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Mediation for solving custody, visitation rights issues -- Part I

Disagreements over child custody and visitation rights are common in divorces. In fact, those disputes can sometimes escalate to such an extent that the bitterness between separating spouses affects the best interest of the child, especially if the child custody and visitation disputes are fought in court. This is one reason why courts in Tennessee and in the rest of the U.S. often recommend that separating parents attend mediation sessions before entering into litigation over a child custody or visitation rights dispute.

A typical mediation session is meant to encourage parents to talk to each other and reach an amicable settlement of the issues. The mediation is conducted by a neutral third party, the mediator, who neither supports nor provides legal advice to either of the parents. Rather, the mediator provides an opportunity for parents to resolve their disputes confidentially because a mediator is not required to report the discussions of the mediation sessions unless there are indications of violence or abuse.

Separating parents may choose their mediator from a list that is provided by the court clerk. The list generally contains names of mediators who are trained in family law and domestic abuse. It is important to remember that if the threat of violence or abuse exists, mediation is optional but if the parent still chooses mediation, that parent should inform the court so the person can be protected and the person's rights are not violated. In most cases, a parent's lawyer or a domestic violence victim's support organization can help.

As far as mediation costs are concerned, many separating couples may be able to receive the service free of charge if the couple meets certain criteria. In other cases, a fee of $50 per hour is charged, which is shared by the separating parents. It may also be the case that the court orders that the mediation fee is reduced for one or both parents, which is often referred to as a sliding scale. However, that largely depends on the financial circumstances of the people involved.

Source: Tennessee State Courts, "Parents' Questions," Accessed on May 8, 2015

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