new issues that may arise in the future.

Child custody mediation has become an invaluable tool for divorcing parents seeking amicable solutions for their children’s well-being. If done with a focus on the child’s best interests and a willingness to cooperate, mediation can lead to fair and sustainable custody arrangements that benefit all parties involved.


  1. Is child custody mediation legally binding?
    • Yes, the parenting plan created during mediation is legally binding once it is filed with the court as part of the divorce agreement.
  2. Can I return to mediation for new issues after the divorce?
    • Yes, there is no time limit on mediation, and you can return to it as needed to address new problems that may arise in the future.
  3. What if my ex-spouse doesn’t adhere to the custody agreement?
    • If your ex-spouse fails to follow the agreed-upon custody arrangements, you can seek enforcement through the court.
  4. Are custody arrangements the same for every couple?
    • No, custody arrangements are tailored to each family’s unique circumstances, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution in mediation.
  5. How can I stay calm during emotionally charged discussions?
    • Find coping strategies that work for you, such as deep breathing exercises or focusing on positive thoughts.
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