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Mediation and Children
(provided by Diane L. Mader, Esq.)

Divorce is painful but it doesn't have to be a disaster. Most parents facing divorce feel anger, sadness, confusion, and fear. Parents want to protect their children from marital conflict and they worry about how their divorce will effect their children. Parents can get valuable help from a professional mediator.

Mediation is a positive way for parents to work together on behalf of their children. As parents divorce, they must make decisions about their children's new living arrangements. In mediation, parents work together to create a new, viable co-parenting team. A professional mediator acts as a neutral, supportive problem-solver. Trained mediators walk divorcing parents through the decisions that need to be made at the time of separation, for example, how do we tell our children about the divorce; they work with parents as they decide how to create two homes were the children will be comfortable; and they help parents create a placement plan that meets the needs of the children and the parents. Mediators also help parents gather financial information and make a sound financial plan for the future.

Mediators help parents keep parenting so children can continue to be children. Divorce does not end parenting or destroy families. You will be parents for the rest of your lives. A mediator will offer suggestions and support as you transform your parenting relationship into a functioning co-parenting team.

Mediators help parents find ways to be good co-parents after they divorce. Children count on co-parents to attend weddings, funerals, graduations, and other important life events forever. Co-parents need to find ways to make family events comfortable and civil.

Mediators help parents understand what it means to be a good co-parent. Mediators would recommend the following as ways to effectively co-parent:

1. Don't put children in the middle. That means, at a minimum, don't ask your children to relay messages between parents.

2. Don't ask your children to chose between parents. Good parents support their children‚s needs to spend time with both parents and encourage children to see the other parent as loving, valuable, and important.

3. Don't make disparaging remarks to your children about their other parent or within your children's hearing. Remember, when you criticize a child's other parent, the child hears that as criticism of him or herself.

4. Reassure your children that while adults may decide to divorce, they never stop loving their children.

5. Reassure your children that the divorce is no one's fault. Sometimes despite everyone's best efforts divorce happens.

6. Keep parenting your children - don't let them parent you. If you find yourself leaning on your children for emotional support, ask another adult friend or family member to step in.

7. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. If you are struggling with depression or anger as a result of the divorce, get professional therapeutic help.

8. Be civil in your communication with one another. Answer emails or return telephone calls promptly. Don't focus on the past - focus on the future.

9. Be willing to do the work involved in being a good co-parent. If your child forgets something at his or her other house, don't over-react. Just make the trip to pick up the item. Co-parenting will require parents to be more organized - keep that responsibility on the parents - the children didn't decide to divorce - the parents did, consequently, it is the parents‚ job to take on the extra work involved.

10. Develop good communication. Try email if in person or telephone contact doesn't work. Try an on-line calendar system.

11. Let your children's school know what is happening.

12. Don't turn your divorce into tribal warfare. Respect your children's loving relationships with the whole family. Expand the number of people who love your children, don't cut off extended family.

A mediator will help you work out the terms of a financial settlement that will meet your children's needs. The goal should be to make your divorce a future focused problem-solving process not a court battle. In order for your children to thrive, they need to know that both parents are okay financially.

A mediator will remind you that arrangements you make for placement of your children now, will likely need to be revisited in the future. As children grow, their needs change. It is typical for families to return to mediation after the divorce to rework placement plans to meet the changing needs of their children.

Legal note: Wisconsin law uses the label "placement" for the time children spend with parents. Both parents have periods of placement with their children. What most of us would call the schedule, Wisconsin law calls the placement plan.

Information provided by:
Diane L. Mader, Esq.

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