Child Custody Mediation Checklist
Mediation helps parents put their disputes behind them and settle on what’s best for the children following divorce or separation. Many judges will require that parents at least attempt mediation, although no one can force you to settle the dispute this way. If necessary, you can still take your child custody dispute before a judge.
To help parents get the most out of mediation, we offer this child custody mediation checklist of key considerations to keep in mind. This checklist helps parents focus on key, impactful issues so that they don’t get sidetracked by irrelevant disputes. To discuss mediation, contact our Aiken, SC child custody lawyer at Surasky Law.
Child Custody Mediation Checklist
Key Issues to Discuss
1. Legal and physical custody
2. Visitation (parenting time)
6. Transportation and other costs
7. School vacations
8. Missed visitation
10. Resolving disagreements
What to Bring
1. Copy of court documents
2. Parenting plan proposal
3. Your work schedule
4. Your child’s school and extracurricular calendars
5. Payment for mediation
Key Issues to Discuss
The following is a list of critical issues to discuss in mediation. By reaching an agreement on these, you can set yourself up for successful co-parenting while minimizing disputes. Although there may be other issues you can talk about ahead of time with your lawyer, the following is a good place to start.
Legal and physical custody. In South Carolina, the parent with legal custody has the power to make critical decisions on issues like medical care, education, and religious upbringing. Parents can share legal custody and often do. Physical custody involves who has possession of the child on a regular basis. Physical custody can be shared as well, although a perfect 50/50 split is practically impossible in most situations.
Visitation (parenting time). A parent who doesn’t have physical custody should have parenting time with the children. You’ll need to work around each other’s schedules, as well as the child’s after-school activities.
Holidays. Parents naturally hope to have their children with them during the holidays, but kids can’t be in two places at once. You can avoid arguments later by deciding how children will spend their holidays now. For example, one parent might have Thanksgiving while the other has Christmas or Hanukkah. Parents can alternate these holidays every other year.
Birthdays. As with holidays, map out who the children will be with on birthdays—their own birthday as well as your birthday. If you have multiple children, then siblings should probably be together on their birthdays, if possible.
Transitions. Dropping off and picking up children takes a lot of planning. So many things can go wrong, so think this through in detail. It is helpful to identify a regular location for drop-off/pickup, as well as a time. Some parents find it easiest for parents to pick up and drop off at school, although you should think through what happens during vacations and the summer.
Transportation and other costs. You might live far apart from the other parent. Transporting the children back and forth can be expensive. Consider who will pay these costs. You might decide each parent will bear their own costs of transportation. But if one parent lives far away, it might be expensive to fly the children out to you. Discussing how to split these costs now saves headaches later.
School vacations. Pay special attention to school vacations—not only summer vacation but the regular vacations throughout the year. Who will the children be with? Remember, children often have activities during holidays, especially teens.
Missed visitation. Children might miss visitation due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances. Discuss whether the parent gets a makeup day and when. Does the parent get to pick the date? Should it be the next available weekend?
Communication. Identify in detail how parents will communicate. If something comes up, should the parent call? Text? Email? How soon should they call? For example, if a child is sick and can’t make a visitation, should the other parent call by 9:00 a.m. at the latest?
Resolving disagreements. Even those going through an amicable divorce might disagree in the future over something involving their children. If you share legal custody, parents might disagree on whether children should be vaccinated or participate in sports. Identify how you will resolve these disputes. You might agree to mediation or some other resolution technique.
Documents for Mediation
A mediator should tell you exactly what to bring. Some of the most common items you can gather ahead of time include the following.
Copy of court documents. Bring copies of all paperwork filed in the case. You don’t know what might be relevant.
Parenting plan proposal. It is often helpful to have a parenting plan to work with in mediation. It gives both parents something to look at and make changes to. Many mediators will require that both parents create a parenting plan proposal and bring it with them. Based on the considerations in the first section, try to be as detailed as possible. And don’t be offended if the other parent doesn’t immediately adopt your plan.
Your work schedule. You can’t create a parenting plan unless you know when you are available. For example, you can’t have visitation on weekends if you travel for work every weekend. Many work schedules are complicated, so write yours down.
Your child's school and extracurricular calendars. The school calendar should show when your child has holidays, vacation, and half-days. Any extracurricular activity calendar is helpful, too. Of course, a child’s athletic schedule might not be out yet, but you can use last year’s as a rough guide.
Payment for mediation. Some mediation is free, whereas other mediation requires payment. Ask about acceptable methods of payment and talk with the other parent to discuss how to split the cost.
Speak with a Child Custody Lawyer in Aiken
Surasky Law has helped many parents mediate child custody disputes. We can serve as a sounding board and legal advisor during the process. We are also happy to attend mediation with you to help you analyze whether to agree to a proposal. For more information, contact us today to schedule a time to talk.