If you’re going through a divorce, you may be considering your options. Divorce and child custody mediations have been around for a long time and may alleviate some of you and your ex-partner’s concerns.
What is a Mediation?
A mediation is a way to work out lingering issues that divorces often present. You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will have the opportunity to sit down with a mediator and discuss various agreements and bring your divorce and/or child custody case to a conclusion. The goal of a divorce mediation is to resolve conflict and to put an agreement to writing that all parties can agree to without the assistance of the court.
Everyone that has been through a contested divorce or child custody case in Louisiana knows it can be a nail biter. Divorce and custody battles played out in court can be the most gut-wrenching and anxiety fueled experiences anyone can ever go through. To make matters worse – the public usually has the right to sit in and watch it all unfold, even if they have nothing to do with your marriage or your children. You can literally have your next-door neighbor, your children’s teacher or your in-laws sit in the audience while some of the most private parts of your marriage are laid out on display for anyone to listen.
On top of that, your attorney will be throwing dirt on your ex-spouse in an attempt to make you seem like the better parent and your children will be able to get a copy of the transcript if they desire when they get older. Not a pretty sight.
Divorce and child custody mediations take the court process out of the equation and allow you to work through some of your problems with a third party and the agreement is legally binding. You can settle community property, debt, child support, child custody and other issues that may be lingering.
What If You Can’t Work Out All Issues in a Mediation?
A mediation is a great start, but they don’t always iron out all divorce issues. You may be able to work out most problems and come to an agreement, but there could be a few smaller issues that you just can’t seem to agree on. This is perfectly normal and you can always take the unsolved issues to court and let the judge decide them. Just because you can’t agree to everything doesn’t mean it was a waste of time. Let’s say you work out 9 out of 10 issues and have to take that one unresolved issue to court. That’s still much easier to handle than laying out all 10 in court where you have no idea how the judge will rule.
One of the main issues with taking a case to court is you never know how the judge will decide your case. You can look at past cases and speak with attorneys who have practiced in front of your judge to gauge your chances, but you never really know what will happen until you try your case. Speak to any lawyer in your area and they will tell you that court can be unpredictable at best. That’s why it is usually in everyone’s best interest to try to work out their problems before taking it to court. There’s a good chance the judge assigned to your divorce or child custody case will instruct you to hold a pre-trial with the attorneys to try to work out a deal. The difference is that you will have an attorney and your ex will have their own attorney and it can quickly turn in to a fight.
What Type of Questions do They Ask for Child Custody Mediations?
You may be wondering what types of questions the child custody mediator will ask when you begin your mediation. The goal of the mediation is to create a custody and visitation plan that benefits the family. Even though you are separating, you still have the awesome job of raising your children as co-parents.
While each mediation is different, here are a few questions you can expect to be asked:
- Name and address of each parent;
- Employment information for each parent;
- Where do children go to school? What grade? School hours?
- The children’s daily routine;
- Doctor information and who normally takes children to the doctor;
- Daycare for children when they are not in school;
- Who watches children when daycare is closed and school is out;
- Do grandparents on either side live close by;
- Which duties each parent is responsible for;
- Who is the primary caregiver for the children?
- Can we agree on who is to be named the domiciliary parent?
This is just a small sample of what to expect during a child custody mediation. Most parents split the child raising duties and this is a good time to explain what each parent’s normal routine is with the children. It makes it easier to determine a proper child visitation schedule. If you and your ex can agree as to who will be named domiciliary parent, things will go much smoother.
The domiciliary parent is the parent who makes the majority of the decisions for the children. While both parents must discuss decisions pertaining to the children, the domiciliary parent has the final say. Many child custody battles hinge on who will be named domiciliary parent, but you can save a lot of headache if you can work this detail out without the court’s assistance.
Are Mediations Legally Binding in Louisiana?
Mediation agreements are legally binding and therefore can be enforced in court. While you don’t have to continue with the mediation if it is not going well, your written agreement can be enforced. Mediations can often take numerous meetings to nail all the details, but there is no law stating you must continue if nothing is being resolved. However, an agreement formalized in writing and signed by the parties can be enforced in court, so you must take the mediation seriously.
Can You Mediate a Divorce Without Children?
Certainly. Many divorces in Louisiana involve community property, community debt, real estate, vehicles, income, retirement accounts, investment accounts, you name it. These are all items that will likely need to be split among the parties. You can absolutely have a mediation to attempt to settle all claims without going to court and spending a fortune in attorney fees. If you purchased a home during the marriage, there’s a good chance you will either have to buy out your partner or sell the property. You may need to consult with a real estate agent in Louisiana to help you sell your home or other real estate.
Do I Need to Bring a Lawyer to Mediation?
You can, but are not required. The parties can have their attorneys present or can work without attorneys. It’s up to you. You can also hire an attorney to conduct the mediation if you wish. Make sure you hire an attorney that has experience in mediations as the skillset needed is different than courtroom experience. Remember, attorneys fight hard in court, but mediations can be conducted peacefully.
Disclaimer: This post does not intend to give legal advice in any way. You must speak with an attorney for legal advice. Nothing in this article should be used as legal advice.