Missouri Divorce Start Your Divorce Find Professionals Missouri Articles Divorce Facts Divorce Grounds Residency Divorce Laws Property Division Alimony Child Custody Child Support Divorce Forms Grandparent Rights Forum Missouri Products Divorce by County
Mediating a Custody Crisis Can be Better Than Going Back to Court
Last week’s column dealt with a mother’s query about the age at which children are given considerable sway by the court in determining how much time they spend with each of their divorced parents. Her two children, aged 12 and 14, were resisting spending the time with their father provided for in the court-approved parenting plan.
Absent substantiated claims of abuse by the father or some other significant shortcoming in fulfilling his role as father, the court would not likely approve a substantial reduction in his time based upon his children expressing a preference for their mom. At least not for kids under 15, which is when the court begins to defer to the wishes of the child.
However, if the children are adamant and dig in their heels when the father’s time comes up, this creates a "lose-lose" proposition for both mom and dad. Mom cannot cave in to her kids’ demands and refuse to make them available to dad without risking a felony charge, while dad is certainly in for a no-fun weekend if he forces his children to visit with him.
The best outcome is a compromise schedule worked out with everyone’s participation that is acceptable to all. Presuming the compromise still provides dad with a meaningful role in his children’s lives, it is likely the court will give its blessing.
But, getting to that compromise can be really difficult in an already-fractured family like this. Typically, the preferred parent ends up taking the kids’ side. This then stiffens the resolve of the other parent not to be shut out, while the kids see this polarization as their cue not to give an inch either.
This is where family crisis mediation can be the catalyst for a resolution. Professional mediators are often involved when two or more sides to a dispute are intractably deadlocked, such as in labor/management conflicts. Divorcing couples often turn to mediators to assist them in negotiating the separation agreement that spells out the division of property between them as well as custody and support arrangements.
The mediator does not issue a ruling after listening to every side. Instead, the mediator plays the role of "tour guide" and "traffic cop". He or she helps the parties navigate their way to a resolution, while insuring that no one party is "bulldozed" by the others. As a neutral participant without an axe to grind, the mediator can facilitate more creative brainstorming than the parties can on their own, as well as suggesting innovative resolutions that the parties may not be able to see themselves.
Although psychologists and counsellors are often mediators, mediation is not therapy. The goal is not to make better people out of the participants, but to help them craft a mutually acceptable solution to a specific problem. In mediation related to custody and divorce issues, a family law attorney that is also a mediator certified by the family court, can be particularly effective.
They have likely encountered these issues several times in the past and can draw on this experience for guiding the participants as well as suggesting possible outcomes. They know how to keep whatever resolution that is agreed to by the family within the boundaries of what the court will accept, although the court typically gives great deference to compromises that are freely accepted by all the parties.
However, when professional mediation can’t bring the disputants together, then the last and least attractive option is going back to court. Next week, I’ll cover the pitfalls of asking a judge to modify an existing custody schedule when the reason is the child’s preference for one parent over the other.
In any divorce case involving minor children, the Missouri court decides child custody and in doing so considers the wishes of the parents, the preference of the child if the child is old enough, the child's relationship with siblings and the family, the mental and physical health of the child, and the educational needs of the child.
Easily Connect With a Lawyer or Mediator
Have Divorce Professionals from Your Area Contact You!
|Your Right to Child Custody, Visitation & Support
Cover Price: $
Your Price: $17.95
You Save: $7.00
"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Author: Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
|The information contained on this page is not to be considered legal advice. This website is not a substitute for a lawyer and a lawyer should always be consulted in regards to any legal matters. Divorce Source, Inc. is also not a referral service and does not endorse or recommend any third party individuals, companies, and/or services. Divorce Source, Inc. has made no judgment as to the qualifications, expertise or credentials of any participating professionals. Read our Terms & Conditions.|