Yes. Mediation is often a peaceful and less costly option for drafting a parenting plan in Washington. Using this alternative dispute resolution process, parents who want to avoid a contentious custody dispute can also save time and money.
Mediators can guide you and your ex-partner through challenging issues, such as residential time, decision-making and child support, by encouraging compromise. If you reach an agreement, the mediator or your lawyer can draft a parenting plan, which a judge must approve.
Types of mediation offered in Washington
The two main types of mediators are evaluative and facilitative. Here are the differences:
- Facilitative: These individuals often don’t have extensive family law knowledge and cannot offer analysis or opinions to either party. They also can’t draft parenting plans.
- Evaluative: As the most-commonly used mediators, these individuals are highly experienced in family law and can offer opinions on how a custody case will likely play out in court. They can also draft parenting plans.
All mediation sessions are confidential, and mediators do not report to the court unless parents reach an agreement. It’s up to the mediator whether your attorney can attend.
Mediation do’s and don’ts
The primary goal of mediation is finding the best parenting arrangement for your children. With that in mind, here are some tips:
- Keep an open mind and trust the process
- Try to understand the other parent’s point of view
- Be ready to hear your co-parent’s requests and commit to negotiating peacefully
- Focus on the big issues and don’t stray off course
- Don’t rehash old disagreements
- Don’t get angry or raise your voice
- Don’t speak negatively of the other parent
Many benefits often result from mediation that can set the tone for a peaceful co-parenting relationship. Preparation is just as vital for mediating an agreement as it would be for establishing custody through litigation. Parents can also turn to mediation to modify an existing parenting plan.