Going through the custody process is rarely easy. You and your co-parent both want the best for your child, but sometimes you have different ideas about what that means.
Custody agreements in Washington are referred to as parenting plans, with the end result being a permanent parenting plan. Your permanent parenting plan can be modified if something substantially changes about the situation, but otherwise it is meant to provide continuity and stability in your child’s life.
When you and your co-parent cannot agree on a parenting plan, you may be required to attend mediation before going to court.
The mediator’s role
Mediation is a meeting between you, your co-parent and a mediator. Unlike a judge, a mediator has no power to make decisions on your situation.
A mediator is a neutral third-party whose purpose it is to help you and your co-parent have an open and honest discussion about your child and what arrangement is in their best interest.
You do not have to have an attorney present at your mediation, but can choose to if you want. An attorney can help you develop a strategy for a successful resolution and advocate for you.
Benefits and drawbacks
There are many advantages to mediation. It is confidential and saves parents time and money. It also helps preserve each parent’s relationship with the child, since the child will not be subjected to the contentiousness of a court proceeding.
There are some situations where mediation might not be appropriate. If domestic abuse or child abuse are present, mediation it not always the best option.
Mediation can be damaging for victims of domestic abuse, as they are forced to confront their abuser. Additionally, the abuser can use intimidation or coercion to force the victim into a custody arrangement they do not want.
You might not be sure if mediation is right for you. An experienced family law attorney can provide you with advice and options.