Illinois parents who must enter mediation in order to come to an agreement about child custody arrangements during a divorce should prepare for the process ahead of time. If the mediation is court-ordered, the mediator's recommendations may have a great deal of weight in court, and the outcome of the decision will profoundly affect both children and their parents for years. Even if the mediation is amicable, preparation can help.
If it is affordable, visiting a professional counselor who specializes in mediation may be a good idea prior to a court-ordered mediation. Counselors can help parents clarify goals and strategize the best way to present their positions.
However, even if it is not possible to see a counselor, a parent should do some preparation. This should include writing down the main points that need to be made in mediation. Again, in a court-ordered mediation, it is also important to understand the court rules and what is permitted in the mediation. Some jurisdictions will not allow outside documents such as photos or written testimony. In the case of a special needs child, it may be a good idea to come prepared with the contact information for collateral witnesses such as doctors, psychologists and teachers that the mediator can speak with after the session.
Another consideration might be speaking to the other parent prior to mediation if possible. Depending on the relationship between the parents, if a few key points can be agreed on, mediation may go more smoothly. Whether the mediation is court-ordered or an effort for parents and attorneys to come to an agreement without heading to court, a plan that is in the child's best interests should be the aim.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Preparing for Child Custody Mediation", Caroline Choi, May 23, 2014