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What Happens After Mediation For Child Custody?

Nancy L. Giardina, Esq. Nov. 27, 2023

If you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse or partner are finding it difficult to agree on issues such as child custody, you may consider mediation as an option to help you reach a consensus. For legal help and advice during the mediation process in New York—offering services in the surrounding areas, including Onondaga County, Madison County, Oswego County, Cayuga County, and Cortland County— call me at Nancy L. Giardina, Esq. in Syracuse. I am dedicated to helping you come to an agreement that is best for you and your children.

Mediation for Child Custody

Child custody mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), a process by which two divorcing spouses (or unmarried partners attempting to sort out child custody and visitation schedules) meet with a qualified neutral third party (called a mediator) who will facilitate discussion and help both parties come to an agreement. 

What to Know

You and your ex-partner may have been ordered to attend mediation by the court; you can also elect to undergo mediation privately. Since court-ordered mediation is usually carried out in shorter sessions due to budget restrictions, those with the means may find private mediation more beneficial, as they will be able to set the dates and times for the sessions and will have a longer period of time to try to reach an agreement.  

Mediation is not likely to be recommended in the case of either spouse’s physical or emotional abuse of the other. Make sure you seek legal assistance for more options in this case. 

Benefits to Mediation

Divorce mediation is often less expensive and time-consuming than a court battle over child custody, and may provide a more amicable and less stressful environment in which to discuss each parent’s wishes.  

Also, mediation is always confidential. Mediators are sometimes attorneys themselves, but you can also bring your own attorney to a mediation session.  

End Results of Child Custody Mediation

The end results of child custody mediation can take various forms, depending on the agreements and understandings reached between parents. This process can lead to full agreements, partial resolutions, or, in some cases, the involvement of the court when no agreement can be reached. Each of these outcomes plays a crucial role in shaping the future of co-parenting and the well-being of the child. 

Full Agreement

If you and your ex-partner can come to an agreement about your child custody issues, the mediator will draw up an agreement outlining these new terms. You and your ex-partner will then present this agreement to the court. If the court approves the agreement, the agreement will become a court order.  

Partial Agreement

Sometimes ex-partners agree on some terms but cannot agree on others. In this case, the mediator will draw up an agreement for the relevant issues. Just as in the case of a full agreement, this document will be presented to the court, and will become a court order if the court approves. The ex-partners will then pursue settlement of the other issues in court.  

Even if you cannot agree on all terms, a partial agreement can help keep court costs down and can perhaps lead to less acrimonious proceedings going forward. 

No Agreement

If there has been no agreement, you will attend a court hearing in order to determine child custody. Court hearings will also be required if one of the parents changes their mind about the agreement after it has become a court order.  

Parenting Plans

The goal of attending child custody mediation is to come up with a parenting plan that is fair to both parents and in the best interests of the child or children involved. The mediator is there to facilitate discussion and keep emotions in check, but you and your partner will have to discuss all relevant issues. 

Some of these issues include: 

  • holiday and weekend schedules, including which holidays, school breaks, and weekends the child should spend with which parent, and whether the parents will alternate or stick to one yearly schedule 

  • splitting or managing travel costs (if the parents live far apart) 

  • best communication methods between parents (calls, email, etc.) 

  • what to do in case of emergencies when a parent cannot stick to the schedule (due to illness, accident, etc.)  

  • management of any other issues that one parent may be dealing with, such as substance abuse or mental health problems 

Although it is important to come up with a detailed plan, make sure that you are flexible and can change the plan as needed. Communication between parents is key in order for any custody agreement to work properly. Be open and honest about your expectations, and always keep the best interests of the child at heart when making decisions. 

Court Submission, Implementation, and Compliance

Once the mediator (and your and your ex-partner’s attorneys, if applicable) have reviewed the agreement and you have signed it, you will present this agreement to the court. This agreement then becomes a legally binding court order. You must follow the terms of the court order or risk legal difficulties. If you want to modify the child custody agreement, you must do so by filing a petition with the court.   

Family Law Mediator Serving Syracuse, New York

If you have questions about the mediation process or would like to pursue mediation, call me at Nancy L. Giardina, Esq., serving Syracuse, New York, and other parts of Onondaga County, as well as Madison County, Oswego County, Cayuga County, and Cortland County. I can provide mediation services or support you throughout your sessions with another mediator. I will work closely with you to help you and your ex-partner as you work toward the goals of resolving conflict and reaching an agreement that suits your family. Call me today for an appointment.