A child custody dispute can be one of the most drawn-out, heart-wrenching experiences parents face. Engaging in a custody battle can be exhausting and expensive. Can high-conflict custody litigation be avoided? Many family law courts and attorneys encourage alternative dispute resolution (ADR) negotiations to facilitate a voluntary custody agreement between parents.

Mediation is a form of ADR that some parents use to resolve child custody issues. Child custody mediation is a collaborative process involving both parents and a neutral third-party, with one common goal: do what’s in the best interests of your children. If you and your child’s parent agree on most custody terms, then mediation may be a wise choice.

Advantages of mediation for child custody cases

An important element of the mediation process is that it reflects the interests and needs of the children. In addition to being child-friendly, other benefits of mediation include:

Financial. The cost of mediation can vary widely, but it’s usually more cost-effective than going to court. Because couples typically take less time to reach a resolution, mediation is less expensive than litigating a case through a trial.

Confidentiality. Mediation is based on the understanding that both parties know they can share sensitive information without fearing that details will be disclosed or used against them in the future.

Emotional. Litigation can be a confrontational process that can be emotionally draining and negatively affect health and well-being. Mediation is designed to help couples move past negative emotions to facilitate a reason-based settlement process.

Communication. Mediation naturally leads to improved communication between parents. Mediators are trained to help couples have honest, respectful conversations. By opening lines of communication, parents can solve custody-related issues while maintaining the best interests of the children.

Most importantly, mediation takes decision-making out of a judge’s hands and allows parents to decide on the terms of the agreement themselves. Together, you decide how to raise your children best. The mediation process can enable parents to work together to create a custody agreement that addresses the day-to-day and big-picture issues involved with raising children.