24 Jan What Is A Mediator and Do I Need One For a Child Custody Deposition?
Do I Need a Mediator for A Child Custody Deposition?
Mediation is a term often heard in the world of legal proceedings and is very much reflective of how it sounds: an impartial individual mediates a meeting between two parties and helps them navigate toward a solution. In the context of family law, mediation is very similar – they help people resolve disagreements about marriage, separation, divorce, custody, child support, etc. This article will answer any questions you may have regarding mediators and their role in child custody depositions.
So, do I need a mediator for a child custody deposition? A deposition is part of the discovery process before trial proceedings take place. Child custody depositions are designed for each party to gather more evidence and information on the case before trying to figure out a settlement or proceeding to trial. A mediator is not necessary for the child custody deposition as they are each two separate processes: mediation and deposition.
Depending on the case, mediation talks may come before a deposition occurs, or they can also begin after a deposition – if each party feels as though an agreement can be met without needing a trial. If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare for a child custody deposition and what to know about mediation, keep reading.
Child Custody Overview
Child custody battles used to be considered an all-or-nothing proposition – one parent gets the kids, the other doesn’t. However, it has now been established that children fare much better when both parents are part of their life, and custody agreements now strive to involve both parties in some way.
There are two basic concepts in child custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is related to who will make decisions regarding the important matters in the child’s life: education, non-emergency medical treatment, etc. If both parents are qualified to maintain this decision-making role, the court prefers that parents share legal custody.
Physical custody is as it sounds – where the child will primarily reside. Determining physical custody largely depends on where each parent lives, intending to find an arrangement that best suits the child’s needs.
Sole and joint custody are other possibilities, depending on the situation. If one parent is unfit, the other may seek sole custody of the children. In these cases, visitation rights may, or may not, be granted for the unfit party. All situations and decisions regarding the custody of a child or children are made with the child’s best interest in mind.
At a certain age, the court may take into consideration the child’s preference for who they will live with, however, the judge may not rule in their favor if it appears as though the option is not best for the child. When you are entering into divorce proceedings, be sure to keep your children in mind when making decisions and try to compromise when it fits their needs best.
How Does Mediation Work
Mediation is the legal process where a third party works with both sides to create and settle a formal agreement that will be written and presented to a judge for approval.
For family law, this agreement will designate custody, child support, splitting of assets, spousal support, etc. In many cases, mediation is much less expensive and time-consuming than a full trial.
Though mediation may often be the goal, it is not always successful. If neither party can agree, on one thing or several, mediation will be scrapped and each side will move to trial. Oftentimes, if a couple is dealing with a more contentious divorce or if there are extensive assets to be divided up, mediation is not the best course of action.
Unlike arbitration, a trained mediator will not make decisions on the disputed matter, but rather will try to facilitate a compromise between parties. There are two types of child custody mediation: court-ordered and private. In private mediation, parents voluntarily participate in the process
to agree. In court-ordered mediation, a judge requires parents to begin mediation when an agreement has not been met.
When Does Mediation Occur?
Mediation can take place at any time during legal proceedings, so long as both parties are in agreement. It can occur within a few weeks after the decision has been made, and if there are no issues, a settlement can be agreed upon and the mediation will be closed before you know it.
Similar to depositions, mediation will take place in a mutually agreed upon location, either a lawyer’s office or a neutral board/conference room. Successful mediation is often much quicker and less expensive than proceeding to trial.
Though you can attempt mediation without attorneys, it may not be in your best interest. Research and ask for advice before deciding on how to proceed with your case.
How to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation
If you are part of a divorce that is working through mediation, one of the best things you can do to prepare is to sketch out a plan. Write out a proposal that outlines a fair custody agreement where you acknowledge and think about where your partner may be coming from as well.
Within your proposal, consider transitions (drop off/pick up), costs, holidays, vacations, parental communications, changes to agreed-upon schedules, etc. Sketching out these plans may be easier or more difficult depending on the age of the children involved, but by creating a plan, you at least have somewhere to start.
Keep in mind that mediation is not about everything you want. You must consider your partner’s thoughts about what’s best for the kids, and your mediator may have suggestions you haven’t thought of – keep an open mind and remember to compromise.
Preparing for A Child Custody Deposition
Family law is often quite different from other legal proceedings because of the things and people involved in the case. When a couple decides it is in their best interest to separate and proceed with a divorce, they will each retain an attorney and begin the process.
The purpose of a child custody deposition is to collect information about a party and their relationship and knowledge about the child/children in question.
If you are the individual being deposed in a child custody deposition, here are some questions you can expect to be asked:
- Do you know the child’s general information? Age, date of birth, school, grade, allergies, medications, medical history, etc.
- Do you know the child’s schedule? Teacher, activities, peers, bedtime, school start time, etc.
- What are the child’s likes and dislikes? Favorite food, ice cream, sport, school subject, least favorite vegetable, activity, etc.
- Do you have the means to take care of the child? Are you financially stable enough to provide for the child, do you have room in your home to give them their own space and bed, do you have time to pick the child up from school/activities, etc.
Understand that within divorce proceedings, matters about the children are the most emotionally charged and difficult to navigate. In cases where parties are not in agreement, you will have to prove your ability to provide and care is better for the child.
If you are part of a divorce that is amicable, you may be able to avoid any difficult depositions and can work out an agreement with your partner through mediation.
Tips for Taking Part in Child Custody Mediation and Depositions
The divorce process when it involves children can be extremely emotional and difficult to navigate. While you may both be entering the process with the best intentions in mind, you may hit a rough patch or come across something unexpected; if this happens, keep some of these tips in mind:
- Stay on topic: this mediation or deposition is about the custody of your child/children – don’t bring up any other issues unrelated to the children. Reciting a list of reasons why you don’t like your partner would not be recommended.
- Consider your words carefully: for starters, speak calmly and keep things civil; at the same time, be thoughtful about saying “our kids” not “my kids” – it’s inclusive and reminds you both that you are trying to make a joint decision for the best of your kids.
- Take time to calm yourself: even if your divorce is amicable, there may be a moment where you feel your emotions getting the best of you; rather than responding emotionally, take the time to calm down, think through your response, and ask for a break if needed.
Remember that if mediation or deposition does not bring about an agreement that you and your partner are happy with or can accept, you do have options. You can proceed to court where you may now have a better idea of what issues you can’t agree on.
Also, any initial agreement can be changed down the line, the needs of the child may change the financial abilities of either party may change, etc. If you no longer feel the agreement is suitable, you can always have it adjusted.