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How court mediation works to resolve child-custody disputes

One consequence of divorce is that it often puts former spouses at odds on a regular basis over shared parenting time. This is, unfortunately, something many Illinois families experience.

Depending on the custody arrangement, after divorce, noncustodial parents no longer live with their children under the same roof full-time. In most cases, visitation means parents must agree on a plan that schedules specific parenting time so children can spend time with the noncustodial parent. Some parents are able to reach agreement by themselves, but others need court intervention. When parents cannot reach a decision on parenting time arrangements, a court schedules a meeting with a trained counselor who will talk with both parents and then set up a parenting plan.

The court considers several factors when setting child custody and visitation rights, and these should be considered also by parents before meeting a court-appointed counselor. First, determine what priorities each parent has for both a child-custody and a parenting plan. Second, make sure the plans address any special needs a child has; this could mean setting up meanings between the child's teachers, doctors and psychologists and the counselor. Every state has its own rules on including the advice of outside experts in developing a parenting plan, so consulting an attorney may be wise before a parent meets the counselor. Third, consider meeting an independent counselor before meeting the court's mediator. A counselor can help a parent present his or her case to the mediator and counter any attacks the ex-spouse may make in mediation.

Parents who want to maximize the benefits of a schedule and minimize conflict might consider meeting before mediation. Parents who want to discuss and perhaps resolve outstanding issues outside the courtroom may find that engaging the services of an attorney will be worth their time.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation," Caroline Choi, May 22, 2014

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