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Going through a divorce is tough, but it can become heartbreaking when you have children. Custody arrangements can be especially contentious. Minor disputes over parenting sometimes turn into full-blown court battles. 

It does not have to be that way. If you and your spouse are having trouble agreeing on a parenting plan, but want to save yourselves the time and expense of a custody hearing, you may want to consider custody mediation. 

What is mediation? 

Mediation is a method of dispute resolution recognized by the American Bar Association. It involves one or more neutral third parties who have skill in negotiation and conflict resolution. Mediators define the issues, listen to each side and help parties find common ground. Sessions typically take an hour or more; multiple sessions are often necessary to cover all custody issues. 

What are the advantages of mediation? 

There are several reasons to choose mediation over formal litigation. Mediation is less expensive and more private. It is also quicker than a hearing, as you do not have to wait for a court date that may be months down the road. It offers you more control over the process. You and your spouse make the final decisions; they are not handed down by a judge. Mediation can also pave the way for a better post-divorce relationship by teaching both parties the value of compromise, flexibility and diplomatic communication. 

What if we get nowhere? 

One of the best reasons to attempt mediation is that it carries little risk. If you and your spouse do not arrive at an accord, you can always go to court. The mediation may fail to result in a completed parenting plan. However, it is still a good use of your time if you find some areas of agreement. Also, the fact that you attempted mediation will show the judge that you are being reasonable and accommodating. That cooperative attitude may sway the court in your favor if litigation is necessary.